Kemalism Replaced by Gülenism in Turkey
- KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
- 12/07/2012 00:00:00
A man-made system or revolution lasts as long as its master lives; when the man dies, the system dies with the man. Once a friend of mine traveled to Turkey a decade or so ago, and he was surprised at the omnipresence of Ataturk. Everywhere were busts, statues, and pictures of Ataturk, and official holidays, schools, as well as civil services were named after him. Numerous Turks believed he had super intelligence and indeed was the savior of Turks, and many secular Turks almost worshipped Ataturk and his principles. It was hard to criticize him and his work, because anyone who criticized him either lost their job or ended up in jail due to the blasphemy law that considered any derogatory remark against Ataturk to be a defamation of Ataturk. Even the Turkish Constitutional law forbids anyone from denigrating him.
Today Kemalism is dead, and his secular system has been thrown into the dustbin. What is happening now is a substitution of Gülenist tyranny for the former secularist or Kemalist tyranny, and that shift does not make Turkey any more democratic. Kemalism was a phenomenon beyond party politics; it was a way of life, and even some secularists treated Kemalism as a religion and the founder Ataturk as an extraordinary person. Nevertheless, based on the military’s stronghold, a powerful central role for the state, and the Kemalist ideology, today this system is being replaced by another ideology or ism called “Gülenism.” Gülenists think of and see Gülen as an extraordinary person and his ideology as a way of life; some of his followers even see him and think of him as the Mehdi, the savior of Islam and humanity, believing that they are the chosen ones, that they are the ones who know best in all matters, and that they can never speak against Gülen. They want to have one man, one party, and one hegemony with no room for competition. In a strong central hierarchy, like most of human history has been telling us, a craving for power drives men.
Tyrants who conspire and legitimize any possible way to power, and then become drunk with power, leave behind trails of injustice and destruction. Also, history tells us that even those who rise to power with good intentions soon become corrupt. They take advantage of their position in order to protect and enrich themselves or their family and friends. To gain this protection and enrichment, they silence, deny, or slander those who threaten their authority and power. They are always paranoid, closed to critics, and oppressive. They desperately cling to power in fear that if they lose control, then they might also lose their power. An opportunity leads to temptation, and then unrestrained power sets its own agenda.
That is what is happening in Turkey. Democratic politics is sometimes driven by self-interest and greed. Gülenists are using democracy in each election to grab power; they do whatever they can within the law and sometimes outside of the law to influence public opinion with the weapon of misinformation. For example, for a long time Gulenists have praised Erdogan and used his government to gain power both internationally and domestically. Internationally they use governmental high officials, bureaucrats, and diplomats to visit their NGOs, cultural centers, and missionary institutions to gain credibility, but once the Prime Minister did not listen to Gülen but paid attention to his constituency, and now they are doing negative campaigning against Erdogan. Soon they might slander Erdogan as well. Time will tell what happens. Since Erdogan wants to do away with the special courts that are sending anti-Gulenists to prison, the Gulenists are drawing back from Erdogan who, perhaps, is beginning to understand that a country cannot have two governments. Now they are praising Gul over Erdogan because whenever Gul is touring, President Gul visits their schools and missionaries’ NGOs, but the Prime Minister does not. The Prime Minister now realizes the agenda of the Gulenists, and most likely this divergence of purpose will not be reconciled any time soon. For sure, Gülen places people who believe his ideology in the top of the government bureaucracy.
The checks and balances system guarantees democracy. In Gülenism there are no checks and balances, and Gülen’s ideas are absolute. Gülenism may be described in terms of an ideology or system that has to be a centralized, political system with a multi-cultural perspective. The main unification is an Islamic identity as was the case with the traditional Ottoman and Islamic model. The main goal of Gulen is to bring back the golden generation, which was the Ottoman Empire.
