How Islam (and Turkey) may be saved
The massacre of cartoonists coming on the top of vicious terrorism by Islamists has generated two responses among Muslims: 1) “The West asked for it! They deserve it!” 2) “This is not Islam! Islam is a religion of peace.”
Let us take a look at these responses, which are sometimes articulated together. Then, let us think about how Islam came to this state and how it can get out of it.
‘The West asked for it!’
There is no need to go as far as al-Qaeda. Abdurrahman Dilipak wrote in Yeni Akit: “Did not some of you already want ‘to force God’s hand to bring catastrophe?’ There you are. You have found it ... The fire you have stoked will now singe your beard as well. That is why you have to fear ... You were having so much fun mocking our sacred values. Now go ahead and continue to have fun ... There are many young people who would prefer to take revenge than to commit suicide ... Those who sow wind reap fire. With peace and prayers.”
Here is what a sign on the billboard of the municipality of Tatvan says: “Greetings to the Kouachi brothers who exacted vengeance for God’s Prophet. May God accept your martyrdom. It is democracy when you strike but it is terrorism when we take revenge.”
The Aczmendi (a religious order whose name literally means “Humble Servants”) held a funeral in absentia in Istanbul for the perpetrators of the Paris massacre.
Here is a warning from Justice and Development Party (AKP) trolls to the Turkish magazine Leman: “@lemandergisi, which recognizes no limits in its vulgarity directed at President Erdoğan, must learn a lesson from the #charliehebdo attack.”
‘This is not Islam!’
In the meantime, Muslim philosopher Abdennour Bidar wrote in 2014: “I am not this. This is not Islam. ... This could have been a historic opportunity for you to engage in introspection. ... The real question is: Why did this repugnant monster steal your face? Why did it choose to appear wearing your face instead of another one?”
Erdoğan laid the foundations of the opposing theory in 2009: “It is impossible for a Muslim to perpetrate genocide.” In 2014, he built on that theory: “We have never accepted and will never accept anything called ‘Islamic terrorism.’”
The truth is this:
1) There are many examples that demonstrate the opposite: For example, Hizbullah, which murdered feminist writer Konca Kuriş with a hogtie in 1999. For example, Boko Haram. For example, al-Qaeda, a source of evil. For example, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), which sells Yezidi women while it also beheads people. For example, its parent, al-Nusra. For example, the Taliban, which destroyed Buddha statues in Afghanistan by subjecting them to artillery fire.
2) Religion is an artifact of superstructure (in other words, culture). Consequently, it is a dependent and not an independent variable. It depends on the infrastructure and the established order. Depending on circumstances, it may serve the cause of peace or the cause of war. For example, the invasions that were the basic source of revenue for the Ottoman Empire were based on the lofty religious concept of “gaza” (holy war) – in other words, a sacred war against non-Muslims with the aim of spreading the Islamic religion. Those participating in it were called “gazi,” those who died were called “martyrs,” and the loot that was thus generated was called “the prize.” Why do you think Turks converted to Islam so quickly?
If you insist that we should look at the Quran instead of citing practice, then the Quran says: “You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers (to be) the Jews,” (al-Ma’idah: 82). “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are (in fact) allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is (one) of them,” (Al-Ma’idah: 51).
Even Faruk Köse, a commentator in Yeni Akit – a paper that Erdoğan holds in high esteem – has himself refuted Erdoğan’s comments suggesting that “Muslims as pure as driven snow”: “Given that Muslims have to accept all of the Quran, is it possible that a non-warrior Muslim be the type of Muslim the Quran proposes?” He also notes that the words “killing,” “mutual killing,” “war,” and “holy war” are used a total of 292 times in the Koran, while “peace” is used only six times.
The situation gets even more dreadful when we go to the early period of Islam. The caliphs Omar and Ali were killed while praying while the caliph Osman, the Prophet’s son-in-law, was killed while reading the Quran. Similarly, Ali’s son Hasan was poisoned by his wife and Hasan’s brother Husayn was killed in Karbala as he asked for water for his baby. Kuyucu Murat Paşa (a 16th-17th-century Ottoman pasha known for his brutal suppression of Alevis) is the descendant of this past.
Islam may be so, but what about Christianity? Skipping over witch hunts and the Inquisition, between one-third and two-thirds of the population of German principalities alone perished in just the last 30 years of the Catholic-Protestant war of 1524-1648.
In other words, religion may be as divisive as it can be unifying. It is true that there was a time when Christians were slaughtering people but now it is the Muslims who are doing this. Now let us discuss the reasons for this on the occasion of the Charlie Hebdo incident.
Why are Muslims this way?
Muslims are rightly resentful against the West. The recent history of imperialism, the endless ploys over oil, George Bush’s shameless attack, the disgrace known as Israel, and the crime of Islamophobia...
On the other hand, there is not a single advanced and/or democratic Islamic country. The most advanced of them is the Turkey of Erdoğan, who hosts foreign dignitaries with 16 big men standing on the stairs of the illegal AK (White) Palace, supposedly representing 16 Turkic states of the past. The one wearing a bathrobe (second from the top on the left) supposedly represents the Duşakabinoğulları (The sons of the shower) inspired by the Dulkadiroğulları.
