Our conversation with God
Once a bestselling novel about spiritualism, the title of this short article is now Turkey’s search for religiosity vs. secularism and personal beliefs vs. political triumphs. But the reason is a sober one. Since the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, Turks from all walks of life have started questioning the role of religion in public and political life.
It is one thing to live with your beliefs and your morality. It is something completely different to impose them on public life. Abandoning the topic of Charles Darwin’s evolution from school curricula would not make any student smarter or help them create the next Tesla or Apple. Obligating every high school to have a masjid and a wudu facility would not encourage teenagers to get closer to Islam overnight. Sadly, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) sees the current is completely in the opposite direction and is trying to reverse the tide in vain.
MAK Research is a polling company close to AK Party circles. Its recent poll about religious practices and Islamic life sheds a new light on how we see our belief systems. Now that we have completed the holy month of Ramadan, let us look at the results. Some 45 percent of the participants said they fasted every day of Ramadan. The ones who said they fasted “partially” are 25 percent, while those who said “I do not fast at all” are 20 percent. My humble observation showed me another trend. The ones who did not fast this year were more visible.
Fatma Barbarosoğlu, a conservative columnist for the Yeni Şafak newspaper, wrote that even the number of mosque-goers were less this year. “The number of men in mosques this Ramadan has decreased so much that I am afraid bringing children to mosques will be necessary in the future,” Barbarosoğlu said, while pointing to the visibility of non-fasting Muslims this year. “Even pious women smoked in public this year” she said, “my eyes got weary of what they saw.”
Up until last year, even secular Muslims were sensitive not to eat or drink in public during Ramadan. In neighborhoods like Üsküdar or Fatih, some restaurants were closed until iftar. Women were fasting more than men. Iftars would be more like social celebrations. But this year, it is back to the traditionalists and most pious. MAK’s research hints that people’s skepticism toward different religious and sects has grown considerably. Being a member of a religious group does not guarantee success and future prospects anymore. Results show us that the Gülenist coup attempt caused most harm in the moral universe of conservatives.
Another outcome came from the presidential referendum. People who strongly like President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a devout Muslim and a protector of the weak felt the need to question his search for more power. AK Party’s former founders, local chapters and foot soldiers asked themselves why they were not liked as much as they used to when they walked into moderate and liberal neighborhoods. The results showed politicians that at the end of the day, Turkish people are happy to hear the call to prayer five times a day. But they also want their government to distance itself from religious affairs to an extent.
Doğu Perinçek’s Vatan Party is taking the “masjids-in-schools” to court. They will not be the last to do so. Even AK Party’s constituency may silently approve of this move. After all, they won so many elections by separating the business of the world from the work of Allah.