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Islam and Politics ( 11 Feb 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamism and Corruption



By Mümtazer Türköne

10 February 2014

With regards to my words about how according to Article 101/c of the Political Parties Law, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) could be shut down, I received a response laden with insults and dismissals from the prime minister.

Not only did he question my academic standing, but he also accused me of “serving the parallel state.” I attribute these direct and publicly made insults by the prime minister to the discomfort he was clearly feeling over my stated observations and predictions.

A series of monetary exchanges between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and members of his government and Saudi Arabian businessman Yasin al-Qadi and Iranian businessmen make up one of the most important parts of the recent corruption investigation. It should be noted that al-Qadi is recognized by many as having strong connections to al-Qaeda. In this sense, the AK Party's relations with al-Qadi alone would be enough of a reason for the legal closure of the AK Party. And while Erdoğan did target me for my words regarding all this, he never said anything about whether a crime had actually been committed or not. It is highly problematic that such a critical and significant allegation has remained unanswered. Since the investigation itself is not moving forward, the normal process of a trial and transparency are also not functioning. In the meantime, the prime minister uses extremely weak and unreasonable arguments to defend himself against various accusations.

A definition of “bribery” was put forward by Erdoğan this past weekend in the same speech in which he targeted me; the definition itself gives us a better idea of just how weak his defence is. The prime minister has offered the definition of bribery as being “when a government official and a civilian go into business together.” Using this as a point of departure, he then goes on to assert that the government has not engaged in corruption. According to this definition, as long as one side is not a civilian or a government official, whatever happens is not bribery. With the prime minister dismissing accusations of corruption with the words “These were charitable works,” it is clear that legitimizing corruption has become easier and easier for the government. And to wit, a series of far-reaching and systematically corrupt actions were carried out on the basis that they were “donations to charitable activities.”

Professor of Islamic law Hayrettin Karaman is a religious intellectual whose interpretations the prime minister values highly. It is alleged that this professor gave his blessings in 1996 for commissions -- labelled as “donations” -- to be set aside from the profits of public bidding tenders. Karaman addressed this issue twice in his column for the Yeni Şafak newspaper, summarizing for readers why he gave his support as a religious expert on this matter. The text he shared in his column manages, on its own, to open the door to commissions being taken from bidding tenders under the title of “donations.” At the very least, those engaged in these sorts of activities may well have interpreted this permission as a permission to engage in corruption.

In a column written by Ali Bulaç on Jan. 27, the writer addresses the issue as a whole. In his column, Bulaç notes that while the 10 percent commission taken -- and spent on charitable work -- from public bidding tenders in 1996 was greatly debated and while he personally was opposed to it, he embraced the ruling on it. Since Bulaç was very close to Erdoğan around that time, his words stood to attest to the legitimacy of what was happening.

In the meantime, it is clear that the corruption investigations targeting the government today are composed largely of allegations surrounding the donations based on this interpretation of a religious ruling. It is quite natural that these same donations would be used to purchase newspapers and TV channels in an attempt to create a cartel.

This means that when the prime minister says, “It's not a bribe, but rather a donation,” he is referencing this religious permission issued some 18 years ago. According to this Islamic interpretation, the AK Party has thus not received any bribes. According to the law it is a crime, but according to a certain religious interpretation, and to some people, it is not.