December 14, 2015

Reaction mounts as court orders detention of theologian Yıldırım

Theologians and academics have spoken out against a detention order issued for Suat Yıldırım, a professor of Islamic theology who is over 70 years old, part of a government-led operation targeting the faith-based Gülen movement.

Counterterrorism police officers arrived at Yıldırım's house early on Saturday to detain him on the charge of managing a terrorist organization, but he wasn't at home. The detention order is a part of an investigation of the “parallel structure,” a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, a number of people criticized the detention order issued for Yıldırım. Abdülbaki Erdoğmuş, spokesman for the Civil Policy Platform, stated that he finds it odd that some theologians have remained silent about the incident. “[Issuing a detention order] for such an invaluable person as he over these claims is shameful treatment that is offensive. The incident reveals a point where people's minds and consciences are frozen. Where is this country, where many innocent people are being arrested, heading? We must maintain a stance against this maltreatment of our dear teacher as if we were the ones being subjected to it by leaving our views and ideologies aside. All theologians should've spoken out against this today. The cruelty of tyrants increases unless people speak out against them. I find this silence odd and think that it's unbecoming for theologians,” Erdoğmuş said.

Mehmet Nuri Yılmaz, former head of the Religious Affairs Directorate said he knows Yıldırım as a man who is interested in nothing but reading and writing about interpretations of the Quran. “I hope God restores justice to the matter,” Yılmaz added.

Esteemed writer on both Islam and sociology Ali Bulaç said: “Accusing [Yıldırım] of managing a terrorist organization can't be explained with reason. It can't be accepted for people of religious communities to be silent about issues such as this, unfortunately it's evident that they can't raise their voices against anything nowadays. This mistreatment will not remain limited to the Gülen movement.”

Professor Dr. Abdulhakim Yüce, an academic at the faculty of theology at Yüzüncü Yıl University, regarded the detention order as a sad incident. “I think that these claims and orders aren't well-directed,” he said.

Yıldırım, who graduated from the faculty of theology at Ankara University in 1964, has written numerous books on theology and has over 70 articles to his name. Yıldırım chaired the departments of Quranic exegesis at both Atatürk University and Marmara University between 1977 and 1993. He then served as the dean of the faculty of theology at Sakarya University between 1993 and 1995. Yıldırım currently teaches at Fatih University in İstanbul.

People who are sympathetic to Gülen have been targeted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) since a major graft investigation implicating President Erdoğan and other top AK Party figures was made public on Dec. 17, 2013. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. Erdoğan has said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 13 December 2015, Sunday