Posted by Zia Shah
December 14, 2013
Your Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
Prime Minister of Turkey
Dear Mr. Erdogan,
I am a Pakistani-American Muslim, a great admirer of the founding and evolution of this new Turkish civil society (Jameah Madani like) that came about over the decades as a result of the genuine and constructive contributions of Nurco and Hizmet movements beginning in 1960s. I am sure that you too have had positive impact of these two movements on your personal growth and development during your childhood and youth.
I am of the firm opinion that “Hizmet” movement has been practically the core civilizing, and transformative engine for this strong Turkish civil society of today .The movement has, without any doubt, helped consolidate Turkey’s strong civil society and democracy following many decades of prevalent Laicism and the deep-state. The movement in the last two decades has increasingly been impacting the world and now spans close to 170 countries and remains committed to the “service” of all of humanity.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have undoubtedly brought a tremendous and positive political transformation in your own country in a short period of one decade. Since AKP was founded in 2001, it had defined its policy and mission as “service” emphasizing that it was a “service-oriented” party rather than an ideologically one and one with servant leadership. It is also an important and interesting point that those two entities, one newly formed Turkish national political party and the other born-again civil society (Jameah Madani like) movement in existence for over 4 decades define themselves similarly through the mission of “service.”
The two stood side by side and in parallel, having common ideals and goals without any merger of state and mosque. Modern democracies locally, in MENA (Middle East North Africa) and globally should see this as an example where public and civic sphere helped build democracy. The whole world should embrace such developments for democratic renaissance and the Muslim world must particularly look at Turkey as an example in the twenty-first century.
Unity and cohesion under the worldview of tawhid remains prohibitive to the divisions of civic human engagements. Tawhid was indeed the foundational stone of (Jameah Madani) a strong civil society founded and demonstrated by the prophet (PBUH) himself in the city state of Madina in the 7th century A.D.
Through Fetullah Gulen’s thought and practice, there has been a rebirth of a strong civil society (Jameah Madani like) movement during our own modern age in Turkey. This has already demonstrated a civil society’s direct and positive relationship to genuine democratic evolution. This approach to societal problem solving and the conceptions of ‘the public sphere’ are thus an extremely objective way to understand the contributions of the Hizmet type Movement and what has been accomplished through the societal transformational works over the recent decades. Insightful and influential writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Robert Putnam and Jürgen Habermas have also supported Fetullah Gulen’s thought and practice on the subject of strong civil society and its relationship to the genuine democracy.
Your political opposition parties have been far behind your own ruling AKP in terms of advocating genuine democratic values. Your party has singularly been a very successful party, and it has been absolutely an asset for Turkey even though it could have definitely fared even better in terms of democratization, transparency, and rule of law, human rights, the Copenhagen criteria and EU reforms. If Turkey had the CHP or MHP instead of the AKP as the ruling party during the last decade, Turkey would have been a much less of democratic nation today.
Please do not mind my constructive criticism, as you’re historically and truly a huge success that seems to be shadowed by some of your own but still human ambitions and weakening of checks and balances in your authoritarian power as a prime minister.
The most recent issue of your government’s decision to close private schools and tutorial centers (dershanes) reveals that, at times, you seem to have a problem with the plurality of viewpoints, independent civil society and lawful protests. Your earlier and harsh reactions to the Gezi protests was another case in point, and now your government is presenting a similar attitude towards the noblest, inspiring, highly admirable and globally reputable Hizmet movement. From a pluralistic liberal and democratic perspective, you could be in a much daunting and troubled situation that can get even worse in the coming days and that should be certainly avoided. The Hizmet movement, which is not directly affiliated with any political party or government is totally independent, relying only on its civilian volunteers, has had certainly nothing to do with Fitna being blamed on it.
You started your AKP journey sir, as a first and foremost among your equals. At the beginning, the AKP was a party that was established by like-minded prominent and most importantly by post-Islamist leaders such as yourself, Abdullah Gül, Bülent Arınç, Abdüllatif Şener, Cemil Çiçek, Abdülkadir Aksu, Ali Coşkun, Nevzat Yalçıntaş and several others. In the beginning your colleagues could check and balance your power and authority as a leader. Today, only president Gul is perhaps able to keep some of the initial check and balance against your inflated power and authority but it is only a fraction of the checks and balances at the beginning. Your journey Mr. Prime Minister, in some ways, now resembles Mustafa Kemal’s journey who started as a first and foremost also among his equals, but the success of Turkey, Parliament and its army made Atatürk a heroic leader and without practical checks and balances. Today, in your own case, there is not a single person or a group that could help stop you and even slow you down or help you with an ego taming (tazkiya-an-Nafs) slightly needed if any one ever insisted on doing something about it. In general, agreeably your popularity and powers have been utilized for good purposes.
I, as a close observer, am not really concerned too much about Turkey at this point in time, since it is as it seems quite impossible for any one to continue exercising authoritarianism in today’s conditions for more than a short time. I hope and wish you would not end up dividing your own party wanting to have practically unbalanced and unchecked powers, as demonstrated around the world, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And your party’s presidential reform bid in Parliament made many pro-AKP experts and some of your own party members perhaps very concerned and worried .I am only an outsider but loving and caring observer who will not like to see any reversals in this Turkish civil societal transformational process, genuine democratic evolution and global renaissance in the making through the ongoing and sincere efforts by hizmet and its volunteers.
