Turkey and the End of Secularism?

Turkey and the End of Secularism?

At the weekend, Turkey had a referendum. The population of the nation voted to amend the constitution, a constitution that had been re-written in 1980. On Monday (September 13) Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul told reporters that:

“All the articles in the constitutional amendment package are about bringing Turkey’s standards to the European level under Turkey’s European Union membership process.”

The decision of the people (57.88 percent voted for amendments while 42.12 percent voted against) was seen by America and the European Union as a step forward towards democracy. Obama phoned Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, to congratulate him.

Stefan Fuele, European Commissioner in charge of enlargement (of the sprawling chaotic leviathan that is the European Union) stated:

“As we consistently said in the past months, these reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey’s efforts towards fully complying with the accession criteria.”

The current constitution was not brought about democratically. It was introduced in 1980 while the country was under the control of a military coup. The military in Turkey has always been staunchly pro-secular, seeing its role as upholding the secular ideals that brought Turkey into being as a Republic on October 29, 1923.

The man who led Turkey to secularism was Kemal Mustafa (1881 – 1938). On November 29, 1934, when Turkey introduced laws commanding that surnames be introduced, Kemal Mustafa adopted the name by which he is now most commonly known: Atatürk.


The army has mounted several coups when a government has come to power which has Islamist views. Yet for 8 years, Turkey has been governed by a democratically-elected Islamist government.

When Recep Tayyip Erdogan had won the election in 2002 and had become voted in as the prime minister, he was not allowed to hold office.

He had been briefly jailed in 1998 for inciting religious hatred, while he was the Mayor of Istanbul, for publicly reciting a poem that contained the lines:

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers….”

He had been officially jailed in 1998 for 10 months, but had been released after only four. When he won the 2002 election, Abdullah Gul briefly became acting-premier. During this time, the laws that prevented a convicted man being prime minister were hurriedly changed and Erdogan had taken office as prime minister.

The Ergenekon ‘Plot’

In February this year, 20 members of the Turkish military were charged with terrorism offences, accused of plotting to overthrow the government. There had been two major raids – codenamed “Sledgehammer” which had against prominent army officials in that month. 49 officers had been arrested on February 22, 2010 in four major cities, and on February 26 there were more raids in 13 provinces, where 17 military officers and one retired officer were apprehended. The “Sledgehammer” raids were the culmination of a series of revelations, alleged discoveries of documents, seizures of weaponry and arrests that had started in 2007.

On March 29, 2007, a magazine had published material that was said to have derived from the laptop of a retired admiral and former head of the Turkish Navy, Ozden Ornek. The magazine claimed that Ornek had planned with others to undermine the government. A military prosecutor called for the magazine to be closed, and then the situation escalated.

On June 12, 2007, twenty seven grenades were discovered in the roof of a house in the Umraniye district of Istanbul. The house belonged to a retired army officer. Documents found in that raid led to more raids and discoveries. On June 26, 2007 in the northwestern city of Eskisehir, plastic explosives and hand grenades were found. Arrests continued, and more alleged documents were recovered. The affair became known by the name “Ergenekon.” This was the name of a purported ultra-nationalist group with links to the military, which had planned to wrest control of Turkey from Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party.

The details of the “Ergenekon plot” are recounted in a document (pdf) prepared by the American Federation of Scientists (FAS).

Presented to the public over a period of some years, the Ergenekon plot – if it is an authentic plot – has presented to the public a notion that the military is out of control and not to be trusted. This perception has certainly seemed to inform the results of the weekend’s referendum.

On June 12, 2009, the newspaper Taraf published details of documents seized from the home of a lawyer, Serdar Ozturk, detailing plans written out in April 2009 by a navy captain. The newpaper claimed that:

“information support activities will be conducted in order to reveal the truth
about the Justice and Development Party [AKP] government and the various groups that provide support to it, as well as the radical religious formations such as the Fethullah Gulen group in particular, which are dreaming of destroying the secular and democratic order and establishing an Islamic state based on Shar’iah, to break thepublic support for them, and to put an end to their activities.”

