One of the goals of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup in Turkey was to curb the rise of leftist/socialist groups. The junta opened many mosques and Quran courses across the country in order to infuse Turkey with a culture of submission. They intended for Islam to protect the country against communist influences.
Turkey’s leading Justice and Development Party (AKP), a moderate Islamist political party, came to power in 2002. Having remained in power for 16 years, the AKP has gradually tried to shape society into a mold that fits its own “Islamic” codes.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Fatma Günaydın, professor of theology at Düzce University, garnered a lot of attention in Turkey. The study found that Turkish youth were increasingly moving towards deism, which holds that God exists, but does not interfere directly with the created world, a belief that contradicts Islamic teachings. When the results of the study were announced and the percentage of youth who reported having “religious doubts” was revealed as 12 percent in religious schools and 30 percent in overall high schools, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not take this well. “This is unacceptable!” he said.
To investigate the factors that push youth towards deism, Ahval spoke to Süleyman Karan and Zehra Pala from the Association of Atheism, and Professor Murat Belge from Bilgi University.
While Professor Belge said that deism in Turkey has very little philosophical depth, Karan drew attention to Turkey’s 50 percent deist population.Murat Belge
Activist Zehra Pala approached the issue from the perspective of women and said, “It is difficult to reconcile a woman’s belief in secularism and the religion of Islam. These people have not read the scripture, do not know their religion, and although they do not realize it, they are in fact ‘deists.’”
Süleyman Karan, spokesman for the Association of Atheism, had the following to say on the rise of deism in Turkey:
“The peddling of religion is one of the fundamental drivers of the center-right in Turkey. The exploitation of religion began in the 1950s and increased significantly in the environment created by the 1980 coup. After the AKP came to power, they fully turned this religious peddling into a political tool. The West’s project of ‘moderate Islam’ evolved to become what the AKP is today.”Suleyman Karan
“Although the political regime the AKP has established looks like reactionism, it is in fact characterized by degeneracy. As a result, people are questioning the underlying ethics of the government.”
“Arguing that the regression under the AKP is the only driver behind the rise of deism would be a simplistic approach. Of course, some groups have been upset by the things this government does in the name of religion, and have turned away from religion in response. But the real source of the move towards deism is the spirit of the time. Across the world, religious radicalism is pushing large swaths of people away from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. This move is in some ways a reaction to postmodernism. We are leaving behind postmodernism’s attempt to treat science and amorphous religion as equals. Since we are in the information age, this move away from postmodernism is spreading globally. Deism’s rise is a result of these broader trends.”
“A large segment of Turkey is what I would call ‘fairweather Muslims.’ They create a relationship with God on their own terms. They do not fulfill the religious duties that Islam imposes. They say, “Thank God I am Muslim,” they fast for religious holidays, but they also drink alcohol—which is forbidden in Islam. But Islam is a religion that necessitates abiding by religious strictures. Fairweather Muslims are actually deists.”
Professor Belge, spoke to religious reforms, arguing that Islam is inherently political and has yet to go through a reformation like other monotheistic faiths.
“When the Turkish Republic was established after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the secularist, modernizing government adopted the mantra, ‘Science is the true guide.’ This sent a message to the clergy that they were no longer the enlightened class in society, and they were left marginalized. Islam was the religion of 99 percent of people in the newly established Republic. But they were also told that they could no longer politically define themselves as Muslims. This led many Muslims to feel like the underdog.”
“Millions of people are searching for a more humane, more loving religion. They are tired of religion constantly interfering in their lives. Some reactions are paradoxical: for example, for some women who want to attend university, their fathers insist that they don the headscarf. At first, it seems as if the women want to veil. But once you talk to these women, you realize that they are only veiling so that their families will give them permission to go to school. They are not concerned with the religious dimensions of their decision, their concerns are educational.”
“Islam is a political religion. Islam is not like Western or Far Eastern religions, because it is inherently political, and Islamic groups will always have political inclinations. But once these groups have balanced their own beliefs with their material conditions, these political tendencies can be softened, even disappear entirely.”
“Christians solved this issue many years ago. But were Christians any different? For example, Protestantism seems to be a progressive religion. But there are certain denominations, such as Calvinism, that are far from it. Calvinists escaped from England to America so that they could establish their own religious communities, free from any external intervention. They might seem progressive from the outside, but these were people who burned women at the stake.”
“We cannot change the beliefs of religious communities by excluding them. We must find a way to ensure everyone is at the table. Islam has not yet experienced the reforms that Judaism and other religions that preceded Islam have undergone. As a result, religion weighs heavily in politics.”
Activist Zehra Pala, looked at Turkey’s soaring Deist population from the perspective of women and Islam:Zehra Pala
“On social media, people joke that we should shut down the Association of Atheism, because the Ministry of Religious Affairs does a better job of advocating for atheism than we ever could. For example, the statement that they made on the issue of fathers lusting for their own daughters was appalling. They decided to take on the question, ‘Does the lust that a father feels for his biological daughter annul his marriage with his wife?’ and discussed it very openly. Using Islamic sources to answer this question, the Ministry of Religious Affairs ruled that ‘For a father to kiss or hug his daughter with lust has no effect on the marriage,’ as well as that ‘It is not sinful for a father to feel lust as he holds his daughter’s clothes or looks at her body. But the daughter must be older than the age of nine.’ How are we supposed to accept statements like this?”
“Although punishments are severe in countries where morality and religion are discussed hand in hand, crime rates are still high. But if we look to countries that are not as obsessed with religion, crime rates are much lower. The issue is not belief or morality, it is all about education, culture, and ethical values.”
“Children are questioning religion…if only adults would question it as well. My friend was called to school because her child was asking a lot of questions in class, and being a contrarian in general. And yet, her child’s teacher admitted that the kid was very successful on the exams. You can forbid science and history as much as you like, but you cannot forbid the questions that will form in children’s minds. If these children are pressured by their families and made to fear questions, they will become deists or secret atheists.”
“I am surprised by women that live in Turkey, believe in Islam, and yet claim to be secular. How can you read the Quran and defend secularism? These people have not read the scripture, do not know their religion, and although they do not realize it, they are in fact ‘deists.’”
How can a woman in good conscience accept Quranic scriptures such as this one (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:59): “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”
“Women and the youth need to stand up for secularism. They must do this out of self-respect, and in order to prevent child abuse. Backwards religious mentalities target children at a young age, under the guise of education, and poison their minds early on. Later, these same oppressive mentalities are applied to women. Secular men who respect human rights should respect women even more than they respect themselves, and defend women’s rights more ardently than women. The fact that some women work against women’s rights, and that those women who do fight for their rights are denigrated, is a tragedy.”
ΠΗΓΗ What is pushing half of Turkey towards Deism? | Ahval