June 27, 2014

Homo Imam Hatipus or Homo Dindar Nesilus of Kemalo-Islamists

İhsan Yılmaz

Regular readers of this column will know that I have repeatedly written about how the Kemalist power elite has been trying to consolidate their nationalist and secularist status quo by employing a sort of Gramscian consent fabrication.

They have also attempted to build a monolithic Turkish nation by creating the best citizens and even humans that I call “Homo LASTus.” The acronym LAST denotes Laïcist, Atatürkist, Sunni Muslim and Turk. The best citizen, LAST, meets all of these four parameters at the same time. Similar to the Kemalists, the Kemalo-Islamists under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been resorting to the exactly same methods and mechanisms. Nevertheless, in their case, the best citizen is not Homo LASTus but Homo Imam Hatipus or Homo Dindar Nesilus. Dindar Nesil here refers to Erdoğan's pious generation that needs to be raised by the state in Erdoğan's view.

The Kemalists tried to assimilate the others into their own identity, and until the others had been assimilated, their identities have been made invisible in the public sphere or framed, marginalized and stigmatized with negative stereotypes by the hegemons. The hegemonic Kemalist elite had worked hard to socially engineer the palatable best citizen, the Homo LASTus, by employing ideological state apparatuses such as the law, education, mosque, media, art and culture, rewriting history and discursive construction in the Foucauldian sense.

The subaltern non-Homo LASTus citizens were treated as subjects and were not given agency, if not being marked as invisible. The creators of the Homo LASTus identity tried to exclude, marginalize, assimilate, vilify, demonize and even criminalize the "others" of the Homo LASTus. Newspapers, journals, novels, plays, movies and so forth that were produced in the Kemalist hegemonic times are full of examples of vilification; while the Homo LASTus types are generally presented as the hero, non-Homo LASTus is generally the villain. While ordinary members of society were not always diligently monitored by Homo LASTus, the same cannot be said for the bureaucrats, especially the ones who are working for strategic state institutions such as the military, superior courts and intelligence that have been protected as impregnable Homo LASTus fortresses.

This was a “Bureaucracy Watch” similar to Daniel Pipes' notorious Islamophobic “Campus Watch” but the Bureaucracy Watch operates on the basis of micro-level Foucauldian surveillance mechanisms and constant observation in society by employing the unequal gaze. Arguably, the whole public space becomes a Kemalist Panopticon as far as the bureaucrats are concerned.

If you change the term Kemalists with Kemalo-Islamists or Erdoğanists in the above paragraph, nothing will change much. But in this case, the Kemalo-Islamists yearn to raise a religious Sunni generation that shares the worldview of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan seems to think that this new generation can only be raised in imam hatips so he uses all state power to establish these schools as the only limited alternative to the youth. Moreover, through his son's foundation, TURGEV, which has received donations of hundreds of millions of US dollars from businessmen such as Iranian national Reza Zarrab and Saudi national Yasin al Qadi, he offers thousands of dormitory places and lucrative scholarships to university students, who are inculcated with his ideology in these dormitories. While doing all these, he directly attacks, vilifies and even criminalizes the most important representative of civil Islam in the country, the Hizmet movement, since he sees the Hizmet's civil Islam as an impediment to his Kemalo-Islamist Homo Imam Hatipus. Hizmet's schools have been targeted by the state, they have been tried to be closed down and their graduates are now being expelled from the bureaucracy after being demonized by the Kemalo-Islamists.

Kemalists were only able to be partially successful in Turkey during the 20th century; Kemalo-Islamists will not even be successful that much in the 21st century. Their dream of raising pious Homo Imam Hatipus has already proven to be a farce. If you look at the constantly cursing and swearing supporters of Erdoğan in the social media, you will see that religiosity, spirituality, good manners and morality are very distant to Erdoğan's artificially constructed top-down "religious” generation.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 June 2014, Friday