Perfect questions for the perfect Alevi
AHMET HAKANPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said, “If being Alevi means loving Caliph Ali, then I am a perfect Alevi.”
The prime minister has said that before. Only the prime minister? It is a sentence that conservative Sunni politicians have been using since the 1970s.
What is actually trying to be assumed when one says, “If being Alevi means loving Caliph Ali, then I am a perfect Alevi”? Do you want to learn this?
Do this instant test. For example, immediately ask this question to the person saying this: Dude, since you are a perfect Alevi, then why don’t you grant house of worship status to cemevis? (cemevi: places of worship for Alevis.)
The reply you will get will be this: Brother, you got me wrong. I put a condition. I said, “If Alevism is loving Caliph Ali.” Caliph Ali went to the mosque, not to the cemevi. Why do you need the cemevis? Alevis should let go of cemevis. Come to the mosques, do your prayers there.”
If that question is not enough, then ask this question: Dude, since you are a perfect Alevi, then why don’t you provide for the representation of Alevis in the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet)?
The reply you will get will be this: Brother, those at the top of the Diyanet love Caliph Ali as much as I do. If being Alevi means loving Caliph Ali, then those at Diyanet are perfect Alevis. In other words, the Diyanet is fully Alevi. No problem there.
There's no need to keep on asking, the replies will be identical.
Some conclusions drawn from those answers are these:
The sentence, “If being Alevi means loving Caliph Ali, then I am a perfect Alevi,” is not a sentence that is said to extend a hand to the Alevis, to understand them, to protect Alevi freedom of belief, to respect their beliefs or to act according to how the Alevis define themselves.
Those who utter the sentence, “If being Alevi means loving caliph Ali, then I am a perfect Alevi,” are actually saying, “I ignore how the Alevis define Alevism. I define Alevism. I draw its framework, I make its conditions; I decide to what extent it can go.”
Are there any Sunnis who do not like Ali?
In this entire world, you cannot find one person who is a member of the Sunni sect who would say, “I do not like Caliph Ali.” Far from “not liking,” all Sunnis are in love with Caliph Ali. They are in love with him at least as much as the Alevis. Not today, not yesterday, not the other day. Since the very beginning. Caliph Ali is the “Lion of Allah” in the eyes and in the hearts of all Sunnis. Is there anything further?
However, despite all this Sunni love, there has always been a sect called “Alevi” and there continues to be.
What about it? The “about” is this: The difference between “Sunnism” and “Alevism” is not the matter of loving or not loving Caliph Ali. The matter is something else.
In order to understand and comprehend that other thing here is what needs to be done:
- Take a look at the history of Islam
- Ponder the role of politics throughout history in the segregation of Alevi and Sunni
- Lend an ear to how the Alevis build and define their own beliefs
Otherwise, you are beating the air.
I am explaining one by one
The ballot box is the sole reference point in democracies determining who will come to power. Do you want to rule the country? There is one place you will go: the ballot box. You will emerge from it, nowhere else.
Let’s assume, you emerged from the ballot box and you are in power.
Not enough! You also have to be powerful. In other words, you will never consent to share your power with the military power that may scare you because it has arms. You will oppose the tutelage of arms. You will remove all the foundations of the tutelage.
Let’s assume you have emerged from the ballot box. Let’s say you have removed the military tutelage. You have become the power and the powerful. What do you do in this situation?
Will you be running the whole country after your own heart until the ballot box appears again? Does emerging from the ballot box give you the right to rule the country, no questions asked, like a king?
There are mechanisms in democracies just as important as the ballot box.
For example, political opposition. For example, independent judicial control and the control of free media; for example, the right of the citizen to take to the streets to protest. For example, the demand of the civil society to participate.
These are indispensable parts of democracy.
It is as simple as that.
Ahmet Hakan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on July 19. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.