By Andrew Wilks
September 30, 2018
The directorate has come under fire for ignoring the needs of religious minorities such as the Alevi community, who form a fifth of Turkey’s Muslims.
Abroad, Turkey recently has turned from the West to seek ties with Russia, China and states such as Sudan. “If you look at the priorities of Turkish foreign policy you see clearly the influence of ideology,” Prof Cornell said.
“It’s very clear if you look back at Egypt, Hamas and Sudan, you have the AKP taking stances that can only be explained by a proclivity for Sunni Islamist movements.”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is viewed by many as the bedfellow of Naqshbandis due to a shared orthodoxy and politicised nature.
As the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, the AKP saw a chance to “restore Turkish greatness and Turkish influence over the Middle East by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and helping them come to power,” Prof Cornell said.
However, this failed “because it wasn’t guided by pragmatic thinking, it was guided by ideology”.
Conflict with the West over issues such as Syria and the jailing of US and European citizens has led many to the suspicion that Turkey is turning away from its Nato partners and the goal of EU membership.
However, many see this anti-western outlook as having always been present in Turkish political Islam.
“If you look at the emergence of the world view that Erdogan stands for, it’s amazing how little it’s changed,” Prof Cornell said. “There is continuity in his actions, there is a larger scheme and a larger purpose. He genuinely views himself as the representative of a much larger cause.”
However, Mr Emir, the opposition MP, said Mr Erdogan’s “defiance” of the West is shaped by pragmatism. “It’s useful for a Turkish audience but at the end of the day, he agrees to everything the US or other western countries want.”
For the Iskenderpasa’s Mr Cakmak, the anti-western strand stems from a “collective reaction” to imperialism and colonialism.
Diyanet officials were unavailable to comment but earlier this month, the directorate’s head, Ali Erbas, said: “There are structures that abuse religion, make a profit out of it. There are some who act out of the rules and principles of Islam. We as the Diyanet warn those who make mistakes and will continue to do so.”
However, with the 2016 coup attempt – widely blamed on the Gulenist sect that had infiltrated the state – fresh in people’s minds, the influence of unregulated religious orders raises concerns.
“Everyone should ask why a religious order should try to collect power, money and people in the state,” Mr Emir said. “We should be alert that, in time, they will use this power.”