Turkish Elections – A Call to Fellow Muslims in the Western World and Elsewhere
I know how you feel about Turkey, my home country. A Muslim land with glorious mosques, adhan resounding across its towns, its skyline marked with minarets standing tall proclaiming tawhid. A Muslim country only a few-hours flight from Europe where you can inhale the freedom to walk with your hijab feeling not like a stranger but at home. I know it, for I was born in the heart of Istanbul, in the neighborhood of the Prophet’s holy mantle, a walking distance from Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror’s mosque, and only fifteen minutes away from Hagia Sophia.
I am aware what Turkey is offering is such a great wealth in terms of practicing Islam; I am mindful of how an irreplaceable treasure this is for you and for all of us. But I have to be frank that this treasure’s glitter has a blinding effect on many who credit the current government for all that value and prevent them from seeing what it truly is.
As a Turk who has been a practicing Muslim since my early youth in the late 80s, I lived through the incredible journey of Islam with a nuanced Turkish experience since then. Despite the staunchly secularist establishment, what many love so much about Turkey was always there – Turks can rightfully be proud of a glorious past which still visibly exist and keep spinning our heads. Erdogan was a part of that journey and he continues to be so.
Many problems practicing Muslims faced in all these four decades and before were real, and I am not trying to undermine what I and many young practicing Muslims were going through when we were being perceived as bigots and even as fundamentalists in the eyes of the regime. Nor am I trying to hide the fact that Islamic visibility has increased since AKP took office.
But Turkey also had an alternative to what has unfolded over the years – an alternative in which the devout and the secular could have lived peacefully and in respect. Coming from a secular family but having adopted a more devout lifestyle, I always desired a middle path where I could live in mutual respect with my larger family: me as I am, them as they are. We could have achieved a more peaceful solution than the polarizing political activism.
Erdogan could have been an instigator of such a solution, and so did he in the first few years of his term. Their achievements were incredible in those years; but sadly, history repeated itself and we saw a heartbreaking drama of how power corrupts. In the beginning of his political career, Erdogan showed his wedding ring and said that was all his wealth (video record is publicly available). From that humble beginning, he has come today to boast a palace he boasts a palace with more than a thousand rooms, built unlawfully on a no-construction zone. I want you to do your own research regarding how his personal wealth and that of his family has grown after that wedding ring; the corruption scandal that erupted in December 2013; what he said to his son on the phone about their stashed money at home; how public contracts are granted to whose cronies and who gets how much share out of these contracts… the list goes on.
Looking after Syrian refugees is an important duty, but it would be misleading if we were to judge only by what looks like a big sacrifice on the side of Turks and ignore how this government so desired to invade this country and played a great role that resulted in the great mess that Syria has become. The current government does not see unfortunate Syrian refugees anything more than a political leverage against Europe, threatening to open its borders and dump them through.
Corruption and cronyism are at their peak under this government. With a fake, staged coup attempt in July 2016, Erdogan turned the country into a sultanate with full power to legislate and enforce law as he likes. With executive orders, Erdogan purged hundreds of thousands of civil servants, including teachers, doctors, military and police personnel, and legal professionals, judges, lawyers, and prosecutors. Many of these purged were devout Muslims, but who were not willing to endorse his crimes by pledging allegiance to Erdogan who calls them “terrorists.” Following this fake coup and purge, Erdogan’s government filled in the vacant positions with loyalists, most of whom were not qualified.
We are living in an age in which religion is not the most attractive thing to the young. Observing all the apparent Islamic visibility in the public square in Turkey, one may incline to think Turkish youth is an exception. On the contrary, Turkey is experiencing an unprecedented exodus from Islam. All the crimes and political rhetoric of the current government is causing the young to blame Islam for what Turkey has become. Many in the opposition are Erdogan’s former allies in his own party: Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former economy minister Ali Babacan were under his cabinet for many years. Temel Karamollaoglu is now the head of Saadet Partisi, which was the former party of Erdogan himself. Meral Aksener leads Iyi Party, also a conservative party. Erdogan’s propaganda shows them all as anti-Islam and that they will introduce an LGTBQ lifestyle. In his recent rallies for elections, Erdogan did not abstain from showing a fake video in which the competing candidate was shown with a terrorist leader. Seeing all this blatant character flaws, many Turkish youth say, “If what they represent is Islam, I am not a Muslim.” Crème de la crème of our youth are seeking visas to Europe or America, for they do not want to live under this oppressive regime.
Dear brother or sister in Islam. I know that hearing the truth hurts and you do not want to be disappointed by seeing another Muslim country’s failure. And I know how convincing what we see on the government’s propaganda machine, i.e. the monopolized Turkish media, looks.
What we cannot see in that media are the destructive consequences of the polarizing takfiri policies of Erdogan which demonize everyone who is not on his boat to the point of pitting brothers and sisters hatefully against each other. Besides, Turkey, sadly, is far from the affluent country as portrayed in the same media – Turkish Central Bank’s forex reserve has dropped to negative this week first time in decades. Turkish people are much poorer than they were a decade ago as Turkish Lira has lost value as much as ten times against dollar since 2013.
Dear brother or sister in Islam.
I urge you to continue your good service to Islam by becoming a vehicle of truth, not by playing into the dirty games of politics, especially in favor of a tyrannical regime. I want you to consider Surah al-Maa’un when you analyze the current Turkish Government and be mindful of those who abuse practices of Islam for their political ambitions and to cloud who they really are. This is a big burden none of us would want to carry in this world, nor in the afterlife.