In the recent past, less-developed countries would develop their own counter-myths when denigrated by Western myths. They did this to prove themselves. Followers of Rousseau would respond to Hobbesian accusations of “backwardness” with comments that they were “very advanced.” For example, they would point out that the people of Black Africa built the Tower of Babel and invented the alphabet. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s nationalism similarly taught that all peoples were descended from Turks and that all languages were derived from Turkish. Now, we also know that the Turks discovered America!
These counter-myths eventually created disappointment and rubbed salt into wounds. Today, the Muslim youth who does not have the intellectual training to make these arguments has found an even quicker remedy: He kills the argument with (paraphrasing Dr. Murat Peker), “If we possess the absolute right (because it is divine), and our enemy is absolutely wrong, then we can do everything to the enemy.” Of course, this “enemy” is not made up of only Westerners. After all, the blind can kiss only what they can touch.
Why are we this way?
Highly reputable preachers keep saying that the “male organs of Muslim men who are martyred for religion will always remain erect in Heaven” and that “the real believers among them will have sexual intercourse with 100 virgins every day.” This promise may be very important for an illiterate and hungry young man, but let us talk about more realistic situations.
As they say, “the fish starts smelling from the head.” We have a president who once said: “Democracy is a tramcar. We can ride it until where we want to go and then we can get off.” (Interview with N. Cerrahoğlu, Milliyet, July 14, 1996.) Hayrettin Karaman, a professor of theology who is known as Erdoğan’s “fatwa issuer” and who has become known for his adage that “corruption and theft are different things,” wrote in May 2014: “Democracy cannot be the political system of Muslims in its entirety [i.e. with its philosophy and methods]. However, the democratic mechanism may be used in accordance with the principles of Islam and its political theory – until a better mechanism is found.”
In view of these, those in the lower echelons are authorized to say and do anything and everything. Here are a few examples that add to the ones I cited at the beginning of this article.
Nureddin Yıldız, the president of the Social Fabric Foundation (who earlier gained fame for saying that “the working woman is preparing for prostitution”), said “[a 25-year-old man] can marry a 6-year-old girl.” This is a very interesting piece of news for all pedophiles!
The Istanbul Mufti’s Office caused much pleasure to the owners of the mine in Soma when he said that extremism in measures taken to prevent workplace deaths might shake confidence in God and that, consequently, they must be moderated. Professor Hayrettin Öztürk, the mufti of Samsun, said: “If you cannot oppose the adultery of an 18-year-old, opposing the molestation of a seven-month-old is tantamount to shedding crocodile tears.” The Religious Affairs Directorate ruled that praying in a mosque that was built with haram money is acceptable. It also ruled that the wearing of earrings by men is “abominable and nearly haram” and thus inadvertently labeled Sultan Yavuz the Grim, after whom the third Bosporus bridge has been named, as a “gay” person. In the meantime, a neighborhood imam in Erzurum declared that “eating mussels is haram.”
Indeed, the declaration by Imam Mohammed Munajjid in Saudi Arabia to the effect that “Islam prohibits the making of snowmen” and that “even playing with snowmen is a sin” sounds almost cute in comparison.
How Islam, Turkey may be saved
There was a time when Christianity far surpassed these. However, its bourgeoisie grew and, even as it made money, it created its magnum opus in terms of the subject matter of our article between the Renaissance (15th century) and the Enlightenment (17th century). This was the Reformation of the 16th century. Because this did not occur in Islam, the exact opposite happened: The possibility of “exegesis” was suppressed – in other words, Islam was not allowed to have interpretations that would be appropriate for a changing society.
However, there is an inevitable rule of nature: Every action leads to a reaction. The Erdoğan regime has generated two reactions that are of crucial importance and that will work “from the inside.”
The first of these two reactions, which are very different in terms of their class origins, is expressed by the following comments from İhsan Eliaçık, who is considered the theoretician of the group of “anti-capitalist Muslims”:
“Verse 68 of the Sura al-Anam says: ‘And when you see those who engage in (offensive) discourse concerning our verses, then turn away from them.’ (...) The effect of [what Westerners are doing] in the overall picture is not even 1 percent; more than 99 percent has happened within us. Those who agreed with these views must answer the following: Who killed three of the first four caliphs of Islam? Who was responsible for Karbala? Who attacked and razed Mecca and Medina? Did Westerners do this? (...) A youth who grows up with the Islamic culture of Turkey is likely to become an ISIL militant in short shrift.”
The second reaction will come from the Anatolian bourgeoisie that the AKP has itself created. I wrote about this earlier: The children of this group will be bourgeois. Despite the debilitating taxes imposed as punishment on Aydın Doğan for not bowing to pressure and on Koç for opening the lobby of one of its hotels to injured demonstrators during the Gezi Park incidents, the “first generation” bourgeoisie today continues to raise its voice through the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD).
Soon “Anatolian business” will start doing the same because it will find out that it cannot export goods and services without defending universal law and human rights.
Everything that happened in the West has happened here as well. The same will occur on this issue also. There is no escape.
These articles originally appeared on Jan. 16 in Radikal and Agos. Click here and here for Oran’s original articles in Turkish.