Hamas Celebrates AKP Win; Relies on Turkish Support

Why Turkey’s Local Elections May Have Global Impact

Possible Repercussions From Turkey’s Corruption Scandal

Erdogan’s AKP Party Rocked By Scandal: Who’s Behind It?

Edogan

Some analysts are saying that, because of this corruption scandal, either Erdogan or what remains of democracy will exit from Turkey.

BY LONNA LISA WILLIAMS:

No one is sure who is behind the corruption inquiries that have been rocking Turkey the past week and upsetting Prime Minister Erdogan’s AKP Party, but there are several theories.

Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan of the AKP (“white”) Party closed down the private language schools of powerful exiled Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen. Then, to everyone’s surprise (even Erdogan’s), top leaders in the AKP Party found their families being investigated.

Erdogan called this an attack against his government and implicated Fetullah Gulen as being behind the sudden corruption inquiries that landed top government officials, bank presidents, and even billionaire builders in jail.

Gulen denied involvement in the “operation” (as it’s being called in the Turkish news).

No one really knows what is happening right now in Turkey. The U.S. is calling this “a family fight” and doesn’t want to be dragged into it. Whoever is behind this scandal, the fact remains that lots of money is involved.

Photos of cash, huge safes and even ATM machines stashed in the houses of top Turkish leaders have circulated the internet. Erdogan struck back by firing dozens of police officers and even police chiefs across Turkey, including the one in charge of Istanbul.

Gulen cursed this act of firing police officers (and, it seems, in doing so cursed the one responsible for the acts—Erdogan himself). On one of his websites Gulen wrote, ” . . . Those who don’t see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don’t see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people—let God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unities.”

“Maybe the CHP [the main opposition party] is at least partly behind this,” one Turkish man told me. “They are Ataturk’s party and don’t want to see his ideals of secular democracy betrayed. They also want closer ties to Europe and the human rights it offers. Too many Turks now sit in prison simply for speaking or writing what Erdogan doesn’t like. They don’t want to see Turkey become an Islamic state like Erdogan envisions. They don’t want to be dragged back to the time of the sultans.”

Read more at Clarion Project

Turkey’s Gülen Movement: Between Social Activism and Politics

[Left: Fethullah Gülen, from Diyar Muhammed, via Flickr; right: Prime Minister Erdoğan, from World Economic Forum via Flickr.]

[Left: Fethullah Gülen, from Diyar Muhammed, via Flickr; right: Prime Minister Erdoğan, from World Economic Forum via Flickr.]

By Bayram Balci:

Since its election in 2002, the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has transformed Turkey. The reforms initiated by this conservative government with Islamic roots have amounted to a passive revolution—they have profoundly altered Turkish society, modernized its institutions, and strengthened its economy, which is now the sixteenth-largest in the world in terms of GDP.

Yet it would be a mistake to attribute the many successes that have enhanced Turkey’s role as a major regional and international player to AKP leadership alone. Erdoğan’s government has enjoyed support from a number of political organizations as well as from influential religious and social forces within Turkey. The most invaluable, but also the hardest to assess, is a movement that plays a fundamental role in Turkey’s social and religious life: the Gülen movement of Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the terms cemaat or hizmet.

The AKP and the Gülen movement established an alliance in 2002 based on a common desire to push back the central role of the military in the country and create a new, more conservative, and more Muslim Turkey. Each brought different skills to the task—Erdoğan and his AKP colleagues were experienced in political activism and electoral politics, while the Gülen movement used education and social activism to promote its objectives. This alliance was not without disagreements, but until recently common interests outweighed differences.

During the past few months, however, tensions have deepened between Erdoğan and the Gülenists in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy, causing speculation that the alliance is headed for a fundamental break. There can be no doubt that rifts have emerged over a variety of issues, from the rising power of the Gülen movement to the increasingly authoritarian actions of the prime minister. But talk of a complete break may well be premature.

