The instrumentalization of religion for the referendum

The instrumentalization of religion for the referendum

Theologian Professor Hayreddin Karaduman wrote that casting a “yes” vote could be interpreted as a religious duty. Another theologian, Professor Hayri Kırbaşoğlu, objected with a tweet, saying voting “yes” or “no” had nothing to do with religious duty. “It is a political choice. We do not live in the Middle Ages; let’s wake up from this deep sleep.”

He also criticized the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), as well as religious wise men for not warning against the instrumentalization of Islam.

Now let’s look at it from another perspective; if the proposed charter system is accepted at the ballot box but ends up giving a bad result and suppose there arises the need to change it – as was suggested by one of the advisers of the president, Professor Şükrü Karatepe, who said, “after three or five years, if we’ll see that it is not working the parliament will change it again” – then how does one explain this situation in terms of religious duty?

Do you see the risk of instrumentalizing religion?

Ahmet Taşgetiren, one of the conscientious writers in Islamic circles, wrote the other day that a “yes” result would be perceived as a trial of a system by Islamic cadres in Turkey and warned:

One should not ignore the creation of the perception that “Turkey’s Islamist cadres are trying out a system.” “Let’s never give up our ideal of being a society of mercy.”

But the problem is this: How can you prevent a totalitarian society in this contemporary age? What should be the system of constitutional powers in our age, of the concept you call “a society of mercy?” 

A book by Professor Ahmet Akbulut is eye-opening in terms of explaining how using religion as a tool in political power struggles in the period following the death of Prophet Muhammad led to grave sufferings and sectarian wars.

Akbulut argues that no political system is stipulated in the Quran and that this sphere is totally left to the people. He explains how the use of religion to legitimize political power struggles has led to deep problems for centuries.

He underlines that back then tribal culture was still strong sociologically and when disagreements erupted, there were no political systems to prevent the competition from turning into bloody conflicts.

 Back then, rules and institutions were not adequate in most civilizations and political conflicts turned into bloody warfare. In time the order was maintained by autocracy.

Checks and balances

As humanity developed, the demand for freedom and justice against absolute authorities increased.

Philosophical views started to gain prominence as the separation of powers and rights and freedoms came under constitutional guarantees. Constitutional rules with the aim of integrating these philosophical values into daily lives developed as well as institutions like the independent judiciary and parliaments with the power to check and balance the power of the executive. 

If we want a fair and libertarian political and legal state system, we need to look at the degree these philosophical values have been internalized. More important than that, we have to be very careful as to whether the powers are checked and balanced by these principles.

If one of the powers acquires extreme supremacy to the degree of undermining the other powers, this would create negative results regardless of how well intentioned it may have been. This has been proven by the laboratory of history.