Turkey’s Islamic groups stuck in the past

News About Turkey - NAT
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By Gokhan Bacik

Turkey has many prominent Islamic movements and religious orders that perform key social and political functions that make them nearly equal to political parties. Several key points can help us understand Turkish Islamic groups.

1. Divine communication: According to Islam, the revelation ended with the death of Prophet Muhammad. But Turkish Islamic groups believe communication with God continues in peculiar gnostic forms, and base their existence and legitimacy in part on this belief.

2. Chosen people: A typical Turkish Islamic group member believes they are chosen by God. The literature of each group provides a wealth of information on how each group formulates the idea of being the chosen people. The idea of being a chosen people transforms Turkish Islamic groups into strict movements with highly sceptical views of other groups.

3. Spiritual leadership: Turkish Islamic groups treat their leader as a sacred person. He (never she) is chosen by God, with whom he is assumed to be in communication. Members usually see their leader as having supernatural abilities such as seeing into the future. His opinions and ideas, often put down in books, are inspirations from God. The leader is infallible. Those actions that non-believers see as mistakes are in fact based on wisdom. It is wrong and sinful to challenge or question the leader. A typical leader does not refrain from writing on a range of issues such as history, biology or the economy. He is rarely understood. He eats less and sleeps little. Usually, the leader of a Turkish Islamic group is ill for he is suffering.

4. The tautological setting of the group: Turkish Islamic groups have thick borders, or an invisible wall, separating them from the rest of the world. The wall provides a tautological setting for members and simultaneously prohibits healthy communication with the outer world. Any event in the outside world, even big ones like war, are interpreted by members through the lens of the group mentality. Thus, the loyal members within the wall are usually happy people. The wall always persuades members that whatever happens is good. It is nearly impossible to change members’ opinions.

5. Organised ignorance: Reading only books selected by the group, members gradually lose their dynamic intellectual contact with the outer world. Members are expected to read and reread the same books. Thus, most Islamic groups in Turkey generate a professional deficit within their members. Such a ritualistic reading creates another major problem: The group becomes home to many people who have lost their professional abilities and financially depend on the group.

6. Corruption: Turkish Islamic groups tend to be corrupt. Many patterns of the group such as not allowing intra-group opposition, informalism, the idea of spiritual leadership, the weak contact with the outer world and the extreme collectivism have corrosive and corrupting effects, as in a cult. Similarly, the intensely spiritual atmosphere of the group has an enormous ability to legitimise any action in line with group interests.

7. The immunity of the leader: The leader of a typical Turkish Islamic group never accepts responsibility for failure. Instead, group members are blamed for any problem. In case of failure, group members are responsible for explaining why the leader is blameless.

8. Fetishistic worship: Turkish Islamic groups promote an extreme worship of piety that is anti-intellectual. Members are expected to recite the Quran for hours, perform various forms of extended worship and follow specific rituals each day. Religiosity is defined in the form of worship and piety.
Turkish Islamic groups emerged in the 20th century, but have failed to change and adapt to today’s new realities. The problems detailed above are a result of their anachronistic structures.

Source: Ahval News

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