Interview with Ayten Turan
Writer and philosopher. İhsan Eliacik was born on December 23, 1961 in Kayseri. He went to local schools in Kayseri and completed his high school education in 1980. He went to Erciyes University Theology School for a while and left to start his own independent career as an author. He worked at “The Last Tomorrow” magazine for four years and at “Word and Justice” magazine for eight months and at “Real Life” magazine for two years. He publishes his books at İnşa Publishing and he published twenty books so far. He is married and father of five kids. He can speak English and Arabic. He lives in İstanbul.
Ayten Turan: What do you think about the definition “Abrahamic Religion”? Assuming that all the prophets were sent by the creator, do you think he sent them so that they could reform the religion which was taught by the previous one? There is only one creator, only one religion; so can we say the appointment of the prophets is aimed to provide continuity? Could it be interpreted as a phase in a continuum?
İhsan Eliacik: The separation between Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions was created by particular historians and it is not something that I agree with. In my opinion, religions are united in the aspect of conscience, which means they are all produced by the same conscientious reaction. Each religion originates from human conscience but they get spoiled in different ways and new religions arise to correct these previous ones. The religions should be separated as true religions and superstitious religions instead of Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic ones. Justice, love, mercy and feelings of this kind belong to humanity and they are universal. They are not under monopoly of any religion nor any ideology. They are correlated with human nature. The religion or ideology that seems more decent and more sincere to people spreads among them. After a while, people realize that these feelings are taken advantage of and they abandon that religion or ideology. New generations come along and they choose to believe whoever seems more truthful and defends justice, love, mercy and honesty in a more sincere way and can turn it into an action. After a while, those new ideologies institutionalize and the whole thing turns into status-quo; this is what happens to every religion. Judaism, Christianity, Islam have demanded all these feelings for a while and they spread rapidly amongst people; then status-quo replaced them. Corporate church, corporate synagogue, corporate mosque…People drew away from religion when these formed and they remained as the religions of the old ages. People of the modern age seeked those values apart from religion; they still demanded these feelings and values just not by religion. They still craved fort he same feelings; they did not take the God or the Prophet as a reference but they still demanded these concepts in a more philosophic, simpler way. There ae not consecutive, certain phases in this pursuit of humanity. When you consider all these, I take equality, freedom, mercy, love, truthfullness and being true to who you are for reference. This is the ultimate purpose of the religions; whoever demands this is the follow-up of the previous ones.
AT: You define yourself as “Anti-capitalist Muslim”. Who do you think is similar to you in 21st century? Do you think there are any people that fit your definition? What do you have in common and what seperates you from them?
IE: Koran says that all the believers since Ibrahim are eternally called Muslim. Muslim means, the one that craves for peace. The God gave us this name. No shedding blood, no picking wars, no destructive competition; let people live in peace and in sync with the nature. I am not talking about the corporate Islam , I’m talking about the Islam that is taught in Koran. I’m not talking about cults either, they’re corporate Muslims as well. I’m talking about “natural Islam” and “natural religion”, where there are no congregations, instutionalizing ; the religion that was present at the time of the prophets. That’s why all the believers are called Muslims; in the past, in the present and in the future. The term anti-capitalist is a little conjectural; it represents my resentment to the system that is dominant.
AT: Ali Şeriati? Iran is against the West too and Ali Şerati is not very popular there, but it is popular in Turkey. Hasan Hanefi is pretty popular in Egypt…
IE: Of course we’re close to Ali Şeriati. Muhammed Abid Cabiri is popular in Morocco, and Hasan Hanefi is in Egypt. There are people in Turkey that we share similar thoughts. The religion we give voice to is a little different than the traditional religion. People say we talk about a different religion. This is just what I think. Islam is mixed up with tradition, not only in Turkey bu all around the World. I read the Old Tetament too, which is a book of God too, so are Bible and Koran and I read them all together. Koran says that people who believe in The Old Testament should live according to it and people who believe in Bible should live according to Bible. I really like the part of Yeşea from the Old Testament and I read it frequently especially during Ramadan. I really like the part of the Bible that tells Jesus’ sermon at Mount Olive. I am a pick reader though; I try to outline the parts that talk about love, honesty and mercy I try to figure out who is close to the repressed, to justice, to equality and to freedom. I note those sentences as the words of the God. They dopn’t even have to be in the books. Ali Şeriati is a little more socialistic, In Iran in 1979, during the revolution Ayetullah Muttahari was killed by an organization called Furkan and they released a manifest afterwards in which Ali Şeriati was mentioned. There was a part that said “Islam is at war with clergy and there is no place for clergy in Islam”. There is an ongoing revolution and it produces clergy and Ali Seriati wanted to declare war against clergy as well. Ali Şeriati was mentioned in that notice, post-revolution government ruled Seriati out and he was no longer reputable in Iran. He is still popular in Turkey because he appeals to young people. He seems interesting to Islamic region in Turkey. People who want to learn the religion, people who are tired of the different practices around them find shelter in his writings; they see it like a harbor. He is an enlightened person who knows the Koran, the western philosophy and he is not straitlaced so he does attract attention.