THE GÜLEN MOVEMENT

Fethullah Gülen emerged as a religious authority in Turkey in the 1970s, and little by little he became the spiritual leader of a vast community that now boasts an estimated 3 million sympathizers. Gülen, who moved to the United States in 1999, encourages his disciples to become modern, moderate Muslims. An adherent of free markets, he champions the Islamic faith and the spirit of capitalism. He is also a nationalist, seeking to boost Turkey’s influence and prestige abroad.

Gülen relies heavily on education to transmit his ideas, and he has formed a network of hundreds of schools and businesses worldwide. This network is active on every continent, including in the United States, where his sympathizers run approximately 130 charter schools, mainly in Texas.

He focuses his efforts on educating new generations and promoting the emergence of elites who are simultaneously pious, modern, patriotic, committed to globalization, and comfortable with economic success. Like the Jesuits and other missionaries who trained Turkey’s republican, Kemalist elites to value secularism and follow a Western path through the schools they founded at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Gülen aspires to use education to help forge new generation of Anatolian, conservative elites (or counterelites) that might play a key role in creating a modern, more openly Islamic Turkey.

Read more at Carnegie Endowment For International Peace (H/T Patrick Poole, @pspoole)

What Turkey’s Riots Mean

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
June 19, 2013

Rebellion has shaken Turkey since May 31: Is it comparable to the Arab upheavals that overthrew four rulers since 2011, to Iran’s Green Movement of 2009 that led to an apparent reformer being elected president last week, or perhaps to Occupy Wall Street, which had negligible consequences?

 

The government of Istanbul told mothers to “bring their children home” but instead they joined the protests in Taksim Square.

The unrest marks a deeply important development with permanent implications. Turkey has become a more open and liberal country, one in which leaders face democratic constraints as never before. But how much it changes the role of Islam in Turkey depends primarily on the economy.

China-like material growth has been the main achievement of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the party he heads, the AKP. Personal income has more than doubled in the decade that he has been in power, changing the face of the country. As a visitor to Turkey since 1972, I have seen the impact of this growth in almost every area of life, from what people eat to their sense of Turkish identity.

That impressive growth explains the AKP’s increased share of the national vote in its three elections, from 34 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2007 to a shade under 50 percent in 2011. It also explains how, after 90 years of the military serving as the ultimate political power, the party was able to bring the armed forces to heel.

At the same time, two vulnerabilities have become more evident, especially since the June 2011 elections, jeopardizing Erdoğan’s continued domination of the government.

Dependence on foreign credit. To sustain consumer spending, Turkish banks have borrowed heavily abroad, and especially from supportive Sunni Muslim sources. The resulting current account deficit creates so great a need for credit that the private sector alone needs to borrow US$221 billion in 2013, or nearly 30 percent of the country’s $775 billion GDP. Should the money stop flowing into Turkey, the party (pun intended) is over, possibly leading the stock market to collapse, the currency to plunge, and the economic miracle to come to a screeching halt.

 

Erdoğan instructs parents, “I am watching you. You will make at least three children.”

Erdoğan’s sultan-like understanding of his democratic mandate. The prime minister sees his election – and especially the one in 2011, when the AKP won half the popular vote – as a carte blanche to do whatever he pleases until the next vote. He indulges his personal emotions (recall his confrontation with Shimon Peres in 2009), meddles in the tiniest matters (his deciding the use of a city park prompted the current turmoil), social engineers (telling married couples to bear three or more children), involves Turkey in an unpopular foreign adventure (Syria), and demonizes the half of the electorate that did not vote for him (calling them beer-guzzlers who copulate in a mosque). This attitude has won the fervent support of his once-downtrodden constituency, but also has wrought the fury of the growing numbers of Turks who resent his authoritarianism, as well as the criticism of Europe leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced herself “appalled” by the recent police crackdown.

These two weaknesses point to the importance of the economy for the future of Erdoğan, the AKP, and the country. Should Turkey’s finances weather the demonstrations, the Islamist program that lies at the heart of the AKP’s platform will continue to advance, if more cautiously. Perhaps Erdoğan himself will remain leader, becoming the country’s president with newly enhanced powers next year; or perhaps his party will tire of him and – as happened to Margaret Thatcher in 1990 – push him aside in favor of someone who can carry out the same program without provoking so much hostility.

