By İhsan Yilmaz
May 21, 2014
I have said before that, similar to other ideologies, Islamism is also a modern, worldly, secular ideology that is not directly linked to religion, spirituality or even ethics and morality. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become a colossal and concrete manifestation of this phenomenon. The term Islamism is a Weberian ideal type here and there have been different varieties of Islamism, sometimes with conflicting trajectories, narratives and even discourse and paradigms. Yet, generally speaking, it is a modern and secular ideology that emerged as a response to the Western, modernist, colonialist and imperialist onslaught on Muslims societies, countries and cultures.
The Islamists imagine a perfect society that is engineered by the state. They also want to use state power to create good citizens. They are also happy to use Althusserian ideological apparatuses of the state to brainwash people and fabricate their Gramscian consent. They also claim to have a monopoly on the truth. They also have an ideology -- or more precisely a meta-narrative -- that can explain everything and that has ready answers to all contemporary challenges. Here, individuals have no agency.
Society has always been imagined as passive. They believe in the power of the law to transform societies as an instrument of social engineering. They think in terms of binary opposition and dichotomies. As you can see, these are all characteristics of modernity. Moreover, in addition to these intrinsic, culturally-genetic similarities to modernity, as in the Chinese legend, the Islamists have been transformed into the leviathan that they been trying to destroy. In the case of Erdoğan, we can clearly see that he has become an Islamist Kemalist or a Kemalo-Islamist.
Erdoğan also thinks in terms of binary opposition; he has his constitutive others. He also imagines a best nation. He also wants to create a best generation -- and for him, this is a religious generation -- by using the power of the state in a top-down Gramscian imposition. He also has his imagined enemies and traitors among his citizens in the country. He claims to have a monopoly on the truth. He also demonizes dissent, opposition and criticism. He wants to create his own power elite. He wants to use religion like the Machiavellian prince for political purposes and to maintain his power. One can come up with many more similarities. But, to cut it short, it is clear that Erdoğan is or has become a modernist Machiavellian leviathan with a religious, but essentially profane, paradigm.
When we analyze his actions, with maybe a few exceptions, we see that he is an embodiment of a Machiavellianist politician: Islam is about peace but the idea of peace is unfamiliar to Erdoğan, who purposefully polarizes and radicalizes society to maintain his power. Islam is essentially about spirituality, but Erdoğan's actions and speech have everything but spirituality. Islam is about self-discipline, soft speech, good manners, politeness, kindness, etc., but Erdoğan cannot control his emotions and slaps citizens in the face. Islam is about compassion, forgiveness and mercy, but Erdoğan does not show signs of having these. Islam's main focus is on justice, but even many of his own voters no longer believe that he is a just person or a just ruler.
Islam is about honesty and not lying, not deceiving. There are many examples where Erdoğan has simply deceived people with contradictory statements. Islam is about trustworthiness, but even his staunchly loyal supporters state that in order to be powerful, he had to give public tenders to his own circle. Islam is about austerity, but it is crystal clear that Erdoğan and his family have become very wealthy in the last decade and they have a very luxurious lifestyle. Islam is totally and very powerfully against gossip, false or correct rumours, accusing people without concrete evidence, insulting them, interfering with their private lives, blaming them because of their worldview, talking negatively about the deceased, banning legitimate private entrepreneurship, intolerance, conflict, threatening individuals and groups, and so on and so forth. Yet Erdoğan has constantly employed these for his political whims and desires.
All that is left of Islam in Erdoğan's case is Islamic terminology, empty Islamic rhetoric and an Islamic façade. Kemalists at least, to a great extent, were honest about their Weltanschauung, ideology and policies.