Published:  01:24 AM, 16 May 2018 Last Update: 01:35 AM, 16 May 2018

Ruling AK Party in Turkey: Ideological origin

Ruling AK Party in Turkey: Ideological origin

Turkey is a Muslim-majority country as well as the secular democratic state. AK Party has been ruling Turkey for 15 years since 2002.AK Party or AKP (Turkish: AdaletveKalkinmaPartisi) also known as Justice and Development Party (JDP) which was founded in 2001 under the leadership of RecepTayyipErdogan.

To trace out the ideological origin of the AK Party we have to go a couple of decades back. The history of modern Turkey began with the establishment of Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He established Turkey as a secular and democratic state.

Prior to that Turkey was the centrum of Ottoman Empire which lasted for about 600 years and it was a theocratic state governed by Islamic law (Shari'a).Secularism established by Mustafa Kemal isknown as laiklik(Turkish Word) which is different from the traditional secularism what denotes the separation between state and religion.

ButKemalist or Turkish style of totalitarian secularism (laiklik)does not make the separation between state and religionbut put religion under the control of the state.In Kemal era (1923-1938), religion was not completely suppressed or eliminated but simply banished from the public sphere and strictly subordinated to a supervised by the state.

After the death of Mustafa Kemal in 1938 religious forces got the chance to take place in the political realm. But, explicitly,religiously based political ideologies began to proliferate in Turkey towards the end of the 1960s. In 1969, political Islam emerged in Turkey.

In 1969, NecmettinErbakan founded the National View Movement (MilliGorus) and formed the National Order Party (NOP) in January 1970 with the support of the leading figure of the Naqshbendi religious order and the head of the related Iskenderpasa congregation Mehmet ZahidKotku. Erbakan'sMilliGorus movement proposes a national culture, education, industrialization and social justice based on the principles of Islam.

 Actually, by the MilliGorus movement, political Islam emerged as an independent political force. MilliGorus movement is far more radical than it commonly assumed. Led by Erbakan, this movement had its origin in the Naqshbendireligious order. Naqshbendiis a Sufi order but different from most Sufi orders. Sufi orders are known for their esoteric nature, in contrast to orthodox Islam.

 This has often implied an emphasis on the mystical experience at the expense of strict following of Shari'a. However, it would be a mistake to view the Naqshbendi order through this lens. Indeed, the order stands out among Sufi orders for its compatibility with orthodoxy, official Islam. Naqshbendi differs from most Sufi orders. Naqshbendiorder had the strict adherence to the Shari'a with mysticism only being a "second story "on top of the fulfillment of formal Islamic duties.Mehmet ZahidKotku was the informal leader of Turkish political Islam, promoting the Naqshbendi doctrines. He was born in 1897.

He took over the Iskenderpasa mosque of Istanbul in 1958 and remained there until his death in 1980. Actually, the emergence of political Islam in Turkish scene is not an isolated phenomenon. In fact, it was part and parcel of the global emergence of political Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the primary international group advocating Islamism. Formed in Egypt in 1928, its most influential thinker has been SayyidQutb, whose seminal work of 1969, Milestones, laid out both a grand strategy and tactical plan for Islamist to seize political power and replace secular governments with Islamist states by generating a critical mass of followers in government and society at large.

 Erbakan was heavily influenced by the writings of SayyidQutb.In the 1960s Erbakan emerged as a crucial conduit of the Muslim Brotherhood into Turkey. He advocated purifying society by restoring Islam's predominant role in it. Erbakan and his parties were also influenced by Islamist writers like Hassan-al-Banna (1906-49), Abu-Ala-Maududi (1903-79) whose work was translated into Turkish in the 1970s.Now the question arises that is AK Party or Erdogan related with Erbakan and his MilliGorus movement?

 If the answer is yes then the next question is how? In fact, AK Party was created as a fifth and final incarnation of the pro- Islamist party such as National Order party, National Salvation Party, Welfare party and Virtue Party. The AK is a political party with clear Islamic roots.Erdogan, the charismatic leader of the AK Party has been involved in politics since 1969.He started his political career in MilliGorus Movement. Other leaders of the AK Party such as Abdullah Gul and BulentArincalso came from the MilliGorus Movement.In his adult life, Erdogan attended Iskenderpasa Seminary of the NaqshbendiSufi order aimed at establishing the reign of Sunni morality in this world. Iskenderpasa Seminary must have had a great influence on him.

He himself pointed out that Sufism had an impact on him. In 1986, Erdogan elected to the central executive committee of the Welfare Party (WP) which was the heir of the first Islamic party NOP. In 1994 local elections, the Islamist WP nominated Erdogan as their candidate for Istanbul metropolitan mayor. Erdogan has been very popular since he was a candidate for mayor in 1994.In those local elections, while the nationwide WP vote was 19 percent, the WP received 25 percent of the vote in Istanbul.

 Erdogan was mayor until 1998.That year he received a prison sentence of four and a half months and banned from active politics. Erdogan was banned from holding any political office until 2003 after a 1997 incident in which he read a poem deemed pro-Islamist by judges.

From its inception in 2001, AK Party sought to portrait itself as a conservative democrat rather than a religious party. ActuallyAK Party is not a monolithic or homogenous party.

It should rather be understood more as a coalition of different factions though the core of the party and the overwhelming majority of its parliamentarian consist of individuals who were affiliated with the MilliGorus Movement in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s under the leadership of Necmettin Erbakan. Since 2014 "New Turkey" has become a popular slogan employed by Erdogan and his party. AK Party or Erdogan's"New Turkey" can be best seen with the intention of authoritarianism and Islamization of Turkey.

 After the constitutional referendum of April 16, 2017 it is more probable that Erdogan will remain in power as President until 2029.It is now not impossible for Erdogan or AK Party to implement the "New Turkey" project what denotes the authoritarianism and Islamization. Because AK Party and its leader Erdogan has clear Islamic ideological origin what is associated with pro-Islamic leader Erbakan and his MilliGorus Movement.

Sajib Kumar Banik is an Assistant Professor, Department of History , Jagannath University.                                                                                               

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