By Svante Cornell
October 9th, 2015, The Turkey Analyst
Since 2010, the State Directorate for Religious Affairs has risen in prominence. Diyanet’s budget has quadrupled under the AKP, and the Directorate now issues fatwas on demand, as well as wading into political issues and backing up the AKP position. Moreover, Diyanet has drastically increased its provision of Quran courses for students of all ages. The Diyanet, originally created by the Turkish state to exercise oversight over religious affairs, is now firmly under the control of President Erdoğan, and has turned into a supersized government bureaucracy for the promotion of Sunni Islam.
Levent Gültekin, who is a former Islamist and the author of a recent, bestselling book on the moral “defeat” of political Islam in power in Turkey, writes on the Diken news site that the first thing that comes to our mind when we think about the Islamic world is: death. We are not even afraid of saying, as we have done after the accident in which nearly one thousand pilgrims were killed, “How nice it was that these blessed people died at a blessed time, at a blessed place”! The religious understanding that prevails in the Islamic world is one that exults not in life, but death. It is because this religious understanding prevails that Muslims are utterly incapable of building cities that you can live in; it is because they have surrendered to this understanding that they do not bother to work on how to live a better life. In reality, as Muslims we are the living dead. That is because our lives have no value in these lands. And because death is valued more, things such as serenity, ethics, friendship, courtesy, knowledge, being principled – in short, to live like a human being – have no value. We cannot nourish any hope that we are ever going to be able to change this understanding, which prevents us from being like humans, and have it accepted by the Islamic world. So let us at least cease to preserve this religion – which is condemned to this understanding – as the focus of our lives.
Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak observes that Turkey’s societal tissue is multi-pieced. It is almost as if the “millet” system of the Ottomans, where different communities co-existed without ever being in contact with each other, continues in a different shape. The question now – and it is an urgent one – is whether we will finally be able to realize a historic revolution – “a grand, civilian, egalitarian civilization project” – that endeavors to build bridges between the different sections, communities and groups, many of which have been formed as a result of cultural differences. What the AKP has done during the last thirteen years is that it has empowered a societal section that had long been excluded, granting it its rights, securing its self-confidence, placing it next to the other section, as its equal. That has been a great egalitarian endeavor and it has to a large extent succeeded. But the AKP has not done what was expected from it next; it has not continued on to the second stage, embracing all the different sections in a common construction. Instead, it has emphasized its own values.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Akşam writes that the PKK can only achieve its aims in Syria if its acts in concert with Turkey. However, the HDP/KCK has adopted the opposite course. This can only mean one thing: The organization [the PKK] pursues the logic “everything or nothing” and it has only two possible supports in order to attain its goal: The U.S. and the people of the region… There is no need to make an additional effort to prove the unreliability of the U.S. Thus we get to the real issue: The question of the degree of support for the PKK’s strategy from the people in the region… That’s an important question, because if you act according to the “everything or nothing” logic, and you in fact lack the support of the population, then there is a high probability that you are going to forfeit the obliging stance of the U.S. at your next move, leaving you with a “nothing” as a result…
Oral Çalışlar in Radikal writes that it is highly likely that various coalition formulas are going to be discussed after November 1, just as was the case after June 7, and that the AKP is once again going to be at the center of these. [HDP co-chair] Demirtaş has made the assessment that "the AKP needs to change itself." It is a fact that this assessment points toward an interesting potential. Whatever happens, Turkey is ultimately going to return to the solution process [of the Kurdish issue]. The discussions about disarmament and about democratization projects are going to resume… For that to happen, and for the discussions to continue once they have started, AKP and HDP, as in the past, are going to have to put in work hours together. If the AKP does not get a majority, there is inevitably a coalition on the horizon. It is useful to be open to new experiences, to new searches and to be courageous.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.