AT: In 1977, Muslim youngsters had attacked the lefties during a protest against the American fleet. Recently, you celebrated May 1. What has changed since then?
IE: The Muslim ideology with a dominant socialist side is very common in Iran. Ali Sheriati comes from the same origin with Mujahids of the Public; they both come from Muslim Marxist roots. Just like Jamal Abdul Nasir of Egypt and Hassan Hanefi. Baasism is from this origin as well, but it became dictatorship just like Stalinism. When these ideas turn into dictatorships, it is inevitable to have a dictator; in Turkey, in Arabic World, in Iran. No matter if it’s socialism or Kemalism we end up having a dictator and often plenty of them. Muslim socialism, like Baas, is very common in Arabic World or Iran but interestingly almost all of the Muslims in Turkey are close to conservative right. They hate and stay away from the left and socialism because Turkey is privately worked on which we cannot see as an innocent action. Oh well, there is much less socialism in Turkey, but why? Because Turkey i the first country of the “green line”. CIA agents formed a green line against Soviet Union. What did the World look like during World War Two looking from USA’s point of view? The World was separated as North and South; North is socialist starting from Soviet Union and including east block and China and the whole South region is Muslim. What is there to do? They just formed a green line between those two and made them enemies. The North and the South should have been enemies; otherwise it would be the World against US. They made those countries ideologically, politically and philosophically hostile both locally and militarily. Turkey was the country that was most affected by it. These all happened in 70s. They founded anti-communist associations, they assigned many people there, they had Turkey join the NATO and they formed an anti-communist youth. This is where our conservative, religious generation and the present party in power comes from this origin as well as the national vision movement. In my opinion, all religious regions have walked this path, without an exception.
AT: Does not National Vision manifest include goals like creating our own currency and economy? Considering AKP, what do you think about the current situation? What has changed?
IE: “Not on the right, not on the left, we’re on the way of God” is the slogan of national vision movement, but they all ended up in the right wing. I was a part of it as well but then I realized it wasn’t working right and we were set up. Islamists, national vision movement, supporters of Fettullah and Suleyman; they were all made anti-communist by USA’s support. I thought we should have changed this situation and get rid of that image that held us like a straitjacket and I gravitated towards anti-capitalist movements. This all came up around February 28, and began to get clear after AKP came to power. I was always anti-capitalist in mind anyways. I defend the idea of a religion which cares more about the social justice. My second book which was published in 1992 was named “Revolutionist Islam”. It’s been twenty years now, I still had the same understanding but I couldn’t find the environment to express myself and there was not such a powerful Islamic government back then. We worked quietly in Anatolia for years, without having any microphones presented to us. People recently started asking questions and wondering what we have been talking about, which means there is a change here. There are other people like us in Iran or in the Arabic world who celebrate May 1. People thought what we did was weird even though what we did was very symbolic. We just performed the prayer at Fatih Mosque for the dead, for the laborers and for the outcasts. Then we walked to Taksim for May 1. Young ones formed a cortege and I supported them. When we first left the mosques, there were 400 people, it was 600 by the time we got to Unkapanı and we were around 1100 when we walked into Taksim Square. Getting out of the mosque and walking to May 1 celebrations is something new, so it drew a lot of attention. I think we should be doing such things. I’m not going there because it’s May 1, I’m going there because it’s Labor Day and all the workers and laborers gather there to celebrate. As I mentioned in my speech at Taksim, years ago Sixth Fleet of US was in Turkey. Deniz Gezmiş and his friends that were members of the left vision were planning on protesting this in Beyazıt. Then they were attacked by the conservative religious groups who wated to protest the protestors in the same mosque we went to and the Blue Mosque. On May 1, we denied this heritage. We said we do not want to be a part of this shameful heritage that lingers upon us. I embrace Deniz Gezmiş’s rebellion; we should take place by the ones who are rebelling against injustice regardless of their religion. Che frome Latin America or any prophet, it doesn’t matter. Thiis is what the prophets tried to teach us. But if this rebellion itself comes to power, produces status quo, becomes a repressor of the further rebellions and a source of cruelty and injustice, then it should be rebelled against.
AT: Relying on M. İkbal’s words “Reconstruction of the religious thought in İslam is extremely necessary” you say “Religion and practice should be reconstructed”. Can you explain this a little?
