Cii Radio|Maulana Khalid Dhorat|18 July 2016| 13 Shawaal 1437
The Turkish military has always seen itself as the caretaker of secularism and democracy in Turkey. It also has a long history of intervening in the country’s politics when it deemed that the country was headed up the path of Islamic reform, or even democratic reform, but not in conformity with the Kemalist nationalistic vision. And this is exactly what happened on Friday evening, 15th July 2016.
As the military, for the fourth time in a few decades, tried to seize control of the nation in a bloody coup, some of its older citizens may have had a sense of déjà vu. Although the Ottoman Empire had a long and illustrious history as a regional Islamic super power (close to 700 years), the Republic of Turkey itself is a relatively young nation, founded less than a century ago upon the ruins of the crumbled Ottoman Empire. Modern Turkey was a complete antithesis of the values and founding principles of the Ottoman Caliphate, and the transition from Islam to naked secularism has been resented by most of its populace.
This is the reason why the high rate of turmoil in Turkey isn’t accidental. In fact, one of the reasons behind the string of coups has to do with implied and expressly motivated in the Turkish system of government. It seems that originally under Ataturk, the nation’s constitution vested the military with the authority to “step in” when needed. As Time magazine reported in 1960, after autocratic premier Adnan Menderes was deposed in a largely bloodless military coup: “The Turkish army has long scrupulously observed the admonition of the late great Kemal Ataturk that the army should stay out of partisan politics. But it also remembered that Ataturk charged it with guarding the constitution.”
In that 1960 coup, General Cemal Gursel was named President, Premier and Defense Minister, leaving the world with hopes that the nation was on its way back to true democracy. This meant that the military didn’t want Islam to flourish and refused to fulfill the Islamic aspirations of its citizens. Adnan Menderes was subsequently hanged. However, it would only be eleven short years before a group of military leaders handed a radio newscaster a memorandum to read out loud, telling the people of Turkey that the government had once again “pushed our country into anarchy, fratricide and social and economic unrest” and thus “the Turkish armed forces, fulfilling their legal duty to protect the republic, will take power.”
That technique, used successfully, came to be known as “coup by memorandum.”
Then in 1980, it happened again. After a long stretch of political infighting and a series of unprevented terrorist attacks, the military took matters into its own hands again. The democratically-elected government was ejected by a council of six generals, who stealthily moved during the night to detain the nation’s opposition leaders, announcing that they would control everything until it was possible for a working government to resume.
The history of coups in Turkey portray that each coup put civilians back in charge within a few years, but would again snatch power from them shortly thereafter and allow the nation a sense of uneasy relief. Who ordered the military to unlawfully intervene inn the nations affairs and at what stage, and which western or covert powers were backing them is anyone’s guess. Back then, the media would falsely portray civilian trust and confidence in the military. They would show civilians, most probably rent-a-crowd, waving joyously at tanks rumbling through the streets of Istanbul. Automobile drivers shaking hands with soldiers who manned the roadblocks were depicted as well as storekeepers raising their bomb-proof shutters for the first time in months. They falsely depicted restaurants filling up again in the evenings. Some city dwellers would be primed to looked far trimmer than usual, simply because they no longer packed pistols inside their coats or waistbands. Ankara’s English-language Turkish Daily News, reflecting the prevailing mood, would announce after the civilian population would be once again cowed into submission: “LIFE BACK TO NORMAL THROUGHOUT TURKEY.”
Even after 1980, incidents of renewed terrorism marred the military’s uneasy post-coup honeymoon. Vowing opposition to the military regime, leftist guerrillas ambushed and killed a tank captain in Adana and a senior police officer in Istanbul. In the meantime, the military’s roundup of suspected extremists continued, with more than 2,000 under arrest by the end of the week, and the offices of some 150 labor unions were closed down. The military also ordered citizens to remove all political slogans from their walls. It said a martial law communique: “Everyone is responsible for his own wall. If you cannot afford new paint, you should call the martial law authorities in your neighborhood and they will provide it.”
Before three years was up, the military regime made good on the promise of a return to democracy in late 1982—but it was an arrangement that left many observers wary, as the new democratic government left the president with immense authority.
It was in this period that through democratic processes, the Turkish government could reintroduce many Islamic practices previously abolished by Ataturk, a move which was obviously disliked by the military. Hoping for their fourth success in another coup, the military swooped on the state machinery hoping to cripple it on the eve of July 15, 2016, but they failed this time. The military had seriously underestimated the loyalty of the Turks towards their president this time around, and their undying love of Islam. In the initial stages of the coup whilst Erdogan was still en-route to Istanbul, he rallied his citizens to come out in their numbers, to recite the Takbeer in the streets, to call out the adhaan from the minarets, to engage in fervent du‘a and to register their unhappiness with the military.
The people overwhelmingly responded to his call. It was his smartphone versus the entire military, and only with the help of Allah. By the time the military loyal to Erdogan and the police could step in to save the situation, the bare-handed people had stopped them. This incident gives the Muslims immense hope that the shackle of secularism and the grip of western military and economic strangleholds can be broken. The west is vulnerable. The failed coup dispels the myth of western superiority.
The Arab spring may have failed, but the Turkish summer may have just begun.
Perhaps it is now time for Turkey to stop calling for Turkish nationalism and democracy. These are nothing but man-made divisions styled on western democratic ideals, many of which clash with the ideals of Islam. They should call for the revival of the Caliphate instead, cooperate with others who share the same ideal, and reactivate all the vibrant discourses and institutions that go with it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the writer and not that of Channel Islam International.