Problem is not Erdoğan, it is others
The reason I am focusing on this topic is because I take it very seriously. I am talking about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “We will raise a religious generation” statement.
I am not one of those who believe the prime minister has disclosed his “hidden agenda.” I am not one those who see Erdoğan as a “bigot / reactionary / fundamentalist.” My problem is not with the prime minister; it is with others. Once those masses that are inclined to open the religion box are activated, there is no end to it.
After the prime minister’s words, there were many interesting articles. There were reactions in the media full of warnings.
Columnist Hasan Cemal, from daily Milliyet, asked: “What will happen if my son does not want to be religious?”
Can Dündar, from the same paper, plainly stated: “I don’t want to raise my child religious.”
Nihal Bengisu, from daily Habertürk, wrote: “Yes, the state has a duty to meet the social demands of the nation stemming from religious beliefs. But the state does not, cannot have a duty to raise a religious generation.”
Mümtaz’er Türköne, from daily Zaman, wrote: “Religious people do not need the state to develop a policy to raise religious generations. The prime minister’s words do not add anything to the religious.”
Özlem Albayrak, from daily Yeni Şafak, wrote: “In a secular state, an order to ‘make a social group religious’ cannot be organized. A democratic state cannot have such a mission.”
Ahmet Altan, from daily Taraf, said: “Once you sail toward the Islamic version of Kemalism, you will break away from the democratic wing of the West. While the face fusing Islam with democracy creates a major opportunity for Turkey, the face fusing Islam with Kemalism leads Turkey to a bloody quagmire.”
Taha Akyol, from daily Hürriyet, wrote: “It’s wrong, absolutely wrong to see this as a function of the state.”
İhsan Eliaçık said in the TV program “Söz Sende,” hosted by Balçiçek Pamir on the Habertürk channel: “Your duty is not to raise believing generations. Your duty is opening the road to freedoms. It is the families who will raise the generation. There is no difference in saying, ‘We will raise religious youth’ from saying, ‘We will raise Atatürk-loving youth.’”
I am also anxious. I also do not want my son to be oppressed by an army of the religious. I do not want there to be an obligation to comply with what is only demonstrated by some.
Real challenge is raising contemporary and democratic religious generation
It is one thing to know your religion. It is different to be religious. It is completely different to be religionist. The prime minister asked: “Isn’t it possible to be both contemporary and religious?”
Of course it is. It is completely normal for the youth to learn their religion. If we can provide them a proper, objective, diverse, philosophical education that respects other religions and beliefs, then we can raise “contemporary and democratic religious generations.” This is the real challenge. Democratic generations will never become religionist.
Here are some examples from right next door. How did Iran start and where is it right now? It is paying the price of not being able to democratize during the era of the shah. In Pakistan, the first steps taken by the dictator Ayup Khan have brought the country to a stage where it is at the brink of shattering.
Do whatever fine-tuning you want, but do not let go of democracy and secularism. Do not disrupt the balance of the country for the sake of politics.
Then we will all have to pay the bill.