Interview: Modern Islam of Turkey, Unifying the Middle East
In order reenact the glory of the Ottoman Empire, Islam is Turkey is unifying the Middle East and its surrounding countries. In particular, one characteristic of Turkish Islam is that it is based on rationality and pursues tolerance and prosperity.
Through an interview with a local correspondent in Turkey, we were able to learn how Turkish Islam is helping to unify the Middle East. For security purposes, an alias was used.
Question: Turkish Islam, unlike other fundamental Islamic beliefs, seems to take a different form of Islam.
Answer: Turkish Islam agrees in going back to the Qur’an, but reinterprets the Qur’an in a cultural and rational context with reason. The Quran talks about practicing polygamy, but reinterpretation says it was only allowed because many people had died from wars at the time; now it is being said that monogamy should be practiced.
Also, it is said that in present time, jihad is a fight against your inner-Satan since Islam is supposed to be the religion of peace, not violence and war. They say that jihad is not about fighting with violence, but rather teaches to embrace other religions.
Recently school laws were changed so that Christianity would be taught and now other subjects could be chosen as well. Students are able to choose from Qur’an, Christianity, and Judaism, and although this may look like equal opportunity for all religions, the main purpose is so that they would be able to execute religious educations. Because only the Christian minority chooses Christianity and the rest of the people end up choosing Islam education anyway, they are basically raising up the next generation of faithful Muslims.
Question: The Islam of Turkey recognizes pluralism, pursues peace, and long for economic prosperity, which seems to be similar with the objectives of the powers behind world unification.
Answer: That is why the current ruling party brings Freemasonry into the picture.
Question: With this logic, it seems that the people will lean towards supporting Islam, rather than the military forces that focus on ideology disputes.
Answer: In a sense, they are acknowledging the Christians and even returning the properties of the Armenian and Syrian Orthodox churches, which includes the buildings of the churches as well. This is one of the reasons various forces support this present Islamic regime.
Question: So then is there a chance that Turkey’s Islam could become a model for other Muslim countries in the world?
Answer: The Westerners sure hope so, but there is a possibility of various forms of conflict. They may clash with Egypt’s Islamic fundamentalism and Iran’s fundamentalism.
Question: However, Turkey’s Islam seems to have much more influence and persuasive power
Answer: Islamic fundamentalists want to globalize Islam as well, but violence is apparent in their logic, which does not really look appealing to Europe and the West. They are basically saying that Islamization of the West needs to be done with modern, reasonable Islam. This regime also wants to reenact the glory of the historical Osman Empire; just like how the empire chose to acknowledge other religions and tax them rather than persecute them, Turkey has influence in North Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and even Southeast Asia
They are summoning the presidents of Islamic nations in North Africa for seminars and also investing money in educational institutions. They also help the people and Islam organiztions by building school and doing NGO work. When the government goes to invest in schools and the development of a country, not only the Islam ministers and economy ministers but also the leaders of civic groups tag along, which is why they do things for the public as well.
Not only have they dispatched armies in North Africa, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan, but there are also numerous NGOs and civic groups present there as well. Turkey provided a lot of support during to Southeast Asia during the Tsunami, along with Central Asia and Muslims that had been living in Eastern Europe since the Osman empire, exercising influence by helping them. They are even rebuilding the mosques in the area. For example, there was a famous English musician that became Muslim long ago, and recently he visited the prime minister of Turkey, asking for help to build an enormous mosque in England. This person had even changed his name to become fully Muslim.
Question: So I’m guessing that as Turkey takes leadership in the Islamic world through their style of Islam, we can see it as an act of returning to the influence that the Osman Empire had, creating a widespread regional peace treaty.
Answer: As Turkey’s influence is growing, it was able to gain the favor of America and Europe and as of now, Turkey’s main focus is on education. They are building prestigious schools in Africa, Eastern Europe, America and are giving away scholarships to attract talented students of different nations.
Many of the wealthy students are paying tuition to enroll in these schools. The smart but poor students are scouted and are given scholarships to enroll. It is to the point where Americans are also sending their children to school in Turkey.
They are not directly educated with Islamic education, but the students who receive education in those schools respect the teachers – students from Africa and Asian cultures especially give respect to the teachers – and the teachers purposely make clubs that teach about Islam and make the students to convert into Muslims.
Question: Do young adults and scholars really believe in Islam? Or do they think it is just a cultural and a formal tradition?
Answer: There are people who really believe, there are people who are not true believers but follow the majority, and there are also people who do not believe in it at all. It varies. The people who truly believe accept Turkish Islam as logic. These people are elites, but long ago Muslims lived under a secular government that contradicted Islam. They had to earn money but it was as if earning money was a sin. However, there was an emotional anchor that helped solved these problems and that was to advocate patriotism, love your country, earn a lot of money and use that money for Allah. People had worried about the act of earning money but now they did not need to worry anymore. There was finally freedom of earning money as you could donate to the Islamic community.
Currently a Turkish Olympiad is being held not only in Istanbul and Ankara but also in smaller cities as well. Kids that have attended Turkish schools are participating. Likewise, Turkey is approcahing them with culture and language.
Question: It seems that Turkey is exercising leadership within its region through its Islamic culture and economic expansion.
Answer: The reason Turkey has leadership in the Arab world is because it has been going against Israel and supporting Palestine, gaining the hearts of the people of Arab. As Prime Minister Erdoğan started supporting Palestine when they were being persecuted by Israel, the Arabs started to like him. There was even an instance where Erdoğan and the Minister of Israel had a dispute, which gained the admiration of the people of the Middle East.
Globalization is happening around the world in every aspects of life including politics, economics, society, and religion, and it has been the Middle East that has been an obstacle due to religion, culture, and ideologies, but for the most part the logic of Turkish Islam actually goes in line with the forces behind the globalization of today. In fact, Turkey already has influence that stretches from Central Asia, the Middle East, all the way to North Africa.
By Local Correspondant