Kemalism was a man-made system of Ataturk, imposed on an unwilling nation by a victorious leader who had saved Turkey from a disastrous Ottoman Empire. Therefore, revolution did not survive long and was instead dismantled and replaced by Gülenism. The survival of Kemalism was due to the nature of the ideology of the dictator rather than of the people’s will. The main goal of Kemalism was to make Turkey become a European country with European values and culture. Ataturk was a ruler with total power over Turkey, and like most demagogues, typically one who had obtained power by force. The survival of Gülenism is due to a dictatorial, authoritarian, secretive, highly centralized system that generates fear of being excommunicated from the community in its members and of having the nature of an ideology rather than being more tolerant or democratic.
Now Gülen uses the same strategies as his predecessor by having total power over Turkey via all civil, social, political, and economical entities as well as the military and the police. Granted, Gulen has helped bring change to Turkey like Ataturk did from 1925 until his death, which was a great era for Turkey with its single party, that of Ataturk, having absolute power with no checks and balances. As we see today that Gülen has absolute power over his movement with an unchecked hierarchy, Gülen is the untouched, unchallenged, and unchecked balance of power. Ataturk closed down all venues of civil society, political parties, institutions, and independent parties that did not agree with his ideology and, consequently, challenged his cult. Today Gulenists are doing the same thing, closing down the institutions or putting those involved in prison. All the secular, Kurdish civil institutions, political figures, academician, writers, journalists who do not believe but instead challenge his ideology are incarcerated. Ataturk had obtained power by force, but Gulenists have obtained power in a similar way-- by force of lies in not telling the truth about their agenda-- so that now they have total control and are using force, either to threaten those who object to them or to bring a lawsuit against them because most of the judges in Turkey are also Gulenists. Ataturk never challenged his opponents’ political parties but rather had free and fair elections. Instead he relied on arbitrary courts to produce the death certificate to execute thousands of dissidents, such as Mollah Said, Iskilipli Mehmed Atif Hoca, Ali Sukru, and Kazim Karabekir, with some of them being murdered by Ataturk’s followers. Meanwhile, Ataturk’s most notable dissident who refused to belief his cult ideology was Saidi Kurdi, an imam who spent most of his life in prison cells and moved from location to location even to the degree that nobody knows where his grave is.
Gulenists may not be literally murdering people yet, but they assault them by putting them in prison through arbitrarily controlled courts. Now finally the Prime Minister has decided to abolish all these arbitrary courts. Gulenists have become alarmed, because they tend to be afraid and paranoid. Huseyin Gulerce, who is often in touch with Gülen, manifested paranoid and alarm, showing his frustration by writing in Gülen’s Zaman newspapers criticizing Erdogan, so that for the first time, there is concern among the Justice and Development Party (AK) party’s support base. His statements suggesting that the special courts will be abolished raise questions about where the AK party is headed.” The reason Huseyin Gulerce is getting paranoid and alarmed is because if the arbitrary courts are abolished, then all those who have arbitrarily been detained will be free and openly oppose Gülenism, making it difficult for Gülen to have complete hegemony; therefore, Gulenists want to retain the dissidents in prison for a longer period while they complete their mission of completely taking over the government and getting rid of all the opposition. At present they have thousands of Kurdish politicians, journalists, leaders, elected mayors, and parliamentarians who are in prisons. For those who challenge them or refuse to accept their cult ideology, they are threatened to be sue. Ultimately, those opposing Ataturk or Gülen meet the same fate of being burned.
For a long time Turks have been trying to define their identity and where they belong. In 1923, when Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic, Kemalism was a movement for Ataturk to express his ideology, in the name of the republic, for teachers to raise generations with free ideas, free conscience, free knowledge, and a movement of enlightenment. Ataturk was also opportunistic; Ataturk wanted to get Western technology, instruments, factories, science, as well as the philosophy of the West and the Western education system so that art, science, and technology could grow. Turks need to have a culture of freedom of thought, respect, and appreciation for science. Ataturk did not want institutions or individuals to be under the pressure of any religion dogma. He established legal and governmental mechanisms to allow Turks to embrace Islam in their private lives while banning religion from public affairs. Ataturk separated mosques from the state and withdrew its dominant influence. He wanted Turkey to be modern like Europe with the modern secular laws governing public life rather than with the Ottoman-imposed Shar’ia law. Because the Ottoman Empire was “the sick man of Europe,” it helped Ataturk to implement his policies. However, Ataturk put into official practice his six principles of Kemalism: republicanism, nationalism, populism, statism, secularism, and revolution or reformism, tenants which were written into the Constitution of 1924. Whoever criticized these principles was vigorously repressed. Thus, Ataturk became the symbol of Turkey, with a generation supporting this Turkish revolution and its founder Atatürk.