 

After two weeks of demonstrations, the Istanbul stock exchange lost nearly 10 percent of its value.

But if “hot money” flees Turkey, if foreign investors go elsewhere, and if Persian Gulf patrons cool on the AKP, then the demonstrations could end AKP rule and rupture the drive toward Islamism and the application of Islamic law. Infighting within the party, especially between Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül, or within the Islamist movement, especially between the AKP and Fethullah Gülen‘s powerful movement, could weaken the Islamists. More profoundly, the many non-Islamist voters who voted for the AKP’s sound economic stewardship might abandon the party.

Payroll employment is down by 5 percent. Real consumer spending in first quarter 2013 fell by 2 percent over 2012. Since the demonstrations started, the Istanbul stock market is down 10 percent and interest rates are up about 50 percent. To assess the future of Islamism in Turkey, watch these and other economic indicators.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Turkey, Closest to Leading the Middle East

by Şenay Yıldız Akşam January 7, 2013

http://www.danielpipes.org/12459/turkey-leading-middle-east

Translation of the original text: Ortadoğu liderliğine en yakın ülke Türkiye Translated by Elif S. Gürbey

N.B.: This translation from Turkish includes numerous changes in the text by Daniel Pipes to improve the presentation and to make it more accurate.

Founder and president of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes is well known for his work on the Middle East and political Islam. Pipes, an award-winning columnist for the National Review and Jerusalem Post, writes commentaries and articles about the Middle East in leading media organizations such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. After visiting Turkey last month, Pipes, who has 12 books and numerous articles on Islam, Syria, and the Middle East, published an article in National Review Online titled “Talking Turkey.” We talked with him [in mid-December] about his impressions of Turkey and his expectations from the Middle East.

- When were you in Turkey the last time? I was in Turkey two weeks ago. I visited in 2007 as well. My first visit to Turkey was in 1972. I spent the summer of 1973 trying to learn Turkish while living in Istanbul’s Üsküdar quarter … but I was not very successful at it.

- How long did you stay in Turkey before writing your last article, “Talking Turkey”? Did you meet anyone from the government? I stayed in Turkey for 5 days. My request to meet members of the AKP did not succeed. However, I was able to meet with representatives of the CHP (Republican People’s Party) and the Gülen movement.

- Considering your visits to Turkey, what kind of difference do you see between now and then? Two major changes occurred in the last 40 years. First, economic development, especially in Istanbul: there are so many new buildings, businesses, and global brands. This differs completely from the Turkey I saw 40 years ago, which was quite separated from international business. Second, Islam. The religiosity of people in Turkey was semi-visible then. If it was necessary to go to mosques or other places to see them, now they are everywhere.

- Do you mean women who wear headscarf? Yes, the turban [headscarf] symbolizes this phenomenon. Many observers used to see Turkey as a European country with a different language. As someone interested in the history of Muslims, I always saw Turkey as a Muslim Middle Eastern country. The Atatürk revolution impressed me and I began writing a book comparing it with the Meiji transformation in Japan. I find it strange to see Turkey as European just because a small part of its territory is in Europe. Would Morocco controlling Gibraltar make it a European country? I think not.

2055- Does Turkey fit exactly into the Middle East? Yes, Turkey is historically, culturally, religiously, commercially, and politically a part of the Middle East.

- Do you think Islam’s visibility is negative? I have no opinion if people want to pray, fast, and on pilgrimage to Mecca. I do, however, have an opinion on attempts to implement the Shari’a. The Shari’a causes great suffering, sorrow, and pain. In the past [Necmettin] Erbakan and now [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is moving toward Islamic law and I think this a terrible development.

- Do you really think Erdoğan is heading toward Sharia? Almost everybody I spoke to in Turkey told me, “Turkey will never be a country where hands are cut off, of burqas or jihad. Erdoğan, Gül, Davutoğlu, Arınç, and Gülen all know that and accept the order Ataturk implemented 80-90 years ago. They are only trying to create a more religious environment within that order.” Among those I spoke to, only an Alevi person did not subscribe to this opinion. According to him, Erdoğan and Gül aspire to apply Islamic law. “It will take a very long time,” he noted, “but it is their objective.” I agree with this view.

