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.