Now, according to Gülen, republicanism should be “a government of freedom, virtue, and morality and not a rule of “’loose’ freedom.” For Gülen, the Republic should not have only elections but also consultations. That is why he has a problem with the Prime Minister because he is not consulting with his decision. For Kemalism, republicanism meant to have no democracy but only authoritarianism.
Regarding the principle of nationalism, Ataturk said, “Happy is he who calls himself a Turk.” The definition of a Turkish nation was founded in 1929, when every citizen of the Turkish Republic of Turkey was considered a Turk, whether Kurdish, Greek, Armenian, Jewish, or another minority because in Kemalist ideology nationalism was limited. But it was not trying to make Turkey the most powerful state in the region or in the Islamic world, but rather it intended to make Turkey competitive with the most advanced countries in the world especially with the West. Ataturk wanted Turkey to become as advanced as Western countries. Unlike Kemalism, Gülenism is committed to accentuate economic, military power, and politics, in addition to becoming an Islamic leader. Grounded in secrecy, it seeks to create an Islamic-based utopian society. For Kemalism, the mandate was to spread enlightenment everywhere and to strive to accomplish Ataturk’s goals. For Gülenism, the members of the community recruit followers and create goodwill for the organization by a variety of means, but all with secret motives.
The concept of the populism ushered in a policy which tried to promote the material and cultural development of a lower group of marginalized people. Ironically, those marginalized became further marginalized if they retained their identity. The actual principles of populism were to create a classless society, and the Kemalist ideology valued the supremacy of the Turkish people.
Statism tried to create an industrial system enabling the state to regulate the economy, the housing, and the social, cultural, and economic environment to create some kind of state enterprise. However, for Said Nursi, the Islamic scholar of the Kemal era, the reason the West became more advanced than Muslims was because of their domination in science and because the Western world was described as developed countries that are controlling the resources and riches of the earth. Thus, the Kurdish scholar was aware of the problem of education during his lifetime. He, therefore, strongly felt that without reforming the entire education system to change the mindsets of Muslims and to develop the nation like Western countries, the nation could not achieve its goal. He, therefore, proposed to establish a university to integrate and teach general knowledge and modern science side by side because the intellectual direction for social change is guided by the universities. In the past Muslims progressed through weapons and swords, but today the sword is not a popular weapon. Instead the scientific approach is the most effective way to persuade the modern world. For Saidi Kurdi, in the future truth will take the place of force and proof the place of sophistry. In the Kurdish scholar’s words, “Through the endeavors of science, what will prevail entirely in the present and totally in the future, is truth instead of force, proof instead of sophistry and reason instead of nature.” Gülen took the Kurdish scholar‘s idea and implemented it, but the plan became known as “the Gülen Movement,” and the observers gave credit to Gülen although using education as a vehicle was not actually his idea. Saidi Kurdi, also advised Ataturk not to import European morals and civilization to Turkey but only to take the positive knowledge of science and technology from Europe. To Saidi Kurdi and Gülen Westerners learned this civilization from the Turks. Ataturk offered Saidi Kurdi a political position and any office he would like, but he was not interested in an office; as long as suppression of religion continued, he could not have any role in an atheistic government. He even called Ataturk “Decall,” meaning liar or deceitful, evil doer among other things. For this reason the Kurdish scholar was sentenced to jail and spent the rest of his time in exile. The Ottoman heritage has been a big factor in the establishment of the Turkish political culture and was the subject of cultural wars among Gülenism, the Kurdish movement, secularism, and the Alevi and Sunni brands of Islam, which had rejected the homogenous Turkish identity. The war of culture caused the people to question the official definition of a Turkish culture and its implication for political life. Gulenists tried to bring back the Ottoman Empire to public and political life. Especially with the emergence of the new states in the Balkans, entailing the estrangement and injustice perpetrated against the Balkan Muslims, the Turks remembered the cultural heritage of the Ottoman Empire that ruled the Balkans for centuries. Consequently, Gulen opened schools and invested economically in the region with even some of the heads of the states and bureaucrats already being followers of Gülen.