- As someone who lives in Turkey, I am having hard time to understand how you can see implementation of Shari’a. What makes you so skeptical about the AK Party’s goals? Gül and Erdoğan were members of Erbakan’s Virtue Party in the 1990s; and although he failed to achieve his objectives because he was removed from power by the military, Erbakan clearly intended to apply the Shari’a. The question now is: Did Gül and Erdoğan only change their tactics to maneuver better than him – or did they really abandon his objectives? I do not believe they altered their goals. I grant that I am speculating here because I cannot read their minds but it makes more sense to conclude that they only changed tactics.

As I see it, these lieutenants of Erbakan learned a lesson from his mistakes and are now implementing his policies more intelligently. Erdoğan is a more capable and sophisticated version of Erbakan. Should the AKP stay in power, the implementation of Islamic law will begin. The result will not look like Afghanistan under the Taliban, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Saudi Arabia but the Shari’a will give direction to the social order.

I expect the AKP to rule for a long time, in part because the opposition in Turkey is so weak. It is reduced to hoping for divisions between Gül and Erdoğan, or Gülen and the AKP. The intellectual base of the CHP and the other parties is weak.

- Can you clarify your comment in your last article, that you heard that the AKP aspires “to create a post-Atatürk order more than an anti-Atatürk order”? Does the AKP leadership really accept the order established by Atatürk? I have my doubts. I think, deep in the leaders’ hearts, they want step by step to erase Ataturk’s accomplishments. In this sense, Erdoğan is the anti-Atatürk. Let me add that I have no problem with the removal of Atatürk from walls, quotations, and celebrations. It seems odd that a person who died 75 years ago remains ubiquitous. In the United States, I would not welcome seeing George Washington everywhere.

- Turkey is in leadership struggle for the Middle East. Do you think that Turkey can be the greatest power in the Middle East? Turkey absolutely is the best candidate right now for Middle East leadership. Given its population, the ruling party’s vision, its economic strength, and its intellectual capacity, Turkey is the country closest to leading the Middle East.

- What do you think of highly controversial Gülen movement? I never met Gülen, though he lives near me in Philadelphia. I know a number of people from the movement. It is highly sophisticated, intellectual, and impressive, especially the hundreds of schools. In my opinion, its objective is to make Islam the primary component that regulates people’s lives, and it works for this very carefully and cleverly.

Islamism in Turkey is far more intellectual than, for example, in Egypt. Take a look at Mohamed Morsi: in a few months, he tried to do more than the AKP has attempted in ten years, and for that reason, he is in great danger. Egypt faces so many problems, from a sinking economy to violent protests on the streets. In contrast, Gülen builds schools and has a media empire, which is much more impressive than Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeini, or the Taliban. For me, the most powerful feature that separates Islam in Turkey from other countries is capable leadership.

- The Arab Spring began with high hopes; at this point, do you think it brought spring to the Arabs? I never call it “Arab Spring”; the term Arab uprising is much more accurate. The Arab Middle East was surprisingly stable between 1970 and 2010, with little change of the dictators in charge. These regimes lacked an ideology or vision, so they—except for Syria—established good relations with the U.S. government. Following the incident in Tunisia in December 2010, the Islamists have increased their power. I believe this worsens things for the people of the region: dictators are bad enough but Islamists are even worse. Dictators kill tens of people; Islamists kill hundreds or thousands.

- Why are you contrasting Islamists and Americans? Islamism is the third totalitarian movement. We beat the fascist and communist threats; now we have to defeat the Islamists.

- Saudi Arabia is very close partner of the United States. No, Canada is a close partner. Saudi Arabia is only a tactical partner. The U.S. and Saudi governments work together but differ in everything from ways of life to long-term ambitions.

- Do you criticize Saudi Arabia? Yes, the government in Saudi Arabia is horrible. I am uncomfortable with the extent of privileges given to Saudi Arabia in Washington.