IE: I’ll give three examples from three different religions and those will explain what the practice has become very well. First one is the communion from Christian Church. Christians go to the church, take a piece of bread and wine and hey unite with Jesus this way. What is a communion? What wa sit originally and what has it become? It started as the practice of a real life at the time but then it turned into a ritual at the church. Jesus and the apostles used to share bread and water as commune, as a congregation. That was called agape and it meant common dinner for Christians. There is no individual food, they eat together, they believe in a communist life and this is what we call a congregation. The Turkish word for congregation “cemaat” and “commune” come from the same origin which is the Phoenician language. Community, congregation, to be all together…Jesus had dinner with the apostles and one night while they were gathered for dinner, Jesus got arrested by Roman soldiers and got crucified. The bread they used to eat became the little communion bread and water became wine. Today, Christians go to the church and take a piece of the bread and a sip of the wine to remember that last dinner and unite with Jesus. What they really should be doing is to share bread and food with those who come to the church. The rich come to the church, attend the service, and get on their fancy cars and leave. At the same time, the poor think of how they will take some food home. Well, what now? You didn’t do what Jesus used to do. If you want to do what he did, you should be sharing your water and food with the poor and the orphans. If you can manage to make this into a ritual, then you will have followed Jesus’ steps.
Second example is from Islam. There is a tradition of counting beads in the mosque; the mosque of the prophet is a center of “salat” which means cooperation and solidarity. After the prayer, the prophet used to turn to the crowd and ask if anybody had any problems and this was being repeated after every prayer. One says I have no money, another says I have no water or bread and the ones who have those items give them to the ones who lack it. This helps makes the people come together and share things. Mosque was not a place to worship. It was a place of sharing and this continued for a while until the Ommayads. During Ommayads time, when the imam turned to the crowd and asked what they needed, people told their complaints. When they did tell their problems, leaders of the mosque wanted to keep them quiet because they thought things got complicated in the mosque and they came up with this new application, which was counting beads. They made everybody count the beads with the imam and. When the imam turned to the congregation, he wouldn’t ask them to tell their problems anymore but they would count beads all together. There was no talking in the mosque and it’s still like this. Religion and practice have completely turned into rituals. They should be asking if anyone has any problems and they should be organized as an NGO in the mosque. The congregation of the mosque is responsible from the poor, the homeless, the orphans and the ones who cannot take food to their homes around them. There shouldn’t be only one imam and two assistants but there should be 100 young men and women volunteering, then there would be no need for NGOs.
There are twenty seven thousand NGOs in Turkey which have names ending with cooperation and solidarity and there are one hundred and ten thousand mosques. In my opinion, they should be renamed as “salatgah” which means the place where people help and support each other. As we see, mosque is no better than the church.
We got one more example and it is from the synagogue. There is Saturday prohibition in Judaism. This concept was brought by Moses and it was meant to stop people from getting properties on Saturdays. In other words, it is the day of sharing. Whatever you earned in six days prior to Saturday, you share them with others on Saturday. You’re not supposed to be earning that day; you’re supposed to be sharing. You should take what you need from your earnings and give away the rest of it in the mosque or the church as well as the synagogue. The things Moses, Jesus and
Mohammed did are all essentially the same and I believe in all of them. They are all prophets of the God and they all have the same messages. People just built three different “corporate religions” on their words. They are frozen and they’re turned into temples bu they are all the same deep in the core. That’s why the practice of the religion should be replaced with real life religion. For instance, what are the biggest religious crimes? If you ask the Muslims, if you don’t practice your prayers and ablution or if you don’t go on a pilgrimage, you commit religious crime. On the other hand if you ask Christians the same question, they would say if you don’t go to church and don’t affirm Jesus you would be guilty. Jews would think if you didn’t go to the Wailing Wall, this would be a religious crime. These are all rituals of the corporate religions. These are not big religious crimes. Big religious crimes are injustice, lying and not being right, loving or merciful. If these concepts are present then we can talk about a religious crime, whicg is at the same time a crime against humanity. Then we could build the religion on a humanitarian foundation. If we keep going the other way, we will have produced separate rituals. We want to keep justice, truthfulness and honesty alive by the inspirations of the church, the mosque and the synagogue. This is the natural religion and it’s the only religion of the God. If you act against these concepts, you would have acted against the God; if you deliver yourself to these you would have delivered yourself to God. The other rules are all rules of the church, the mosque and the synagogue. I try to see the religions as schools created to keep fundamental values of humanity alive. Whoever raises better students; they would be praised and appreciated throughout the next generations.
AT: You define some of the Koran scholiasts as “dead Koran tellers”. Why?
IE: Koran is book that appeals to humanity, which means the meaning of the Koran is restricted to humans’ ability to understand. There is no point in looking for astronomy, metaphysics, physics or biology in it, Koran is not that kind of book. We could say Koran appeals to people in two different dimensions; individually, it appeals to one’s psychological world and socially it appeals to one’s social world. We can track human psychology and sociology through Koran; it’s humans’ social and psychological world. That’s how I percept the Koran and I read every sentence with this point of view. They look for codes and biology information and secrets of astronomy. These are not present in Koran and they’re not present anywhere. I don’t believe the Bible is full of prophecies, but people try to use it as a source of prophecy. These books are God’s books present on the earth and they appeal to psychological and social world of humans. They try to correct the human behavior. They’re sent to gravitate people towards justice, truthfulness and honesty, that’s all. If it’s depth that we’re looking for, we should not seek it in the books. God itself or the sky itself has depth. Why do you look for astronomy knowledge in the Book? Become an astronaut and get to the moon to conduct a search. Physics or biology or anthropology knowledge is in the nature itself. Science is in the nature, not in the Books. Koran, Bible and Old Testament are present to give people awareness, not to give scientific knowledge.
