Book on the journey of the Islamist movement in Turkey

Book on the journey of the Islamist movement in Turkey

Have you read former Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün’s new book? 

A member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Ergün’s book titled “Adım Adım Siyaset” (Step by Step Politics) is a very important book for understanding from where to where the Islamist movement has come and what its problems are.

I did not read the book from the point of daily political fights. I read it to understand the dynamics, issues and adjustment process of the conservative culture that has brought the AK Party with a “National Vision Movement” to power and kept it in power for 12 years.

Nihat Ergün is a well-educated “liberal conservative” intellectual possessing political maturity. He is a graduate of an industrial vocational high school, then the school of economics and administrative sciences. He was interested in Islamism during his high school years. In those years, books that were read in Islamic circles were translations from thinkers of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world and some others from Iran. Ergün gave a list of them.

During the heavy days of pressure of the Feb. 28, 1997, era, there were differences of opinion in the movement of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan; a “neocon” movement was forming.

Erbakan supporters, who were called “traditionalists,” held a meeting at the municipality. The speaker referred to Imam al-Mawardi of the 11th century saying, “In Islam, administration is life-long.” One person from the audience stood up and told the listeners that a new party under the leadership of Tayyip Erdoğan would be formed. The speaker replied to him, “If there is an existing emir, a caliph, and somebody else stands out, that person’s verdict is either to be exiled or killed.”

Ergün rejected this; you can read his objection in his book. That “speaker,” Ergün noted, was influential in the removing of philosophy lessons from the curriculum of theology departments in 2013.

Religion and history
Unfortunately, this view of “life-long administration” is being taught as if it were an Islamic rule today also, with narrations from old books. 

When historic phenomena are perceived as religion, you can see what kind of dogmatic and totalitarian views emerge, right?

Nihat Ergün is defending liberal democracy, and in the theology field, against the dogmatism of the Imam al-Ash’ari school, he is defending the rational word of Imam al-Maturidi.

Politics and morality
Nihat Ergün has emphasized that morality should be more valuable than politics and made this correct comment: “People have neglected way too much the side of Islam concerning the building of a new moral. Transforming religion into an ideology within the Islamist approach has resulted in certain negative developments in terms of morality.”

Also, this is Nihat Ergün’s diagnosis of former political parties: “Political parties cease to be political parties after a while; they turn into political congregations or political companies…”

Why? When there is no in-party democracy, this outcome is almost a law of nature.

Ergün also cites justified criticisms of the Gülen movement, without consenting to such conspiracy theories.

This is a valuable book, a must read. We would also expect from Bülent Arınç, who is closer to the center of the movement, to write about his experiences and the lessons he drew from them.