My own concerns began before the Gezi Park events in April 2013. The Gezi events a little later gave me the impression as if you were wanting to be a one-man exclusive show in your own party and that very much seemed like a liability for your own party since during the Gezi debacle, important leaders within AKP, such as president Abdullah Gül and Bülent Arınç, had openly and totally disagreed with you sir. I thought that you would have learned a lesson during Gezi Park issue but your somewhat crude, insistent and intrusive remarks on private homes had further harmed your party and it must have deepened the tension within your own party. It has also occurred to me observing you at times, that your certain patriarchal mannerism is most probably natural and out of love for your people and country. However, people may not understand all this but I still wanted to share with you all these impressions.
Once more, you are on it again sir and with your insistence on trying to close down darshenes that belong to the private public sector. Many people felt that with this you were perhaps trying to penalize the respect worthy Hizmet movement, which has always resisted pledging absolute loyalty to you alone as a politician .You may not be very concerned about the local and general elections which your party may definitely win but you need 50 + % votes to be elected as president. For this, you will need the solid and loyal support of the Hizmet movement since you know that there are more people who now might dislike you compared to all those who had liked you earlier. Yet, your threatening attitude will not win over the hizmet movement support. What is more, sir you may end-up harming your own party by deepening the rift with your authoritarian and anti-private business venture attitude in this last situation. Your personal ambitions and emotions can make you a serious liability for your own party.
Your dazzling and zero-problems-with-neighbors and your foreign policy achievements are unfortunately about to become history. While to begin with, Mr. Prime Minister, your goals were very accurate indeed to develop positive relations with all your neighbors and not use any tension with neighbors for shortsighted domestic political gains. Your original goals were admirable and similar to Turgut Özal’s era.
In the beginning, with the Syrian crisis your over-confidence in president Assad to hold free and fair elections failed. Regime change idea and its mode of operandi in Syria and Turkey helping the Syrian opposition in ways full of tension (including Saudi’s own greedy and insecure way) were a serious mistake and a blunder that is bringing an end to your own soft-power policy and posture in the region unfortunately. Your issues with Israel and situations in Syria and Egypt gradually led to your internal and external tensions. Such a tension-laden approach became preference over a zero-problems approach. Even well meaning, you still failed to help Egyptian elected president Morsi who was not an insightful politician and was no Rashid Ghanouchi of Tunisia or the late Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia. What unfortunately happened in Egypt since the Arab Spring has terribly slowed down the liberation movement of youth in the Middle East that seemingly was hijacked by still radical and lingering elements in Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood, not unlike many Islamists in many other parts of the Muslim world, has still a long way to go in moderating its stance and separating mosque and state and at least pay attention to the compact of Medina and Uma of democracy instituted by the prophet (pbuh) himself. And that is Mr. Prime Minister, where you (not alone but) as AKP leadership group and all the transformers inspired by hizmet needed to maintain your modular example for the world and in particular for the Islamic world.
Turkey earlier under AKP leadership and even before had been critical of the state in Israel but was not antagonistic towards it and had very good relations with Israel despite that country’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and its poor treatment of the Palestinians. The incidents of Flotilla & Davos changed all that. However, this is not an ideal world, and in this very real world, Turkey specially, at this juncture, must always maintain a moderating stance as a bridge both internal and external. There are all sorts of complex, intertwined historical, political, civilizational, sociological and psychological issues at play there in Turkey, MENA, all of the Muslim world and beyond. I am of the belief that these issues have been and still are being continuously underestimated by you, Muslim world leaders and the Western leaders when it comes to the Muslim world as a whole. Hoja effendi, Fetullah Gulen as a non-political towering figure and as a tremendously insightful thinker and philosopher may have insightful advice if ever asked. He has recently been impacting all of humanity with unifying (tawhidic) thought and practice that is creating a global civilization of love, tolerance and peace. There is also a Turkish think-tank of which he is an honorary president.
You as a dominant Turkish political figure along with your Post-Islamic political democratic colleagues must not abandon your defined politico-social and service mission sir. Turkey happens to be a bridge between the East and the West and it must maintain its internal cohesion (homeostasis) and positive, communicative and tolerant relationship with all in the region and beyond to help achieve a real and durable peace around the world. Hizmet movement that is now rapidly becoming a hub for global civil society – promoting service, love, tolerance, peace and dialogue between all cultures and civilzations. This is expanding Turkish horizons and the bridge between the East and West to include hearts, minds, thought and practice.
Turkey’s foreign Policy needs overhauling. It should include aspects that are at the verge of collapse and needing to be mended, reset or salvaged. Its relations with Israel need normalization. Its relations with European Union have been at a standstill for quite some time and certainly need resetting.
Mr. Prime Minister, your genuine democratizing efforts beyond petty politics, democracy’s link to the strong civil society (Jamea Madani like) in Turkey and your transcendent mission of “service” and “servant leadership” for the masses obliged me to write this letter to you sir. I further believe that this is not just a temporary or ordinary effort in Turkey that has beautifully exemplified, peacefully and practically demonstrated the successful separation of the State from the Mosque. This should be an ongoing lesson through Turkish example and practice for Islamists’ political parties in the Muslim world where turmoil and political chaos is still rampant despite some efforts to separate Mosque from the State. Also, I hope and pray that you will continue your sincere efforts towards achieving peace and harmony in your neighborhood, troubled Middle Eastern, South Asian regions and beyond. May Allah enable you to continually achieve this by your own example in Turkey.
With best wishes and with prayers,
Muzaffar K Awan
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.