December 25, 2015

AKP’s ‘book burning’ stage

İhsan Yılmaz

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) regime is gradually eradicating democracy in Turkey.

Hundreds of people have been tried just because they have criticized Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Many journalists are in prison just for publishing news. Several prosecutors and judges have been in jail for months just for doing their jobs. After confiscating several media outlets and turning them into Erdoğanist propaganda machines, the AKP regime is now targeting book publishers. Their most recent target is the prestigious Ufuk (Horizon) Publishers that has published many books ranging from legal sociology to political philosophy, from sociology of religion to Islamic jurisprudence, authored by Turkish, American, European and Middle Eastern academics, intellectuals and journalists.

What makes Ufuk Publishers a target is its quality academic and semi-academic books that have been critical of the Erdoğanist regime. The regime will now most probably destroy these books as it did with the Kaynak Publishing books recently. Similar to many Turkish colleagues from a diverse ideological spectrum, from left to right, from religious to atheist, I have also published one of my books with Ufuk Publishers. As a matter of fact, it is the only book that I have written in Turkish. It is true that the book I co-edited with John L. Esposito, “Islam and Peacebuilding,” has been translated into Turkish by Kaynak, but the Ufuk one was written in Turkish for a Turkish-speaking audience. The regime will definitely “burn” this book. If I tell you the title, you will know why. “From Kemalism to Erdoğanism: Religion, State and Acceptable Citizen” is the title of the book that was published several times within a couple of months.

Ironically, the book was talking about its own fate! What I was trying to show based on my years of work in the field is that the ideology of the post-2011 “Islamist” Erdoğan is not much different from Kemalism when it comes to identity building, state use of religion, state-religion relations, plurality and diversity. In the final analysis, they want to create an Orwellian homogenous society and crush dissents to create top-down imposed uniformity. These two ideologies both fight with the religious people and try to create their own versions of religion that is monopolized by the state.

The Kemalists tried to create the acceptable citizen of Homo LASTus (a Weberian typology) by using all sorts of state power, instruments, apparatuses and social engineering. This new human type would be simultaneously laicist, Atatürkist, Turkish and Sunni. This best citizen would be culturally Sunni Muslim but a non-practicing Muslim, a case of belonging without “believing,” or at least “practicing.” Since the regime knew that it would take decades to transform conservative sections of society into non-practicing Sunnis, it has created a second-best acceptable citizenship category: Homo Diyanetus. This is a citizen who is a practicing Muslim but who practices the state version of Islam that is sterile, non-political, state-centric, uncritical, nationalist and even Atatürkist.

The Erdoğan regime is trying to achieve almost similar outcomes. It has left the Homo Diyanetus project untouched. In fact, it has actually expanded it. Instead of the Homo LASTus project, the Erdoğanists have the Homo Islamistus project. A Homo Islamistus is now the best and most acceptable citizen. They are given the state jobs and state tenders etc. They are statist, nationalist, Westophobic and so on. If you think that the Homo Islamistus is the practicing Muslim version of the Homo LASTus, you are wrong. This is not a requirement. One can belong without practicing. Discursive and rhetorical allegiance to the Islamic identity is enough for Islamists, all over the world. This is the case with the Erdoğanist Islamists too.

Many of the staunch Erdoğanists or Homo Islamistus are not practicing Muslims at all. But they are quick to label us a CIA-servant, an Israeli-lover, the enemy of Islam etc. They keep talking about Erdoğan as the Caliph and the leader of the Muslim world. Yet, they run a state that oversees gambling companies and taxes brothels, they own banks that charge interest and pay imam's salaries with revenue coming from the taxation of all sorts of alcohol. In their media outlets, they repeatedly fabricate lies and character assassinate the critics of the regime. Other than their rhetoric, all of their actions are anti-Islamic, but they claim to be defenders of the faith worldwide.

Now, they are burning books. Can you see any similarity with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram? Judge it for yourself.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 Demcember 2015, Friday