BURAK BEKDİL > Nutty professors - here and there

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Over four years ago, I and my “sparring partner” Mustafa Akyol had a clash over nutty professors (“Nutty professor disguised as Voltaire,” this column, Feb. 29, 2008). Mr Akyol’s nutty professor was a Kemalist who, according to both Mr. Akyol and myself, was arrogantly seeking an atheist tyranny. My nutty professor was a man who oversaw university education through an Islamist lens, now a happy ambassador for his services. Four years later, we have two new nutty professors, but the main theme of our clash remains unchanged.

Four years ago, Mr. Akyol’s Kemalist nutty professor was a nobody. His nuttiness meant nothing other than personal nuttiness. He did not have any power over any institution. My nutty professor was the Chairman of the Higher Education Board, a devotee of a holy mission: Removing the silly headscarf ban on campus and selling the idea to “useful idiots” in chic wrapping that read “campus freedoms.”

Without knowing that in four years time there would be nearly a thousand students in jail merely for protest actions, I wrote: “[Professor Yusuf Ziya Özcan] is a stereotypical AKP official, a loyal servant of the Islamist politburo. He has the habit of perpetually using democracy/freedoms/liberties as a cover for his (or his bosses’) ideological goals. This is, unfortunately, very cheap rhetoric that cannot even convince my cat, no matter how many boxes of Whiskas he may have been bribed with.”

Most recently, Mr. Akyol presented in his column a new Kemalist nutty professor, Nursen Mazici from Marmara University, who had expressed eccentric ideas like “the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul should never be allowed to use the word ‘ecumenical’ because the world, particularly the United States, is pressuring Turkey to set the patriarchate completely free, and heeding that advice would be ‘subservience to America.’” Nutty? Very. But that’s not the point.

Mr. Akyol is smart enough to know that the reason why Turkey denies the patriarchate the title “ecumenical” is not because nutty professors like Ms. Mazici have eccentric Kemalist ideas. Mr. Akyol knows very well that allowing the patriarchate to use the title it deems appropriate is not under the authority of nutty professors. Mr. Akyol was merely trying to mask the fact that the entity that does not liberate the patriarchate’s title is simply the government that he so dearly adores. In other words, the Patriarchate isn’t allowed to be “ecumenical” not because Ms. Mazici does not want it to, but because the government does not want it.

But I feel obliged to reciprocate Mr. Akyol’s nutty professor as I did four years ago. Challenging his “nobody with no authority nutty professor,” I shall once again present an all-too-powerful nutty professor. My hero is Professor Remzi Fındıklı, president of the Turkish Police Academy. Just like my other nutty professor oversaw university education, Professor Fındıklı is the AKP’s man of choice to oversee how the Turkish police should be trained academically.

Last year Professor Fındıklı published a book, “The Bottom Line,” comprising of, in his words, “the most beautiful maxims belonging to Turkish culture.” As a bonus, he also included one from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Here is a brief selection of the most beautiful Turkish maxims, as chosen by the man responsible for training the Turkish police force:

- A girl of 15 must either be with a man or in the ground.

- The West is an untamed horse that only knows how to kick.

- A man without religion is a man without mental balance and tact.

- Poverty means having no ideas. A poor man would not be poor if he were smart.

Nice? Very nice. I am not going to ask Mr. Akyol which nutty professor he thinks is nuttier. But relying purely on his intelligence and objectivism I might ask him which nutty professor he thinks should have more potential to cause harm, if we both want to live in a liberal Turkey.


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sid solo

7/31/2012 10:07:04 AM

Seriously disappointed with Mr Bekdil's column this time; he is mentioning Mr Akyol's name ten (10) times! Mr Bekdil is so much more interesting and witty, and if he just does what he does best and write his irony and cynicism laden columns, he should be just fine. He should leave that Akyol fellow in his corner standing; he surely does not qualify as a "sparring partner" for Mr Bekdil. Slightly under weight, if I may say so.

mara mcglothin

7/27/2012 3:19:06 PM

BEGUM Yes turkish politics is like a giant pendelum. It swings one way and then drastically swings the other...and as it picks up speed the arc gets bigger and bigger. The AKP has swung so far that I fear the correctional swing. It has to be coming.


7/27/2012 10:23:07 AM

Mara, yes i do agree with you. once the political elites get powerful, they somehow start to internalize state-led authoritarian practices and laws. they act just like the way they used to condemn in the past. even some writers callthe new akp as a kemalist party because it treats differences like kemalists and view them as soem sort of threat. state power stimulates some kind of authoritarian structure in Turkey, this is really bad.

mara mcglothin

7/26/2012 7:34:27 PM

BEGUM The AKP should have done this many years ago, IF they were truly wanting to make Turkey more democratic, BUT what they discovered that once they were in power they kinda like using the draconian laws on their own behalf. The new constitution must be broad to say everyone has equal rights under the law. No need to say Kurds, or Muslims or clowns or doorkeepers. It must be a simple and basic plan without all these ifs and maybes and the word "moral" should NOT be included. at all.


7/26/2012 3:57:25 PM

turkish authoritarian laws and the1982 constitution which is a product of a military coup; all of these must be eliminated to make our democracy work better, i think.

mara mcglothin

7/26/2012 3:14:56 PM

BEGUM Yeah, democracy is the only way to handle the situation in Turkey, BUT the majority of Turks cannot understand that democracy is no only the will of the majority but the protection of the minority. And then you add in the ideas of "insult" and "dishonor" and democratic principles become something else all together. There can be no 301 in democracy.


7/26/2012 2:04:54 PM

As Ben Franklin said "Your freedom ends where my nose begins." It is this individual freedom that allows the individuals to think differently and develop solutions. Those that defend the Muslim way want to close their eyes to the brainwashing of the youth which subsequently kills their inquisitiveness. There may be many things that can be criticized about the west, but creating zombies cannot be one of them. Islamic societies develop youth who lack creativity and independent thought.


7/26/2012 1:40:27 PM

The foundation of democracy is that the rights of the minority are protected. It is these minority and individual rights that enable Begum to wear a head scarf or go to a mosque in Europe. To those who demean western democracy and culture, I ask you how many churches have been built in Ankara since this city became the capital. Show me one islamic majority that allows the individual or the minority to thrive and works to protect the rights of that minority at all costs??


7/26/2012 12:04:11 PM

Dogan, how do you know which commentators are 'European' and which have 'Turk DNA'? Are you building your assumption on the basis of a posters point of view? I'm guessing those who agree with you have a right to voice their opinion - and of course you would have far greater respect for it. You may hold in high regard the modesty of many Turkish women, but please don't ignore the thousands of Turkish women who dress provocatively,they are just as Turkish as the conservative scarf-wearing ones.

american american

7/26/2012 11:20:10 AM

dogan, we aren't speaking genetics. we're talking politics. and by the way, i am not an anglo-saxon. living in turkey has helped my understand the turkish culture as well...
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