By Mümtazer Türköne
20 January 2014
It is wrong to link the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to al-Qaeda. Rather, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Egypt and Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan served as a role model for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the National View (Milli Görüş) movement from which it had sprung. Yet the AK Party has always distanced itself from radical Islamist movements that resort to violence.
The Islamist tradition from which the AK Party has come into being suggests that the state should be seized using legitimate methods. In this tradition, the existing legal framework is believed to set the limits for what can be done, and democratic methods that seek to secure popular backing are employed. Despite this, this tradition has led to the emergence of a new situation that does not play nicely with democratic/legal limits. Since the parliamentary elections of 2011, the AK Party has started to try a novel approach with which it had never experimented before. 2011 is the year when the AK Party started to seize the state in an unrivalled manner with electoral support of 50 percent. Today, the emerging graft and bribery investigations signify the end of the bankruptcy of this new method.
There are ideological motivations behind why the AK Party has indulged in corruption in such an uncontrolled manner. For Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it is legitimate to receive commissions from the lucre distributed by the state and to finance religious education and religious services using these commissions. Although it is unlawful to do this, obtaining approval from some religious scholars has legitimized it. Thus, many businessmen who intend to do business with the state have been forced to pay large donations in cash or in kind to foundations or charities run by relatives of the prime minister. Apparently, these funds have been used mainly to finance the construction or maintenance of Imam-Hatip schools to which the ruling party attaches great importance. Let me sum up the process with a concrete example. The construction of the campus and mosque of the Faculty of Theology at Marmara University in Üsküdar, Istanbul, had been undertaken by the company which was awarded with the contracts for two big public tenders, i.e., the projects for building the third bridge over the Bosporus and the third airport in Istanbul. The executives of this company are suspects in the corruption probe launched by the prosecutor's office, but hindered by the government. They are accused of acquiring the Sabah newspaper and the ATV TV channel in an irregular manner.
This unlawful mechanism that is causing troubles to the prime minister is part not only of a corruption universe, but also of the AK Party's ideological vision. The AK Party seeks to raise a religious generation using the state's resources. It also seeks to replace existing religious communities with an official religious community. It aims to finance this community with funds collected from the distribution of the lucre by the state. The Imam-Hatip high schools and the state's other religious institutions have emerged as the main centres for implementing this vision.
This is the very reason why the prime minister's son is implicated in the inhibited graft probe. The Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TÜRGEV), an Erdoğan family foundation led by Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan established to sponsor the construction of imam-hatip high schools, is under the very spotlight of the graft probe. It is claimed that the donations to this foundation were actually the commissions forcibly collected from businessmen who are awarded public tenders and from the lucre distributed form urban development projects.
Apparently, Erdoğan has sought not only to be unrivalled within Turkey, but also to create a totalitarian country according to his religious mentality using the resources available to him. The corruption investigations remove the veil over the details of this totalitarian project. Yet there is another important detail. This project also relies on an oligarchic group of businessmen who are close to the prime minister. The donations to religious education and services are used to legitimize the interests of these capitalists. And the circle is closed with the political support lent by these emerging capitalists as well as by the groups who are mystified with the religious education so provided to the AK Party.
The current crisis means the bankruptcy of the AK Party's Islamism.