Kemalism as a top down Westernization model of statism is dead. Nothing would portend the end of the Kemalism better than the rewriting of the Constitution of Turkey and all of its defenders, the realistic, hard-core generals, being in prison, in addition to the changes in the education system and civil society. Today Gulenists work hard to restore the Ottoman Empire, exactly what Ataturk destroyed.
Another principle of Kemalism is secularism or the idea of separation of mosque and state. In this view secularism means separation of religion from educational, cultural, and legal affairs. No religion or group can interfere in the state affairs and cannot claim any privilege in the state. No religion or groups can influence state law, so that the state remains impartial towards all religious groups and does not interfere in religious affairs, but in certain circumstances the state can interfere in the religious affairs of groups. For example, if a group asks its member to commit suicide or to sacrifice himself or herself, the state can intervene in the religious affairs, but in Turkey the state does interfere in a religious group’s affairs. Turkey has an official Directorate of Religious Affairs that looks after the religious affairs of only the Sunnite Moslems. Gülenism is trying to monopolize the discourse about itself around the globe among academicians, politicians, diplomats, civil society groups, and NGO’s who have been invited to Gülen’s conferences, where they are given red carpet treatment and two-week tours to Turkey and then later asked them to write positive things about Gülen and the movement. The result is mostly favorable but is that scholarly? How could one expect a person to produce an objective study about Gülen and his organization if the organization gives them benefits? By contrast, everything has been written or produced by the Gulenists themselves.
All Muslims are called to follow Mohammed’s way of life, his lifestyle, his leadership as the sole leader, and his philosophy as well as to disseminate his doctrine. The question is why do Gulenists disseminate Gülen’s name? Why do Gulenists in writing any articles quote from Gülen instead of quoting from Mohammed? Why has every conference been given the name of Gülen and not the name of Mohammed if Mohammed is the founder of Islam and the messenger of God? Is it because Gulenists are ashamed to associate with Mohammed and have a hard time to answer some of the Westerns’ accusations against Mohammed and his life? When Mohammed gave his last sermon, he recommended to all his devotees to follow two things: one is the Quran and the other is his teaching and his Sunnah. Also, in Islam idolatry is not allowed, but today many Gulenists idolize Gülen. Is Gülen’s lifestyle equal to Mohammed’s? Why do they not quote Mohammed or Quranic verses? Is Mohammed’s lifestyle or his Sunnah not compatible with today’s life, and that is why they do not associate themselves with Mohammed or his Sunnah? Is Gülen more moral than the Prophet Mohammed and that is why most of his followers are trying to disseminate Gülen’s ideology, and instead of giving conferences to discuss what the Quran says about violence, what the Quran says about peace, love, or war, they speak of Gülen’s ideas? What does the Quran say about interfaith dialogue? What does the Quran say about the future of the world? What does the Quran say about where Muslims should look and pray? What does the Quran say about politics and human rights? What does the Quran urge about tolerance toward other religions? Gulenists quote Gülen more than Quranic verses. America wants to have a moderate Islam that it can work with and can give directions and orders to its leaders. But that is a very wrong-headed and dangerous hope to have such this kind of Islam. A student of Islam and its history knows that the religion has always had problems with power. Once the leaders get full power, then they ask for submission as the only way to be respected and accepted by all. Today Gulenists have organized economically, socially, politically, educationally and gained an enormous amount of power.