AT: “Rituals are not the foundation, but the necessity of religion”. What should be the meaning we get from these words of yours?“. Is every social ritual a social event?
IE: Ritual means repeated actions. There is a separation in Islam between service and “nüsuk”. Religious service means producing value and work and creating something. To perform the prayer, to go on a pilgrimage or to fast are not religious services, they are all “nüsuk”. The real service is what you do after these rituals. Why do we bend over during the prayer? It’s very theatrical actually. We do it not to bend before anyone in life. Why do we put our noses on the floor? So that we are not arrogant in our real life. Koran speaks for itself already. We need to be careful about definitions, we should how and where they were used. “Salat” is used in 130 different places; in 120 of them it is used as helping each other and solidarity. In the other ten, it is used as prayer. “Rüku” which means bending over, is used as prostration in dome readings. It’s not very hard to comprehend the correlation.
AT: In one of your essays, you wrote “Religion is a four dimensional relations web for humanity”. What do you mean by that?
IE: Religion is not solely a concept of conscience, it starts with conscience. It’s your decisions and preferences in life. Your religion is the path you follow, your way of living. How you live, what do you eat or drink, which way do you want to walk in the future? These are all your preferences and they form your religion.
AT: In another essay you take Islam not as “individual rescuing” and “therapeutic” religion but as socially rescuing, revolutionist social religion. You think all the parts and sentences n Koran refers to a social concept or happening. Why?
IE: Modern world claims that religion is a matter of conscience. This is true but incomplete. It is true that religion originates from conscience. You cannot sort the time as God’s time and our time. How could you do that? “Here starts God’s time and now our time has started. “ Does that make any sense? Time, is always God’s time. We are before him when we sleep, when we swim, when we work even in the bathroom. Islam believes in oneness; there is no separation between this world and the other or between body and soul. There is only one truth and different faces of it. According to modern understanding, there is the spiritual world and materialistic world and ontologically they are different from each other. There is the universe of the God and the universe of the man. This is double thinking; whereas in Islam, there is only one truth and nothing else. This truth has different faces. Today we’re here, tomorrow we will die, this is a fact. The spirit of human comes from its material and vice versa; they’re not separate concepts. You think according to the circumstances ant shape the circumstances as you think. You create your spirituality according to your materialistic environment and create a materialistic environment according to your spirituality, they’re all tangled together. If you perceive religion as an individual salvation, it becomes a matter of belief only but religion is not just about belief, it’s a social concept. The prayer, fasting, pilgrimage are all social events. You gather in the mosque for prayer, you deprive yourself of food to understand the hungry people and you go on pilgrimage to get rid of social ranking and be equal in the white, simple clothes you’re supposed to wear. Pilgrimage is a humanitarian show and an equality ritual where the black, the white, the eastern, the western and the gender all disappear and you turn around a house all together. AT: What is the best regime for Islam?
IE: There is no such regime but a democratic, liberal system is much more compatible with Islam rather than an authoritarian or totalitarian system. In my opinion, economical and political vision of Islam is close to liberal socialism in our age. I believe both socialism and capitalism need to be deeply criticized. Marxism needs to be criticized according to the social experiences and we already know that capitalism needs criticism. I am economically politically liberal, economically social and culturally religious. I believe the Islamic culture that has been living for fourteen centuries should be conserved and passed on to next generations.
AT: “Religion markets opens with Ramadan”. What do you mean by that?
IE: Well there are people who do this. I do not make money when I host a show on TV, I don’t make money from my speeches nor from my publishings. Thre is nothing I hide from people, I don’t have one piece of knowledge that I ask for money to tell. I only publish my books, I need paper to publish them and I have to buy the paper. My books are public service because working on religion is a public matter. If a man is working for religion, he is a public man just like a man who works for the state. One cannot make a personal fortune out this business and can only make living with the salary they’re given. We take what we need and direct the rest of it to the pool. In my opinion, money does not belong to people who make it but to people who need it. You may earn, but what will you do with more than you need? Saving is called “fire” in Koran. One should take what they need and give away the rest of it to people in need. Since this is how my brain works, the things around me seem like a religion market to me. Some people host a show on TV and take 20 thousand Liras per episode and then open butcher shop chains with that money. Some people write “tefsir”(a detailed commentary on Koran) and make a lot of money and save it for themselves. This is not right. You’re making a fortune out of God’s book, you cannot do that. The most you can do is to take what you need to survive. There is statistical data on indispensible needs of a four people family, it’s not very difficult to figure out.
AT: In the beginning of Ramadan, you announced that as anti-capitalist Muslims, you would be fasting against capitalism. In my opinion, one should fast because of they owe it to their God. Why make such an announcement? Religion is supposed to be system of belief, does not this politicize it?
