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Islam and Politics ( 20 May 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Emptying the Content of Religion





By Taha Akyol

21 May, 2014

Defending the freedom of religion, conscience, and the right of the pious to live an honourable life is completely different from turning religion into a tool for political and economic power. The latter is a shame and a sin.  

Theologian Faruk Beşer explained the current situation we have in Turkey as follows: “On the one hand people opt for religion, but on the other hand the content of religion is emptied out and consumed as a commodity for earthly affairs.”

A December 2014 survey conducted by Kadir Has University revealed that the conservative trend in Turkish society is increasing, as well as the “perception of corruption.” Of course, among religious values there are virtues such as not trying to obtain undeserved benefits, fairness, and honesty. If politics and commercial activities suppress these virtues, then the result is “emptying the content of religion.”

Negativities such as corruption and the thirst for power that we see during today’s conservative rule were also seen during the one-party era in the early years of the republic. What’s more, back then today’s level of trade and profit did not exist.

Columnist Şevket Eygi wrote this about the current situation: “Some of our former allies have become new contractors, collecting immense value from Muslims. They have rigged official bids. They have converted non-buildable land for development, receiving huge commissions.”

Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez has also spoken of negative examples and expressed his concern, saying, “What if young people start saying, ‘If this is religion, don’t count us in’?”

The Moral Content of Religion

Fights for the throne, ambition for wealth, corruption… These have been experienced in every society and in every era. To prevent this and to gravitate toward both moral and legally legitimate channels, there is a need for moral and legal values.

In our religion, supreme values such as not allowing undeserved benefits and taking one’s rightful share are the fundamental principles of a high morality. However, when power struggles push these values of religion back it becomes inevitable that the content of religion is emptied.

Look at the election rallies. Are religious concepts used as a moral guidance in the struggle against corruption or are they used to hit the opponents? This is how the moral content of religion is emptied out.

It is, of course, good for pious people to become entrepreneurs. Indeed, this is one of the goals of modernization.  However, it should happen through “free competition,” not by political cronyism.

There are two basic fields in modern life where religion can maintain its respectful existence and infinite horizon: One is the sufistic, spiritual field. The other is morality.

A moral society can only be built by integrating it with the law. Humanity, with long experiences on this road, has reached concepts as “checks and balances” and “the rule of law.”

If the moral and spiritual content of religion is emptied by politics and ambitions for power, if the checks and balances mechanism of democracy is disrupted, if the principle of the rule of law becomes “harmonization with the executive body,” then society is not doing well.

A renaissance is needed to bring morality and the law over politics and the economy.