Secularism is based on separating religion from all the affairs of this life. It rules by the laws and regulations other than Allah’s laws. Hence, secularism rejects Allah’s rules with no exception and prefers regulations other than those of Allah and his messenger. In fact, many secularists claim that Allah’ law might have been suitable for the time they were revealed but are now outdated. By contrast Kemalism presupposes no religion in politics and no politics in religion or that religion is a private matter between the individual and Allah, and that the state is for the people. However, in truth, faith is an important resource for the tranquility of a society. If society does not have any faith, then it will not have any tranquility and order.
Kemalism represents a political revolution, a change from the multinational homogeneous society to a mononational society that established the Republic of Turkey. Kemalists believed that republicanism is the best system for the Turkey and its people. Kemalism was also a social revolution in terms of its main purpose. This revolution was led from the top down with a dictatorial orientation towards the populace. Kemalism brought a change by adopting Western codes of law in Turkey, and Ataturk claimed that true rulers of Turkey were the peasants, but in reality the elite ruled.
The Kemalist revolution was a nationalistic revolution which respected the right to independence of all others nations; it employed nationalism with a social context. Ataturk’s view of nationalism adheres to the principle that the Turkish state is an indivisible whole comprising its territory and people. Ataturk made clear that principles of statism were interpreted to mean that state was to regulate the country’s general economic activity and that the state was to engage in areas where private enterprise was not willing to do so and, therefore, took the ownership of the major industries of the country. Gülen’s revolution is a nationalistic and religious revolution. Like Kemalism, Gülenism sought hegemony and domination; both are monopolistic systems that co-opt, subordinate, or destroy diversity. Wherever either has gone, native traditions, local culture, and non-monotheistic belief get marginalized or eliminated. Gulenists look to Gülen for the answer to modern problems, including these of an economic, scientific or political nature. They take Gülen literally as God’s last and most perfect progenitor. This means that when Gülen exhorts his followers to do anything, they take it to mean a divine edict.
Summary of Kemalism vs. Gülenism
Kemalism ideology was based on a corporatist ideology of progress and order. The main idea of Kemalism came from Ziya Gokalp, the most nationalistic thinker. Kemalism as an ideology promoted the superiority of the Turkish nation over all other nations. The main idea of Gülenism came from Saidi Kurdi but has been twisted because Saidi Kurdi was not advocating supremacy of any race’s superiority to another race but rather Saidi Kurdi emphasized a general welfare of all Muslims. Gülen believes that the Turkish people are chosen people, God has assigned them to this movement, and thus they are the saviors of the world. He called them “golden generation,” claiming, “The world is to be saved by that ‘golden’ generation who represent the Divine Mercy from the entire disasters intellectual, spiritual, social, and political with which it has long been afflicted. The world will come back through their efforts to its ‘primordial’ pattern on which God created it and be purified of all kinds of deviation and ignorance so that people may rise to ‘the highest of the high’ on the ladder of belief, knowledge, and love supported against the heavens by the Divine Message.”
Ataturk prevented religion from becoming a tool for politics. He created a management of religious affairs and put it under a state institution, the Directorate of Religion Affairs. The directorate privileged Sunni Islam, leaving out non-Muslims and allowing the Sunni Muslims to build a homogeneous nation state. Gülenism is using religion for political Islam. The main goal of Kemalism was to raise Turkey to the level of contemporary civilization by dismantling the institutions of the Ottoman Empire and by building a nation state. Ataturk abolished the Sultanate, the Caliphate, and Shar’ia law; the establishment of the civil code was the major moves that disestablished the political and religious wings of the Empire.