IE: We should be examining what pre-dawn meal (“sahur”) and fasting are. In my opinion, fasting is a highly social hunger ritual performed to understand the hungry people on earth. There are ne billion starving people on earth and 60% of those are in Islamic world and a fraction is
in Turkey. There people who do not know what they will eat that evening. They look while the others eatand some sleep hungry while the rest of us go to bed with full bellies. The only way to understand those people is to fast. You can try to emphatize with them, you can write books on them; but you cannot understand them unless you fast. This is the social dimension of fasting. There is also an ethical dimension to it and I have my own rules that I made up. For instance lying, breaking someone’s heart for three times, swearing, looking with lust all break the fasting; these are all ethical aspects of it. If you can shackle your stomach, try to shackle your eyes as well. One can be ethically strong, and stable instead of being easy to derail. If people aim to learn something from fasting, this is it. We shouldn’t be very afraid of being politicized this much and Islam has a politic side already. Movement of enlightenment stated that religion is a matter of conscience. This was expressed against the church and their repressive attitude towards people of Europe. It is right for the time, but it does not suit Islam well. Islam starts with conscience it involves the rebellion of the poor and the deserted against the landlords. Every religious service has a social and psychological dimension. Psychological aspect of fasting is being with the people who are hungry and keeping their bellies full. We do this constantly not only in Ramadan but all year long. There is a part in Koran that says “Do not envy the richness of the infidels that you see, look at the poor who come to you” and I believe it is what being a Muslim requires. The men above have already saved themselves and the man below is struggling. You should take care of those who struggle to be beneficial to the society and to have healed a wound.
AT: You say there is “deep religion” in Turkey. What does that mean?
IE: By “deep religion” I mean two thousand years old Shaman culture of the Turks and on top of that one thousand year old culture of Islam. We live in both of them now. Islam is not pure in Turkey and Shaman culture is not completely removed. They’re mixed up with one another in five different ways. First of all in Shaman belief, the God lives in the sky. Most of the people in Anatolia look above when they say Allah, which means Allah and the God of the Sky are mixed up. Secondly, in Shaman culture one cannot speak to the God without the presence and assistance of the Shaman. We see this concept in Islam as sheik and gownsmen. People now think that the prayer must be performed with the hodja and in the mosque. There are patriarchs in Alawism; there are concepts like sheik and gownsmen in Sunni Islam. What was there before? There were the shamans and now there are these new ones and you cannot reach the God without their assistance. The third example of the third point is the holy Kandil nights. Words of the ancestors are important and ancestors lay in mausoleums; that’s why mausoleums are culturally important. Birthdays and death anniversaries of these ancestors are also important and they’re sacred days, just like Kandil nights in İslam. They are reflections of shamanism. Fourth point I want to talk about is sacrificing animals and fifth one is not eating pork. Sacrifice is the most important ritual of Shamanism. Muslims sacrifice animals a lot and it’s not because of Islam, it originates from Shaman culture. It’s prohibited to eat pork and people care a lot about this rule. Nobody would ask why you didn’t sacrifice animals this time and you don’t have to do it. It comes from Shaman culture and it’s one of the top rituals in Islam. Some studies showed that not eating pork and sacrificing animals for religious service are top rituals in this religion and this is what I mean by deep religion. If there is justice, sharing and honesty in religion, it means things are going right and the religion collapses when these concepts get corrupted. But traditional religion perceives rituals as the foundation of the religion. In traditional Islam, it is thought that the prayer, the pilgrimage and fasting are the main columns of the religion and we can all see the consequences of this understanding.
AT: May I ask you to evaluate both of the contrary visions of February 28, which is one of the most important events of our recent political history?
IE: We are still living February 28, it just changes shells. The people changed from soldiers to conservatives but the attitude is still present. Imposition, ignoring the other opinions, flagging, unethical research and listening to people’s phone calls and even shoot them if they find anything wrong… These happened to me on February 28 and they are still happening. On February 28, it was the military and the secularists that performed these acts and now our people do the same thing. We’re being followed, watched and listened. Even my daughter was followed for months. They put her behind bars after May 1 and she stayed at the police station for four days. They used to follow us back then and now they do it by using our kids. The attitude of the government and the way they deliver the news is still the same. We used to watch Reha Muhtar, Gülgün Feyman and Ali Kırca on the news and it would feel like a punch in the face when we heard the news on political reaction. Then we saw ourselves on TV. It happened all over again after May 1; my daughter and I were on TV and we were being exhibited and flagged and stamped. My daughter is 21 and she is still going to school, this whole thing messed her up and it was Samanyolu and Kanaltürk who did it. What happened now? Attitude of February 28 is still present. I do not care about the subjects of these acts; I need politicians to change the attitude of the government. The government should no longer be flagging, following or exposing on the internet. I think we took a step forward by removing the privileged courts but I’m not very hopeful to tell the truth. I’m not hopeful because it does not change the attitude and they’re still scared that their acts will be exposed. Privileged court had lawlessness issues with some municipalities, some bribe issues came up and once they realized where the things were going, they got rid of those courts. I mean they weren’t removed because they craved for justice; they did it because they craved for income.
