Translated by Melissa Clissold
People and institutions that come forward with the claim to revive religion, in the name of protecting the political, economic, cultural, religious government in power are shaking the foundations of Islam, by rendering it meaningless.
Hello, good day, good week. There are two topics I have in mind. One of them is the Good Party (İYİ Parti), and another is the topic that I am touching upon now. In his morning broadcast, Kemal Can discussed the İYİ Party under the title “5 Questions 10 Answers.” He knows the topic better than me. Furthermore, I saw a tweet by İbrahim Kiras, the Chief Editor of Karar newspaper. He had formed the following sentence regarding the posts that Prof. Nevzat Tarhan had shared with regards to the Neslican Tay incident: “It seems as if there are certain people among the religious that have a mission to distance some people from religion.” This is not the exact sentence, but it’s what I remember. When I saw İbrahim’s expression, I actually accepted how vital and current this issue was, and decided to save the topic of İYİ Party for another broadcast.
This current broadcast actually formed in mind yesterday. This is how it happened; those who live in Istanbul and from Istanbul will know, there is a road starting from Moda all the way to Kadıköy that has been filled in near the beach. I am someone who used to live in Moda years ago. One woman during the apartment house management meeting had described that road as “the love road for those with headscarves.” I was shocked. It wasn’t a road I used much. But when I decided to look out of curiosity – and this incident is about 25 years ago, at least 20 years -, it was indeed a road where young women, as well as women with headscarves, and young men met each other in quiet corners. And it is still like that, from way back when till now, there is such an inclination. When I say inclination, as opposed to what is supposed of Turkey, especially with regards to religion and religious young people, the road they are walking down is actually completely different to what it seems.
Yesterday, due to a certain occasion, and the fact that the weather was nice, I walked down that road again and I witnessed the same thing. But there is a much more complex atmosphere today. On the one hand, there are young high school girls and boys, there are those with headscarves and those without. There are lot of kids drinking beer, some drinking wine in other areas and families having picnics together. In fact, you can witness this in a lot of places across Istanbul, especially in big cities: this is the true photograph of Turkey. In Turkey, no matter what the life styles of people are, whatever their beliefs are, by tolerating one another – or let’s say by getting acquainted and regarding each other – they are living together. And in fact, in Turkey, there is a religion currently present that is truly intertwined with modernism.
This is especially the case when it comes to young people. But certain people claiming that they are speaking on behalf of religion are trying to imprison the youth into very narrow spaces. It was like this 20 years ago, 25 years ago, and it is the same today. It is even more like that today. Because 25 years ago Islamists weren’t in power. They were the opposition, and they had a certain appeal.
Despite this, within the youth, within young people who are religious, the trend was similar to how it is today. Of course, it has changed a lot within the last 25 years, in terms of modernism – new technologies etc. But usually there was a youth that went with the flow of life. And there is such a thing that is occurring today also. However, certain people claiming that they are speaking on behalf of religion are trying to imprison these people, especially women, into very narrow spaces. It is as if there are constant fatwas or expressions disguised as fatwas. And these are spread instantly via social media. And these appear to be the dominant issues within religion. And the answers of other religious devotees or their criticisms towards these do not draw too much attention. Even if certain religious devotees do not like this, do not want this, don’t approve, they aren’t really raising their voices in order not to come against those within the religious community. Another aspect is, these people feel that they are somehow protected. Therefore, there is a fear that if they get involved, that something might happen to them.
When Islamists weren’t in power…when I say Islamist, I want to stress this especially:
My dear friend, the Istanbul deputy from the Felicity Party (SP) Cihangir İslam, whenever I start saying anything about religious devotees and start discussing anything regarding this, he states that these aren’t devotees. But of course, I use this expression because it’s the easiest to use. Islamism, of course in terms of a genre, we can say it doesn’t really suit Islamism, but of course these are people who have created a sort of space of legitimacy and field of power for themselves through Islam.