Fetullah Gulen now lives in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. In charges brought this year related to the twenty officers indicted in February, his Islamist Gulen movement was identified as a target of the alleged plot. The Ergenekon group had a plan called the “Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism.” On page 19 of the FAS document, reports from Turkish newspapers are quoted, Zaman newspaper of March 3, 2010 claimed that the “Action plan” had been set up to undermine the government and the Fetullah Gulen movement.

On March 2, 2010, the Star newspaper reported that the main charges against the army officers related to alleged plans to plant drugs, weapons and other incriminating materials in the homes of Fetullah Gulen members, and then mount raids upon these homes. The result of such actions would have ensured that the Gulen Sect was treated as a terrorist organization.

Erdogan and Islamism

With such a background playing out in the national media, it is little wonder that the referendum to repeal the military constitution of 1980 was successful. The arrests have led to an impression that the army – once believed to be the protectors and upholders of Turkey’s pro-American secularism – was the enemy of democracy, and, by extension, the enemy of the people.

Not content with having the alleged “Ergenekon” plot members awaiting trial and having the current secular elements of the army viewed with mistrust, the Islamist AKP party wants to fully cement its victory.


On Wednesday this week Omer Celik, deputy chairman of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AKP) gave a press conference. He claimed that he wanted the leaders of the 1980 coup to be put on trial. The coup had led to the rewriting of the constitution so that it would be impossible to prosecute the coup leaders from that time – including Kenan Evren. After the coup, Evren went on to become president until 1989.

Erdogan has now removed the main obstacle to implementing Islamism in Turkey and rolling back the reforms made by Atatürk. Erdogan’s wife Emine wears the Muslim headscarf, as does the wife of the president Abdullah Gul and other AKP party wives, even though the original 1923 Constitution banned the wearing of headscarves while in any government building. Atatürk’s wife Latife campaigned around the country to encourage women to throw off their headscarves at the start of the 1920s, but now Islam is creeping back to the Islamism that was maintained under the last Ottoman rulers.

As I noted yesterday, Atatürk had written that Islam

“numbed Turkish national feelings and enthusiasm. This was natural, because Mohammedanism was based on Arab nationalism above all nationalities.”

On March 3, 1924, the Caliphate of the Ottomans was officially abolished, leaving the Muslim Ummah without leadership. On April 8, 1924, Islamic Sharia courts were abolished in Turkey. On November 3, 1928, the Latin alphabet officially replaced the Arabic script that had been used for official documents since the earliest times of the Ottomans. The progress made in one decade ensured Turkey became a modern country, but though it now has a modern infrastructure, the politics of Turkey are reverting to pre-Atatürk values.

The OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) is a bloc that includes 57 Muslim countries. Its secretary-general is Turkish (Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu). Even though Turkey’s accession to the European Union (agreed in principle in late 2005) has ensured that the military has not interfered with “Islamist” democracy in Turkey, Erdogan has moved to draw Turkey closer to the OIC nations. The OIC includes Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.


Iran to fund Erdogan’s election hopes

On Tuesday this week, the London Daily Telegraph reported that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has agreed to donate $25 million towards Erdogan’s AKP party, to promote Erdogan’s ambitions to be re-elected. $12 milion are to be given now, with the remainder made up during the next year.

Erdogan has already backed Iran’s nuclear program, even though it is obvious that Iran wants to intimidate Israel with nuclear weaponry. In May this year, Turkey allowed the Gaza flotilla, organized in part by the Islamist charity IHH (linked to terrorism) to carry the Turkish flag on its boats.

If Turkey does join the EU with the AKP at the helm, it will do so with the only ruling party in the European Union to be underwritten and funded by a sponsor of international terror.

Diplomats in Europe are apparently worried that Erdogan will push to abandon secularism. If that should happen, there is no way that Turkey should join the EU.

Some in the U.S. administration, and some figures in Britain’s Conservative party, have argued that failure to allow Turkey to join the European Union will push the country towards Islamism. That is no reason to encourage Turkey’s accession. Under Erdogan and the AKP, it is already well on the road to becoming an Islamist nation.

Adrian Morgan

Source: Family Security Matters


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