AT: What do you think about the Kurdish problem?
IE: Let me say this on the Kurdish issue: I was born and raised in middle Anatolia. Classical Turkish, Sunni and Muslim. As a person from this origin, I openly defend the rights of the Kurdish population until they are at least legally, constitutionally equal with the Turkish people. It is true that there is inequality in the eye of the government. Their language is not acknowledged as an official language, a Kurdish person is perceived as a problem individually and the unity of Kurdish population is viewed as deforming. In fact, none of these is a problem by itself. “Kurdistan” was a word in use until it was removed by a change of law. There were Lazistan and Kurdistan representatives in the first assembly. We should go back to those times and adopt the terms of that first constitution because it has that unitary factor in it and it has the ability to solve problems. Yes I do come from Sunni origins but I do support the Alawite until they’re equal with the Sunnis. I’ll go one step further; I support all the non-Muslims until they’re equal with the Muslims. The things that matter here are justice and equality. I’m not talking about an order where people will eat the same bread with the same cheese for breakfast. I mean one should not be looking while the other is eating; one will not be hungry while the other one walks around with a full belly. One will not have to speak the official language with a broken accent while the other one can speak their own language. What if you were forced to learn Kurdish at school and told that this is the language you’ll be speaking from now on? What if you spoke Kurdish with a Turkish accent? What would you do if you were told that the official language is Kurdish now and everyone will call themselves Kurdish? Think of the exact opposite of the situation they’re in. The language is Kurdish where Kurdish people outnumber the others. Naturally people in Burdur will not be speaking Kurdish but it is meaningless to teach Turkish to someone who lives in Diyarbakır. Five languages are spoken in Sweden, three of them are official. They formed 25 cantons and a different language is spoken in each of them. In my opinion, a college graduate should be able to speak at least two out of four languages and should be able to understand all four. These languages I’m talking about are the eastern languages, not the western ones. Turkish, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Ottoman; they’re all languages that enable our cultural and religious worlds coincide. They’re our universe of language, history and culture. I believe they should be offered in school as elective classes. Every person from Turkey should know these languages. It is such a shame that there is another population right by our side; maybe even our neighbors and we are not curious to learn their language. People who believe in different religions and speak different languages can make gather to create a united willpower. The government belongs to all of us but you would have excluded the other if you insisted on just one language. First duty of the government is to provide justice and actually it has no other duties. If the people can enforce justice on their own, then government is unnecessary. Since this is impossible and we cannot succeed to create a common public spirit, mafia comes up. Mafia tries to take the society under its own hegemony and government is what stops mafia from doing this. I mean, the purpose of the government is not to form authority on the society; it is to form hegemony. It’s supposed to stopping the authorities. It should be providing justice and equality; or the mafia would spring up right away.
AT: What do you think of AKP?
IE: I criticize AKP in three different ways; politically, economically and in the aspect of foreign policies. Politically, KAP does not change the behavior of the government bu makes their oen behavior a part of it. The government has classical behavior formed with law and constitution. Consider it as a person who needs to change his behavior. This is the purpose of politics. You vote for a party because you think they would go and change the unwanted behavior of the government. AKP was supposed to change some fundamental behavior of the government but it did not, so there is something wrong. They use the power of the state to reinforce their own behavior on the government and the state starts to act upon these new influences. AKP has not even prepared the new constitution, but will it even be different from the previous one? Will the fundamental behavior of the government change? Will it keep calling itself a Turkish country-which would create a great deal of problem? There is an ongoing war; a part of the country says that they’re not Turkish. They say I might have lived with you for 1000 years but with my language, my Kurdish heritage and my soul, I am not Turkish. If we say that we cannot understand each other since they have a different language and they’re a different population, it causes problems. Government’s attitude on religious sects, race and language creates problems in Turkish Republic’s behavior. These problems are still present and there is no visible change. Economically, Turkey has a capitalist system. AKP does not disturb the foundation of capitalism; they only give it religious legality. They do not create alternative wealth but they get involved in the existing capital-owning class and act like the other members of the class. For instance, I have never seen an alternative factory. Why don’t I see any alternatives if they do not like capitalism, its ways of production and business life? They were opposing to capitalism when they first came along and they claimed that they would produce a new civilization, a new way of sharing and a new production system that was different from the previous civilization in which Europeans create capitalist ways. The prime minister’s slogan when he ran for mayor in Refah Party was “Another World”. Where is this other world? They should have either not promised to do anything or they should have said “I will not change the fundamentals of capitalism but I will try to establish something more ethical.”