Tuesday, 02 January 2018 15:08

Erdogan's Turkey: the Role of a Little Known Islamist Poet

By 

January 2, 2018 

Breakingdefense

When President Trump announced that the US had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the region prepared for violence. Aside from a few days of sporadic protests, relatively little happened. Most Arab leaders – Saudi Arabia chief among them – took the decision in their stride. The one major exception was Turkey. This intriguing op-ed explores why the NATO ally has reacted as it has. Read on! The Editor.

 

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has a penchant for conspiracy. In recent years, he has frequently blamed foreign “masterminds” for all problems plaguing Turkey and the Muslim world. Following President Trump’s announcement, Erdoğan called an emergency summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, benefiting from his country’s rotating presidency of that organization, which enabled him to cast himself as the leader of the Muslim world.

Speaking two days later at an award ceremony, Erdoğan outdid himself: “if Jerusalem goes, we will lose Medina. If Medina goes, we will lose Mecca. If Mecca goes, we will lose the Kaaba!”

Where does this vitriol come from? Dismissing it as rhetoric from an embattled regime would be a mistake. Anti-Israel animus and a penchant for conspiracy theories involving global Jewry have been a constant in Erdoğan’s shifting domestic alliances and foreign policy initiatives.

Erdoğan’s December 15 speech was symbolic indeed: the occasion betrayed more than meets the eye. Erdoğan uttered his warning at the awards celebrating the Islamist poet and writer Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904-83), who was the intellectual mentor not only for Erdoğan, but for a large portion of the current political elite in Turkey.

Kısakürek was once a marginal figure in Turkey. While educated partially in France, Kısakürek grew to abhor the West, and to see it as the root of all evil. But like many contemporary Islamists, he incorporated European fascist ideas, two of which stand out. The first was his rejection of democracy, and his advocacy instead for a political system led by an “exalted ruler” – a totalitarian Islamist and nationalist regime built on Sunni Islam and Turkish ethnicity, which envisaged the ethnic cleansing of other, less desirable groups.

Second, Kısakürek harbored a strong hatred for Jews and their imagined sidekicks, the freemasons, who he believed were in cahoots, hell-bent on destroying Turkey. This hatred is obvious throughout his work, but was so strong that he devoted an entire book to the subject. He viewed the expulsion of Jews – and a Turkish community of Jewish converts to Islam called the dönme – as critical to the country’s survival. Once this cleansing was complete, Turkey would “shine like a diamond.”

This repulsive and once marginal figure is now widely celebrated: Turkish cabinet ministers regularly sing his praises. Erdoğan himself once cited Kısakürek as the single person who influenced him the most, and his December 15 appearance was no exception: he makes a point out of appearing at events honoring the person he calls his “master,” and reciting his poetry.

In the midst of a sputtering economy, Erdoğan knows his Islamist ideology does not win elections. This is why he is in the midst of trying to co-opt the opposition Nationalist Action Party ahead of elections in coming years. While Israel-bashing will hardly cost Erdoğan any votes, it is not an issue that truly animates the Turkish public. Erdoğan’s hyperbole on Jerusalem is indicative of a broader trend: how the Islamist ideology that Kısakürek represents has become mainstream in Turkey. It is no longer marginal; in fact, it is actively propagated by many of Turkey’s media, schools and mosques. This worldview also forms the backdrop for Turkey’s central role for many Islamist organizations globally, which National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster spoke of on December 11.

Erdoğan’s reaction to the Jerusalem decision should not be construed as being only about Erdoğan. It is an indication of the country’s shifting identity. Finding ways to punish Erdoğan would not solve the deeper problem: Turkish society is rapidly slipping its western moorings. Whatever happens at the political level, it is time to take the long view, and devise ways to counter the ideological drift of this critical ally into a toxic blend of Islamism and ethnic nationalism.

Svante Cornell is director of the American Foreign Policy Council’s Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, co-founder of the Institute for Security and Development Policy, and policy advisor to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s Gemunder Center.

Read 11893 times Last modified on Wednesday, 03 January 2018 20:49

isdp

AFPC-Full-Logo

 

News

  • New Article Series on Changing Geopolitics of Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Wednesday, 24 November 2021 11:53

    Eurasia

  • CACI Initiative on Religion and the Secular State in Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Sunday, 24 January 2021 13:53

    In 2016, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program launched an initiative on documenting the interrelationship of religion and the secular state in the region. This initiative departed from the fact that little systematic reserch had been undertaken on the subject thus far. While there was and remains much commentary and criticism of religious policy in the region, there was no comprehensive analysis available on the interrelationship of religion and the state in any regional state, let alone the region as a whole. The result of this initiative has been the publication of six Silk Road Papers studying the matter in regional states, with more to come. In addition, work is ongoing on a volume putting the regional situation in the context of the Muslim world as a whole.

     

    Case Studies

    Each study below can be freely downloaded in PDF format.

    az-formula-SRSP

    Azerbaijan's Formula: Secular Governance and Civil Nationhood
    By Svante E. Cornell, Halil Karaveli, and Boris Ajeganov
    November 2016   




    2018-04-Kazakhstan-SecularismReligion and the Secular State in Kazakhstan
    By Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr and Julian Tucker
    April 2018

     

     

     

    1806-UZ-coverReligion and the Secular State in Uzbekistan
    Svante E. Cornell and Jacob Zenn
    June 2018

     

     

     

    2006-Engvall-coverReligion and the Secular State in Kyrgyzstan
    Johan Engvall
    June 2020

     Event video online

     

    2006-Clement-coverReligion and the Secular State in Turkmenistan
    Victoria Clement
    June 2020

    Event video online

     

     

     

    Articles and Analyses

    Svante E. Cornell, "Religion and the State in Central Asia," in Ilan Berman, ed., Wars of Ideas: Theology, Interpretation and Power in the Muslim World, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

    Svante E. Cornell, "Central Asia: Where Did Islamic Radicalization Go?" in Religion, Conflict and Stability in the Former Soviet Union, eds. Katya Migacheva and Bryan Frederick, Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation, 2018.

  • Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories
    Wednesday, 07 October 2020 09:01

    Rehab-coverIn 2010, the CACI-SRSP Joint Center cooperated with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus to produce a study of the methodology and process for the rehabilitation of the occupied territories in Azerbaijan. The study was written in the hope that it would prove useful in the aftermath of a negotiated solution to the conflict.

    Such a resolution nevertheless did not materialize. At present, however, it appears that some of these territories are returning to Azerbaijani control as a result of the military conflict that began in late September, 2020. While it is regrettable that this did not come to pass as a result of negotiations, it is clear that the challenge of rehabilitating territories is as pressing today as it would be in the event of a peaceful resolution - if not more, given the likelihood that such a solution would have included a time-table and provided the Government of Azerbaijan and international institutions time for planning.

    It is clear that the study is a product of a different time, as much has changed since 2010. We fully expcect many updates and revisions to be needed should the recommendations in this study be implemented today. That said, we believe the methodoloy of the study and its conclusions remain relevant and would therefore like to call attention to this important study, published in English, Russian and Azerbaijani versions.

    Click to download:

    BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE REHABILITATION OF AZERBAIJAN’S POST-CONFLICT TERRITORIES

     

  • Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict
    Monday, 05 October 2020 08:19

    Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

     

    The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program have a long track record of covering the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict. This page presents the key resources and most recent analysis. 

    In 2017, Palgrave published the first book-length study of the International Politics of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, edited by Svante Cornell. The book concluded by arguing that if international efforts to resolve the conflict are not stepped up, “the ‘four-day’ war of April 2016 will appear a minor skirmish compared to what is sure to follow”.

    In 2015, CACI & SRSP released the Silk Road Paper  “A Western Strategy for the South Caucasus”, which included a full page of recommendations for the U.S. and EU on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. These are reproduced below:

    ------------------

    Develop a substantial and prolonged Western initiative on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

    o This initiative must be led by the United States, in close consultation with its European partners – primarily the EU Commission and External Action Service, and France. Barring some process to reinvigorate the Minsk Process – a doubtful proposition given Western-Russian relations in the foreseeable future – Western leaders must be prepared to bypass that process, utilizing it where appropriate but focusing their initiative on developing direct negotiations between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

    o The U.S. and its European partners must abandon the practice of relying solely on the Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the Karabakh conflict. These diplomats have contributed greatly to formulating a workable framework agreement. However, strong and sustained U.S. Government leadership from the top level is needed to complement or, failing that, to replace the Minsk Process. In practice, this means the expressed support of the President, involvement of the White House, and leadership manifested in the appointment of a distinguished citizen as Special Envoy for the resolution of the conflict.

    o The EU must take a more clearly defined and substantial role in the process, by integrating to the highest degree possible the French co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group with EU institutions. While Washington will need to take the lead on the political side, it would be natural for the EU to take the lead in organizing an international development program for the currently occupied Azerbaijani provinces and Karabakh itself. That effort, too, would need to be led by a senior EU figure.

    --------------------------------------------

    In 2011, CACI & SRSP helped launch an extensive study of the steps needed for the post-conflict rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's occupied territories, in cooperation with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus. The monograph "Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories" can be accessed here

     

    More background resources:

    Svante E. Cornell, "Can America Stop a Wider War Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?", The National Interest, October 2020

    Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupation, Foundation For Defense of Democracies, January 2020. 

    Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, "The U.S. Needs to Declare War on Proxies", Foreign Policy, January 27, 2020

    Svante E. Cornell, “The Raucous Caucasus”, American Interest, May 2017

    Svante E. Cornell, Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, RoutledgeCurzon, 2001.

    Svante E. Cornell, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Uppsala University, 1999

    More recent analysis:

    Turkey Seeks to Counter Russia in the Black Sea-Caucasus Region,” Turkey Analyst, 10/5/20, Emil Avdaliani

    Turkey’s Commitment to Azerbaijan’s Defense Shows the Limits of Ankara’s Tilt to Moscow,” Turkey Analyst, 9/25/20, Turan Suleymanov & Bahruz Babayev

     “Cross-Border Escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 9/25/20, Natalia Konarzewska

    Russia and Turkey: Behind the Armenia-Azerbaijan Clashes?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 8/31/20, Avinoam Idan

    Armenia and the U.S.: Time for New Thinking?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 10/2/19, Eduard Abrahamyan.

    Why Washington Must Re-Engage the CaucasusCentral Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 7/8/19, Stephen Blank

    Azerbaijan’s Defense Industry Reform”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 5/7/19, Tamerlan Vahabov.

    Military Procurements on Armenia's and Azerbaijan's Defense Agendas”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/27/19, Ilgar Gurbanov

    Armenia's New Government Struggles with Domestic and External Opposition,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/20/19, Armen Grigorian.

    Bolton's Caucasian Tour and Russia's Reaction”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 12/17/18, Eduard Abrahamyan.