- You have a very negative, inflexible position about Islam? No, I am not negative about Islam, but I am negative about Islamism. A government, a movement, or a people who seek ways to implement Islamic law fully are rather a small minority in nearly every country. They are not the majority, and yes, I am negative about them. My motto is; radical Islam is a problem moderate Islam is the solution.

- Which countries you can think of in the Middle East that can implement a moderate version of Islam? Governments such as Iran, Turkey, and Tunisia that followed a moderate version of Islam are gone. Nowadays, the closest example is Algeria. The AKP and Gülen movement try to look like moderate, but they are not because both want to implement Shari’a.

- In the mission statement of the Middle East Forum’s Legal Project, of which you are the founder, it says, you “work to protect the right in the West to freely discuss Islam, radical Islam, terrorism, and terrorist funding..” But Islam is not the only religion in the Middle East, so why do you not show same concern about Christianity and Judaism? I do not see Islamism is comparable to anything in Judaism or Christianity. As I mentioned earlier, I see it comparable to Communism and Fascism. I see Islamism as far more a bigger threat than Jewish nationalism or a fundamentalist Christianity. You can criticize Jews and Judaism, Christians and Christianity without facing danger. However, you risk your life criticizing Islam.

Talking Turkey: As Turkey’s “chief social engineer,” Erdogan talks up secularism and prepares the way for sharia

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Daniel Pipes, December 26, 2012

The menu for meals on my Turkish Airlines flight earlier this month assured passengers that food selections “do not contain pork.” The menu also offered a serious selection of alcoholic drinks, including champagne, whiskey, gin, vodka, rakı, wine, beer, liqueur, and cognac. This oddity of simultaneously adhering to and ignoring Islamic law, the Shari’a, symbolizes the uniquely complex public role of Islam in today’s Turkey, as well as the challenge of understanding the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation, AKP) which has dominated the country’s national government since 2002.

Political discussions about Turkey tend to dwell on whether the AKP is Islamist or not: In 2007, for example, I asked “what are the AKP leadership’s intentions? Did it … retain a secret Islamist program and simply learn to disguise its Islamist goals? Or did it actually give up on those goals and accept secularism?”

During recent discussions in Istanbul, I learned that Turks of many viewpoints have reached a consensus about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: they worry less about his Islamic aspirations than his nationalist and dictatorial tendencies.

Applying the Shari’a in full, they say, is not a feasible goal in Turkey because of the country’s secular and democratic nature, something distinguishing it from other Muslim-majority countries (except Albania, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzia). Accepting this reality, the AKP wins ever-greater electoral support by softly coercing the population to be more virtuous, traditional, pious, religious, conservative, and moral. Thus, it encourages fasting during Ramadan and female modesty, discourages alcohol consumption, attempted to criminalize adultery, indicted an anti-Islamist artist, increased the number of religious schools, added Islam to the public school curriculum, and introduced questions about Islam to university entrance exams. Put in terms of Turkish Airlines, pork is already gone and it’s a matter of time until the alcohol also disappears.

Islamic practice, not Islamic law, is the goal, my interlocutors told me. Hand chopping, burqas, slavery, and jihad are not in the picture, and all the less so after the past decade’s economic growth which empowered an Islamically-oriented middle class that rejects Saudi-style Islam. An opposition leader noted that five districts of Istanbul “look like Afghanistan,” but these are the exception. I heard that the AKP seeks to reverse the anti-religiousness of Atatürk’s state without undermining that state, aspiring to create a post-Atatürk order more than an anti-Atatürk order. It seeks, for example, to dominate the existing legal system rather than create an Islamic one. The columnist Mustafa Akyol even holds the AKP is not trying to abolish secularism but that it “argues for a more liberal interpretation of secularism.” The AKP, they say, emulates the 623-year-old Ottoman state Atatürk terminated in 1922, admiring both its Islamic orientation and its dominance of the Balkans and the Middle East.

Mohamed Morsi could learn a thing or two from Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Read more at National Review Online

Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum

 

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