. In the end, they did not keep their promises; they had no other world in their hands. I wish they said “Come take a look at this new institution we founded. This is a different way of working and sharing and we’re hoping that a different world will spring from here against capitalism”. This is highly unlikely but still, they failed to keep their promise. In the aspect of foreign policies, I criticize what they call strategic depth. They attack with the wolves of the world and then take place next to the lambs and cry, they call this strategies depth. They’re planning on attacking Syria with NATO and then go to Syria and tell them they are Muslim siblings and they do the same thing to Afghanistan. The Americans have changed their strategy and English mind doesn’t work like it used to work in the past century. They want to bring in their craft and rule the place just like they did in Iraq. They want to use moderate Islamist governments like İhvani Müslim’s in Egypt or like old National Vision, new AKP in Turkey. The West has a list of properties of the governments they want to work with in Middle East. 1- They should be elected. 2- they should come from religious origins. 3-they should be reformists and they should be willing to change the system in their territory 4- They should not do anything more than they’re told to do. AKP, Fettullah group, İhvan-I Muslim, Muslim Congregation and most of the religious groups in Syria fit in these criteria. They get rid of the ones which don’t fit in. The groups with Kemalist origins and the groups wirhout religious origins get discharged right away. These groups may not be anti-American and they mght be elected but unless they come from religious origins, they are not reliable enough. This is a sand were we hear the call to the prayer five times a day, so there is no point in standing against it unless you are in cold war. When Soviet Union was present, Turkey had to turn from the Islamic world and Kemalism was necessary to fit in the new order of the world. But now, Turkey has to gravitate towards the Islamic World and Kemalism is no more needed. Now they need moderate Islamic movements because they don’t want to get into the lands themselves. The last sultan of the Ottoman Empire thought Damascus was still a part of his homeland and was buried in Syria upon his request. Now, we’re almost at war with the same country. They almost made Turkish planes bomb Syria, how did they succeed this? Davutoğlu is one of the front line supporters of Turkey-Syria union and he thinks that would be the biggest gain of the Islamic world. He has such an old team; they are the architects of the Syria-Turkey union. Now he is the foreign affairs minister and we are inches away from the war. What kind of foreign policy is that? We got Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and as their boosters China and Russia against us. On the other side there is US and Israel, EU, Great Britain and Turkey. Howcome we are on this side of the equation? We will take place on this side by the recent plane incident, just like the time World War 1 started with a bullet of a Serbian. We’ll be marching into Damascus and Baghdad with Israel and US, we’re going to bomb the mosques and these are all happening in the era of a government which originated from national vision movement. People will ask if it would be better to be on the other side. I believe so, at least it’s the eastern side. Massacre in Syria, is a lie created by the western sources. There is not such a big massacre in Syria; they’re making news about Syria using the footage from Libya. The people who raided Kaddafi’s house in Syria were British agents. They took some people from the big tribes and got dressed in revolutionists’ clothes and tried to make it look like it was revolutionists who did all the work. There is a massive screenplay going on in Syria right now. Is there no opposing view in Syria? Is Esad not a dictator? He absolutely is but 80% of the stories are lies; they’re preparing the environment for the next operations they will conduct. It’s all exaggerated. Is the cruelty present only in Syria? AKP does not take actions because there is cruelty in Syria nor because of their love of justice. They believe cruelty exists where US says it does and take action. An operation in Syria is necessary for US and that’s wht AKP sees Syria as a target. They bombed Roboski within the borders of Turkey and did not even make an announcement of apology. There is absolute monarchy and extreme cruelty in Saudi Arabia, right in the homeland of the Prophet. If we want to stop the cruelty, why don’t we start there without letting US know? Is that possible? Turkey is not an independent country; we prepare to attack where ever US claims they sense cruelty. We’re not individual, we are a member of NATO and it’s an alliance of the western countries with dependent economy and policies. We’re assigned to make sure that USA’s decisions are well conducted here therefore it is not possible to form an independent point of focus in our foreign policies. Davutoğlu frequently states that Turkey is an independent country and it has its own axis as if we’re leading the world which is not true at all. We don’t have a leading role; we are given a part in a plan that’s been formed by other countries and we try to make the best of it. It would be much more comprehendible if they stated that we are a NATO ally and there are certain decisions and alliances of the previous governments which we cannot change. But we still act like we are an independent, dominant country which can make its own decisions and this is wrong. This is a country which plays its role that’s given by others and does not even have the right to veto in United Nations assembly.
AT: Why is the West so interested in this area?
IE: For instance, seven significant churches of Christianity are in this area.
AT: What do you think about Prime Minister stating that they want to raise religious generations?
IE: I think it’s not right, because raising religious generations is not a duty of the government.
AT: There are big differences in applications of Islam in Turkey and Arabic world. What do you think about this?