Some of them are trying to carry out activities within the framework of culture and art, and of course aren’t really able to do this seriously. Some of them are carrying out activities within the field of economy through religion-faith. Some want to get involved in daily life, others want to do this in politics. And since the ruling powers truly associate themselves to a large extent with Islam – not just Islam, but with Islam as well – such a large family portrait appears. But this is a very far from real image of Turkey and it is slowly unravelling. I would like to especially stress this: All Islamists are Muslim, they see themselves as Muslim, but not all Muslims are Islamists. I do not think so many people like this exist. But there are very hegemonic situations here and a situation arises where it looks as if they are speaking on behalf of Islam. And in fact, this is actually something that is occurring worldwide. All that these people talk about and do regarding daily life, technology, other issues, politics etc. extend to Islam. When you say this, when someone says something, there are certain religious people who are uncomfortable by this. But because they do not say anything, they are engrossed under these people. And I think the greater damage is felt by the religion of Islam and Islamic culture.
For a while, this was a discussion we had for a while at Medyascope, it later spread, and there was the issue of deism-atheism. There still is, in a very serious manner. Especially within the youth, interest towards deism and atheism is increasing day by day and the fact that the children of a lot of conservative families are inclined towards these new beliefs is even more interesting. Here we are. Another aspect is, in addition to saving their religiosity, a lot of people – especially amongst young people and middle-aged people -, they are protecting their religiosity, they do not abandon their religion, they don’t become deists or atheists, they still define themselves as Muslim, as religious Muslims; but they are breaking their bonds seriously with those people and institutions who claim to speak on behalf of religion within areas of society, within fields of culture, politics and economy – and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appear at the head of this.
They are truly keeping their distance. Some of them are doing this openly, as a challenge; but a large portion of people are doing this in their own worlds. I am seeing and hearing about a lot of religious people who are choosing to live their own religion in their own spaces, who are reclusive and prefer not to describe their existence in public areas via their religion. Especially in terms of the relationship that is created with women with headscarves, I see a lot of women who believe that the headscarf has been associated too much with politics and are choosing to take their headscarves off. Some of them really baffle me. But all of this has a deeper meaning. This meaning can be summarised as follows: Just as İbrahim Kiras says, some people are speaking way too much on behalf of religion, in such loud voices, making so much noise and knocking things over, a lot of people are avoiding to openly discuss their own religious beliefs and views. This is the point we have reached. If atheists ruled the country, if deists ruled the country, or if other religious people ruled the country – they couldn’t achieve this – even if they wanted do. It’s another issue whether they would like it or not, but they wouldn’t be able to. I can see that certain people and institutions claiming to elevate Islam through defining everything via Islam, are truly shaking the foundations of the religion in Turkey. This is very meaningful.
In my opinion, one of the most important reasons for this, is that these fractions, those in power, all those who have power big and small in the field of religion who do not care about this world and believe in another – well they say they believe in it but – act in such ways that it would be even difficult for religious people to say that they are doing it for the other world. I am on no such mission to try and teach people about their own religion. But I can say this: As a citizen living in Turkey, as someone who has been born here, as someone who has grown up here, no matter what my political view etc. is, it makes me uncomfortable that Islam and this culture is being torn to shreds for such worldly, momentous, passing fads, that it is being ruined to such a degree. There may be some who ask me “Is this any of your business?” Yes, it is. Because I should stress this especially: Islam, the culture of this religion, all dimensions of Islam, all interpretations, Sunnism, Alawism, all sects, schools etc. in fact are too valuable to be left to the Islamists. It is a valuable aspect; it is valuable for this country. People may distance themselves from religion, may choose atheism or deism. This is their personal choice. This is spreading incredibly across the world. And this is happening across the world of Islam too, and will continue to. But it is truly a paradoxical thing for someone to destroy religion in the name of religion.
There are a lot of things that were said towards the beginning years of the republic, a lot of things within Islamic literature, things they have names as enemies of Islam. I think it is certain that a lot of people, especially young people, are distancing themselves from Islam. Think of this: Think of the battle between the AKP-Gülenism. What’s happening between them has happened all throughout Islamic history; there is a relentless war between them whilst they both state they are acting on behalf of religion. This appears as Muslims and religious devotees trying not to offend one another. But today, a lot of people, especially the youth, cannot understand this. Their arguments, and what they say about one another do not satisfy the youth or anyone else for that matter.
Never mind, let me summarise. I would like to say this again: Islamism, right now within AKP rule, perhaps in Turkey – let’s say at least within the history of the Republic – is living its worst period. Religious devotees, devotees who are uncomfortable about this situation do not have the courage or body to intervene, respond to this. Yet I can say readily that, those who use their religion to protect their own political, economic etc. and power in such a cheap manner are headed for a fall. Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day.