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Update on “Turkish Taffy”

COMMENT: In FTR #‘s 737 [1], 738 [2], 739 [3], we exam­ined the pre­vail­ing political/journalistic fan­ta­sy about the Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment in Turkey. That coun­try is wrapped in a cloak of fan­ta­sy and wish­ful think­ing by ele­ments who would see Turkey as a bas­tion of Islam­ic enlight­en­ment and a role mod­el for “emerg­ing democ­ra­cies” in the Arab and Mus­lim world.

The sug­ary con­fec­tion derived from such fan­ta­siz­ing may taste sweet at first, but that is mis­lead­ing.

Nei­ther “mod­er­ate” nor, in essence, “demo­c­ra­t­ic,” the Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with: the milieu of the Bank al-Taqwa, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Pan-Turk­ist move­ment [4], the Fetul­lah Gulen cult and inter­na­tion­al fas­cism [5].

In this post, we exam­ine:

“Neo ‑Ottoman Islamist Fan­tasies Wor­ry Euro­pean Diplo­mats” by Michael Sail­han; Mid­dle East Online; 6/10/2012. [9]

EXCERPT: Euro­pean Union diplo­mats are express­ing grow­ing con­cern at what they see as the increas­ing­ly mil­i­tant stance tak­en by Turkey’s rul­ing Islamists.

They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the gov­ern­ment as a tool to jail and silence oppo­nents and com­pro­mise the coun­try’s sec­u­lar cre­den­tials by intro­duc­ing Koran stud­ies in pub­lic schools.

Oth­er mea­sures include low­er­ing the age at which par­ents can send their chil­dren to Islam­ic reli­gious schools, increas­ing pres­sure on those crit­i­cis­ing Islam and restrict­ing abor­tion.

Turk­ish author­i­ties accuse the so-called Ergenekon net­work of being behind sev­er­al plots to over­throw the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan.

Dozens of retired or serv­ing senior mil­i­tary fig­ures, intel­lec­tu­als, lawyers and jour­nal­ists been put behind bars.

On Thurs­day Ste­fan Fuele, Euro­pean com­mis­sion­er for enlarge­ment, cit­ed this and oth­er obsta­cles in the way of Turkey’s mem­ber­ship bid while in Istan­bul for talks.

“I have used this meet­ing to con­vey our con­cerns about the increas­ing deten­tion of law­mak­ers, aca­d­e­mics and stu­dents and the free­dom of press and jour­nal­ists,” he said.

Changes due to take effect when the new aca­d­e­m­ic year starts this autumn also have also ruf­fled feath­ers. The Islamist-root­ed rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) gov­ern­ment is intro­duc­ing Koran lessons.

And from the end of pri­ma­ry school, more par­ents will be able to opt out of the sec­u­lar edu­ca­tion sys­tem and send their chil­dren to Islam­ic reli­gious schools. Pre­vi­ous­ly these schools could not recruit chil­dren under the age of 15: now chil­dren as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.

There is con­cern too over plans by state broad­cast­er TRT to launch a reli­gious chan­nel and pro­pos­als for prayer rooms in new­ly built pub­lic build­ings such as crech­es, the­atres and even opera hous­es.

“A series of recent moves show that the con­ser­v­a­tive ten­den­cy has the upper hand and faces no oppo­si­tion,” said Marc Pieri­ni, a for­mer head of the EU diplo­mat­ic team in Turkey.

“Civ­il soci­ety exists, but it is hard­ly audi­ble,” said one Ankara-based diplo­mat.

“The media are for the most part direct­ly or indi­rect­ly con­trolled by the AKP and the oppo­si­tion is pow­er­less,” the diplo­mat added. . . .

“Erdo­gan Hopes Islam­ic Schol­ar Gulen Returns to Turkey Soon”; Today’s Zaman; 6/15/2012. [10]

EXCERPT: Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has open­ly invit­ed Turk­ish Islam­ic schol­ar Fethul­lah Gülen to Turkey in a speech he deliv­ered dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony for the 10th Turk­ish Olympiads amid a stand­ing ova­tion from a crowd of over 50,000.

Erdoğan, who spoke after he was grant­ed a spe­cial award by the orga­niz­ing com­mit­tee of the Olympiads, implied that Gülen, with­out direct­ly men­tion­ing his name, should return to Turkey as soon as pos­si­ble. The well-known schol­ar has been resid­ing in the US for near­ly 13 years.

“We want this yearn­ing to end,” he said, receiv­ing a lengthy stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd, in a rare blunt invi­ta­tion for Gülen to return to his home­land. Erdoğan added, “We want to see those who are abroad and long­ing for the home­land among us.”

Respond­ing to the lengthy applause, Erdoğan fur­ther said he under­stands that the crowd also wants “this yearn­ing to end.”

Gülen is a Turk­ish Islam­ic schol­ar well known for his teach­ings that pro­mote mutu­al under­stand­ing and tol­er­ance between dif­fer­ent cul­tures and faiths. Now resid­ing in the US, Gülen has pio­neered edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties in a num­ber of coun­tries, along with efforts to pro­mote inter­cul­tural and inter­faith activ­i­ties around the world. The Turk­ish Olympiads are an ini­tia­tive pio­neered by schools asso­ci­ated with him. . . .

“Turk­ish IHH Pres­i­dent Inves­ti­gat­ed for Financ­ing Al-Qae­da”; Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Dai­ly Report; 6/17/2012. [11]

EXCERPT:  Turk­ish media is report­ing that the Pres­i­dent of the Human­i­tar­i­an Relief Foun­da­tion (İHH), spon­sor of the June 2010 Gaza flotil­la that was involved in a vio­lent alter­ca­tion with Israeli naval forces, is being inves­ti­gat­ed for alleged­ly financ­ing al-Qae­da through his orga­ni­za­tion. Accord­ing to the report:

. . . . Human­i­tar­i­an Relief Foun­da­tion (İHH) Pres­i­dent Bülent Yıldırım is being inves­ti­gat­ed for alleged­ly financ­ing al-Qae­da through his orga­ni­za­tion, dai­ly Habertürk has report­ed. The probe, led by an Istan­bul spe­cial­ly autho­rized pros­e­cu­tor, accus­es Yıldırım of ‘pro­vid­ing finan­cial aid to al-Qae­da via his foun­da­tion’ with absolute secre­cy, report­ed­ly with­out offi­cial num­ber­ing and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. A Diyarbakır spe­cial­ly autho­rized pros­e­cu­tor has also been lead­ing a sim­i­lar case into Yıldırım, Habertürk report­ed. Yıldırım was the İHH’s head dur­ing the 2010 Mavi Mar­mara flotil­la inci­dent . . . .

. . . There is strong evi­dence for Turk­ish gov­ern­men­tal involve­ment in the Gaza flotil­la inci­dent, with Turk­ish gov­ern­ment sup­port chan­neled through the Turk­ish Mus­lim Broth­er­hood net­work. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new cen­ter for the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The IHH was not act­ing alone but rather was an inte­gral part of a Turk­ish Mus­lim Broth­er­hood net­work.

The Gaza flotil­la inci­dent brought into sharp focus an even more sig­nif­i­cant long- term devel­op­ment: the grow­ing rela­tion­ship between the Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment and the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which has giv­en rise to some of the most noto­ri­ous Islamist ter­ror­ist groups – from al-Qae­da to Hamas. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new cen­ter for the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, while the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip act­ed as the main axis for this activ­i­ty. . . .