IE: Well there is not really that big of a difference. Arabs, Persians and Turks are the three significant nations of the area we live in. Persians used to be Zoroastrians before they embraced Islam and the real sacred concept in their culture was family. Islam coincided with their culture in the beginning and they embraced it therefore there is a synthesis of Zoroastrianism and Islam at the moment and it is the deep religion of Iran. Similarly, in Arabic countries, Islam is mixed up with their culture of ignorance and culture of tribes. As we said before, we have a shaman-Islam mixture in Turkey. In all three countries, the old religion of the nation is mixed up with Islam. Arabs are caught up in Salafi, which is a political Islamist thought and it actually contradicts their culture because they perceive rituals as a necessity of religion and when they come to power, they try to make sure the rituals are being carried out. They make up laws like “Everyone will go to the mosque and violators will be punished with this many whippings”. Iranians say that whoever does not wear a head scarf will be taken to the police station, they will be warned and they will be banished if they happen to repeat this action. Wearing a head scarf is a ritual of Islam just like the prayer and they’re forcing people to do it. They should be saying that you are free to do it, if you want to do it then you can but whoever kills or takes advantage of workers we will be on top of them. Stoning to death is not a part of Islam culture; it is a part of Judaism. According to Koran, fortune owners are thieves and “cutting the thief’s hand is a symbolic expression for stopping the exploitation of labor. Well there are actual practices of these actions as well, for instance some African tribes execute rapists by shooting. In some places, they literally cut people’s hands. For instance, people entrust their views and kids to someone when they go t war and when they’re back they realize that that man has raped and gasped their families and they punish him by cutting his hands. Arabs have this kind of applications and it doesn’t even relate to Koran that much. These applications originate from their own culture. They try to keep the order and stop fornication or stealing. At the times, this was the way of doing it and it was temporary but safety of family, character, mind and labor is universal.
AT: What do you think about crime and punishment system of Islam?
IE: There is no punishment for rituals in Islam, but there is punishment for violation of right behaviors towards other members of the society. When people violate each other’s rights, there is always an on-premise punishment for them which is historical and a product of human mind. Rituals such as performing the prayer or fasting are private to Muslims and the punishment about them will be given by the God. There are no parts in Koran explaining how these violations will be punished whereas there are many parts on the punishment of murder, stealing, slandering and fornication. These are the only behaviors that have clear punishments in the Koran. All these concepts are universal. Reward id mentioned as heaven and punishment is referred to hell in Koran. Any behavior that is praised would bring you heaven and if something wrong would be punished with hell. My understanding of heaven and hell mostly relates to the world we live in. If you do good things, the life you live turns into heaven and if you are a source of evil your world becomes hell. You can found heaven at home and a house can turn into hell for you depending on people’s behavior towards each other in the house. The torment in one’s soul is on fire and it is poison, it’s blood and it’s hell; it’s the worst hell you could think of. The happiness in your soul is the heaven. What we say is, both hell and heaven are present in this world but according to Islami there also is a hell that we will account for our bad behavior and a heaven that we will be presented as a reward after death. This is something only God could know and I cannot know where the hell and heaven will be after death. I only have hope because God would not leave the people alone and this is what I believe. What we should be working on to correct and better is the world we live in to get rid of the pain. In Rahman surah in Koran, it is said that “there will be a heaven in heaven for them”. Heaven in another heaven, this is an endless expression. It means heavens that start on the earth and exist eternally. Afterlife belief is actually a very progressive belief; it means to think of the future of your actions and to think of the future and to believe in it. This is what Koran tells us to do; think of the end of the world. This is what we call believing in the afterlife.
AT: What do you think about Directorate of Religious Affairs? Does this not carry a risk of formal history writing or formal religion writing, especially in a secular country?
IE: In fact, government has a religion in Turkey. It doesn’t have to be constitutional; the religion of the state is the religion of the directorate. The state assigned the directorate to keep the religion in order and defined the religion with this assignment. They’re told that religious affairs involve the call for the prayer, overlooking the mosques, managing the pilgrimage groups, calculating the fasting times in Ramadan, reading Koran after funerals and organizing Kandil nights. The directorate has no other duties than these. We never hear that directorate makes a statement about the right to buy property. This cannot happen. Therefore, this is the religion of the directorate and the state has a religion. Whenever the state feels cornered, they ask the directorate for an opinion. They make explanations like “We checked the website of the directorate and it says that the place for Alawite’s religious service is the mosque.”. Here, we should discuss what religious service is and what is the mosque or the congregation. The directorate is essentially unnecessary and the citizens can conduct all the works it does on their own. If I had the chance to create a foundation, I would show everyone how the mosque culture was during Prophet’s life; two hundred young people volunteering in the mosque, no need for imam or his assistant and mosques should be open for service at all times. People would be welcome to serve in the mosques as long as the whole thing is legal. I wish we could open a religious building for Alaweti right across the mosque. We privatize everything, why don’t we privatize the religion? The most private and volunteering concept is religion, so why is it under the monopoly of the government? You can’t even pray on your own in the mosque. You have to say “Amin” and leave when the imam says “El Fatiha”. What if I want to stay and pray for two hours? Hence the mosque itself is a governmental organization. This is the religion of the state and it’s no good.
AT: What do you think about the congregations (Gulen Movement) in Turkey? Do you think they’re politicized?
IE: All the congregations in Turkey are politicized. There are common interest s and is not ending anytime soon. The starved, belittled conservative religious groups are not fully satiated yet. Congregations are in a race with each other and it got even worse now that they’re in the government. They used to be in a race of grabbing new members even before they were in power and the race rougher than ever. It became a race where they are trying to seize ministries and bids. They used to go to schools and fight for students before. This will never end.