Davutoğlu, the Kemalo-Islamist and the Erdogan Yes-Man
August 23, 2014 By Leave a Comment
By İHSAN YILMAZAhmet Davutoğlu is not someone who was popular among his own party to be nominated as prime minister. According to several polls, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters did not favor him either. Yet, similar to the Ottoman traditions, it was not the society that chose him but the father (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) who was the decisive factor. This should be surprising given that we are talking about someone who loves the idea of neo-Ottomanism.
Davutoğlu’s speech after his prime ministry was announced by Erdoğan is crucial to understanding his ideology. This speech was not prepared by spin doctors or speech writers. It was uttered at a very emotional moment by an emotional Davutoğlu. A few days later, he may come up with a well-prepared, well-crafted, carefully engineered speech, but I think it will be a little late. He has lost his chance to underline democracy, human rights, plurality, freedoms and civil society. Instead, he kept repeating the word “state” and the phrase “state traditions.” This is quite telling.
When talking about what Erdoğan called a “witch hunt,” Davutoğlu, who loves to reference Ottoman history, stated that in the past sons were sacrificed for the state. He was referring to the fact that some of the Ottoman sultans had their sons executed in order to prevent political rivalry and chaos. Davutoğlu was simply saying that, in order to protect the state, some people could be harmed. Davutoğlu is not of course alone in his understanding of the concept of the state. As the regular readers of this column will know, this is a common characteristic of Islamists, and especially Turkish Islamists.
Prominent Turkish political scientist Şerif Mardin employs the phrase “Turkish Exceptionalism” to explain this phenomenon. He argues that Turkish Islamists have never revolted against the state and have always worked within the parameters of the constitutional framework for historical reasons. Given the history of the Crusades, European expansionism and imperialism and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamists have concluded that without the protection of the state, Islam will not be able to survive. Thus, for the Turkish Islamists, the existence of the state, however unjust and cruel it may be, is the ultimate priority. Thus, they have a sacred understanding of the state. They can resist its practices but never revolt against it and never resort to violence against it. This of course is not the end of the story as far as the Islamists vis-à-vis state relations are concerned.
The Islamists also love, cherish and respect the state because of their top-down social engineering understanding that will pave the way for the Islamist utopian society as a result of the use of the ideological apparatuses of the state. In this understanding, especially after Islamists have come to power, anything that opposes the state is deemed to be un-Islamic, which needs to be fought with full force and eradicated. Civil society, freedoms, human rights, plurality, international standards and so on can only exist as long as they are not a threat to the state (actually the rulers), its authority and power. As I have tried to explain before, this ideology is an anti-democratic modernist ideology and it is not very much different from the other Turkish anti-democratic modernist ideology, Kemalism. If you add the Islamic flavor to the Kemalist ideology, the end-result would be Turkish Islamism. To underline this fact, I have coined the concept, Kemalo-Islamism.
Davutoğlu’s unprepared emotional speech has shown that he will most probably be a Kemalo-Islamist prime minister. This is of course not a recipe for success in 21st-century Turkish society, which is very much pluralistic and has an average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $11,000.