I am Dr. Ali Yurtsever from Chicago, former President of the American Islamic College. I feel compelled to address a significant mistake I have recently observed among respected Muslim leaders and friends. It has come to my attention that some Islamic leaders, imams, and shaykhs have been endorsing Erdogan in relation to the elections in Turkey. Some have gone so far as to claim that supporting Erdogan is a religious duty, framing it as a jihad between Iman (faith) and kufr (disbelief). I was not only disappointed by this misguided discourse, but I have also lost trust in these esteemed individuals. It is important to note that Allah SWT instructs us to verify news before taking a stance, whether in support or opposition. Do these people realize that Erdogan is one of the world’s most notorious thieves, corrupt, hypocrite and untrustworthy individuals? Would they still support him so fervently if they were aware of these facts? I highly doubt it.
Erdogan, since grabbing more power in 2012, has gradually stripped Turkey of justice, the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and freedoms. He consolidated power within the military, security agencies, police force, and the Ministry of Justice. His autocratic and dictatorial tendencies have shielded him from prosecution and criticism. Despite starting his journey with a modest ring donated to his cause, he has become one of the wealthiest leaders in the world. Shockingly, he publicly stated, “If one day, I become a rich person, know that I stole.” The leaked tapes of his conversations with his son Bilal in December 2013 unequivocally exposed his involvement in extensive corruption, bribery, lies, and abuse of power. Most distressing is how he has shamelessly exploited Islam to cover up these misdeeds. He has skillfully employed TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) and the Anatolian Agency, funded by taxpayers, to deceive even respected Islamic leaders across the world.
I understand that the so-called Islamic world, plagued by ignorance, illiteracy, and an inferiority complex, has long yearned for leaders who can speak out against Israel, America, and the West. Unfortunately, they are blinded to the realities that Erdogan’s own son engaged in extensive business dealings with Israel, selling ISIS petroleum to the country. Moreover, when Trump insulted him for being stupid, Erdogan had no retort. Russia also killed 33 Turkish soldiers in northern Syria, leaving Erdogan waiting in the Kremlin palace lobby for minutes, which was subsequently broadcasted on Russian TV, to humiliate him. Furthermore, Erdogan initially stated that opening Hagia Sophia was unnecessary beside the Blue Mosque, suggesting that the existing one should be filled first. However, a few years later, when he desperately needed support from ignorant Muslims, he reversed his stance, opening Hagia Sophia at the expense of Turkey’s and the Islamic religion’s losses.
Today, Turkey holds the unenviable record of imprisoning the largest number of hijabi women, many of whom are incarcerated with their babies, despite the law that prohibits the imprisonment of women with babies. The country also witnesses the unjust imprisonment of numerous Islamic leaders, Quran readers, and scholars, some of whom are very sick and old people, simply because they do not approve of Erdogan’s actions or bow down before him. This fact has been articulated by many journalists, politicians and authors who are the former supporters of Erdogan. It is worth noting that even those who were instrumental in establishing Erdogan’s party in 2002 have turned against him due to his deviation from their shared principles, particularly since 2012. Notable figures such as Mr. Erbakan (Erdogan’s mentor and his first leader) labeled him as a servant of Zionist aims, and Erdogan himself claimed to be a co-chair of the Greater Middle East Project. Abdullah Gul (former president of Turkey), Ali Babacan (minister in Erdogan’s governments for 13 years), Ahmet Davutoglu (former prime minister), Abdullatif Sener (former minister), Ertugrul Gunay (former minister), Reha Camuroglu (former adviser), and other party founders have all distanced themselves from Erdogan due to his changing attitudes, particularly after 2012.
To attain his current position as an autocratic and powerful leader, Erdogan orchestrated a failed coup attempt in 2016. He deliberately escalated tension, polarized the country, silenced the media and dissidents, and unjustly imprisoned tens of thousands of innocent people solely based on their disagreement with his actions. It is inconceivable that thousands of individuals are incarcerated merely for depositing money in a legal bank where Erdogan participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Similarly, it is unfathomable that people have been imprisoned for six years and three months simply for downloading a mobile application or having conversations over public telephones. Tragically, women have been jailed for administering dormitories, schools affiliated with Islamic organizations which do not follow Erdogan. Many pious women have been jailed recently just for their help to the needy children whose parents are behind the bars. There are countless more so-called crimes that do not align with constitutional or universal definitions, yet individuals have been unjustly imprisoned for years due to their non-support of Erdogan. During this period, millions of pious Muslim people have faced persecution, and hundreds have lost their lives, some drowned in the Maritsa River (at Turkey’s border with Greece) while attempting to flee the country’s tyranny, others due to mistreatment in jails, and some driven to suicide by unbearable torture under Erdogan’s regime. As a result of Erdogan’s autocratic actions, Turkey has regressed in various aspects, and its people have become increasingly impoverished due to high inflation, the devaluation of the Turkish lira, rising unemployment rates, and the exodus of foreign and even domestic investments to more democratic countries.
However, it is astonishing that Erdogan has succeeded in manipulating the misfortunes of the naive masses, convincing them that their struggles are a result of foreign powers attacking Islam. Meanwhile, he continues to amass wealth, owning a fleet of 13 planes, 8 palaces, ships, and an estimated fortune of $200 billion. As Erdogan’s wealth expands, the general public grows increasingly impoverished. It is disheartening to witness elderly individuals waiting in line for hours, enduring hardships to save a mere 1 Turkish lira (equivalent to 5 cents) on a loaf of bread.
It is also disheartening to witness the numerous challenges that have arisen during Erdogan’s presidency in Turkey. The presence of widespread corruption, abuses of power, injustices and the proliferation of drugs, mafias, and cartels have deeply impacted the nation. These issues have resulted in the erosion of trust in public institutions and have had a negative impact on the younger generation’s perception of Islam. The actions and behavior of Erdogan and his administration have led many young individuals to distance themselves from Islam. They perceive the misdeeds and misconduct within the government as reflective of the true nature of the religion. Consequently, they question the validity of Islam as a faith, stating that if Erdogan and his administration are the embodiment of Islam, then Islam cannot be considered a good religion. Regrettably, recent statistics in Turkey have shown a significant increase in atheism and deism.
I could continue with an extensive list of grievances, but I do not wish to overwhelm you with details. It is the responsibility of intellectuals to seek out the truth, and I have done my part. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed us to rectify a mistake when we witness one, using our hands, if possible, our tongues if necessary, and in our hearts by disapproving of the wrongdoing, which is the weakest form of faith. I am certain that some Erdogan supporters will turn a blind eye to these facts and continue to defend his actions irresponsibly. However, that is their concern, and they will be held accountable by Allah swt. At the very least, they can no longer claim ignorance of the facts. I am also confident that they are aware that supporting oppressors itself is oppression and may Allah swt gather them together on the Day of Judgment. Allah swt knows best!