Gülenists’ hegemony in Turkey is trying to bring back the Ottoman Empire by using its tactics and strategies. One of the most effective strategies is using an organic model implanting their intellectuals, media, schools, politicians, foreign media, foreign, politicians, writers, and journalists in the local and global society. All other public manifestations, identities, ideologies, worldviews and personalities that do not conform to Gülenism and its vision are demonized, vilified, or even criminalized. As long as one loves Gülen and does not have objections to him, but rather deeply respects him and believes he makes no mistakes, he or she is welcomed by Gulenists. Under the Kemalist regime, non-Muslims, leftists, liberals, and Kurds have always been discriminated against by the Kemalists state whenever these identities were manifested in public spheres. Using the divide and rule policy, Gülen sets up people against each other, playing the puppeteer. Now days, trying to pit secular Kurds against religion Kurds, he gives positions and a certain degree of prestige and power to those who serve the interests of Gulenists, but they are never fully trusted. The most perfect and the most trusted Turkish citizens are members of Gülen’s community. The Gulenists have infiltrated the Kurdish parties and use surveillance to control other members of society in order to ensure that they are under control and do not do anything wrong against them. By using this mechanism, the Gulenists make sure they always employ the members of their movement; members of the Gülen movement are called Sakird. The organization makes sure all Sakird placed in the sensitive state bureaucracy or employed in some state department, judiciary, or military are Gülen’s followers, so that almost all bureaucrats are Gülenists’ Sakird.
. When the Kurdish people protested against a religious directorate and read the Friday sermons in Kurdish, the Gulenists slandered the Kurdish imams calling them a cult. There is another reason for Gülen’s recent decree to kill all the Kurdish guerilla in Turkey and that is because the Kurds who support the PKK’s cause are considered a threat to his ideology. Therefore, he uses his media and all his power to demonize the Kurdish PKK in the eyes of the people. It is true that the PKK has done some awful things, but the Turkish military, the police, and the politicians in the past have done horrific crimes as well. For Gulenists, even purely religious issues are often given a nationalist flavor. Gülenists’ solution to the Kurdish issue is one nation, one state, one motherland, one flag. They believe that there are no inside problems but that outside powers create discord among the Kurds and Turks. They also think that only about five hundred people recognize that there is a Kurdish problem and that if the government eliminates those who create discord or if his followers go to their houses and villagers to recruit more Kurdish children and indoctrinate them, then the Kurdish problem will go way. Gulenists claim they have a democratic system, but the core institutional definition of democracy is that the people must have complete freedom to worship privately or corporately; they should also be able to publically advance their values in civil society and sponsor organizations and movements in political society as long as the public advancement of these beliefs does not impinge negatively on the liberties of other citizens or violate democracy and the law by coercion. What Gulenists and their media are doing is closing the Kurdish youth groups on campuses all over the Turkey and opening Gülen’s lighthouses. With their media they disseminate lies about Kurds, or they recruit Kurdish politicians to be their spokespersons. Gülen himself does not believe there is such a Kurdish issue, so how can he solve the issue? For those who advocate democracy, no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. The higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous the rulers become to the subjects. Hence, Gülenism, a system of theocracy, is the worst of all governments. Even though Gulenists believe that the Gülenism system of rule is effective to keep social order and foster the notion of hard work, education, interfaith dialogue and the necessity of community to thrive, Gulenists have a Calvinist perception of human nature and God. Humans are conceived as naturally evil and could only be encouraged to be good by constant penitence as well as surveillance of their peers. Because every member of the community keeps an eye on the other’s business, few dare to break the rules of the community or show anti-community behaviors. To the leaders of the community who are in charge of ruling over social, economic, civil and religious matters, there seems to be no clear difference between offenses and sins. There is no difference between public and private matters, and the followers of Gulen chose to be on the safe side and obey all the rules. When there are non-followers in the community, they are not considered trustworthy, so the community is very cautious about those outsiders. Secrecy is the Freedom of tyrants dream of. Turkey is changing from rule by secular Kemalist dictators to rule by Gulenist dictators. I am always worried when I see a Majority of Gulenists only believe Quran that themselves cannot understand an read then listening to another person (Gulen) explaining what they should do.
Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to KurdishMedia.com. You may email the author at:firstname.lastname@example.org
- KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
- 12/07/2012 00:00:00