No history of France, United States of America or China for example will be accepted as authentic if written by the hand of an Arab or African because its observations will be masked with deliberate misrepresentations and conjured with prejudices. We do however, accept how the West was won because we read the script and loved the genre of fiction on it. Turkey has a very rich tapestry crafted out of centuries of leadership which makes it resilient. Its resilience gives leverage to the Muslim to rise up again and give the world a richness again. Besides the series of Ertuğrul there is history we have not read. A glimpse into that history should awaken our souls.
The thrust of the Crusades lay in the souls of the Christians that Islam was a threat and had to be conquered. The conquest first began with the hearts of the people all over the known Christian world making believe that their lives were under the yoke of an impending Islamist onslaught thereby rendering them vulnerable to conversion by the sword. Emotional rhetoric coupled with edicts by kings gave birth to the genesis of the Crusades that permeate into the modern era where again Islam is seen as the Green threat. The Clash of Civilisations rears is head overtly in the name of world peace put out in the brand of globalisation.
Globalisation is not a new phenomenon because it has strong traces within the rise of colonisation, modernisation and industrialisation. In the era of colonisation that led to the scramble for Africa saw the ascent of capitalism shaping world politics and an aspiration of a global empire. The Roman concept of an empire was reborn with greater tenacity. The tenacity entered a new phase of advancing secularism which split church and state. Church and state became opponents but the extricable link to power made it impossible to have split as two parallel lines therefore, religion still remains a binding factor to idolise or demonise a people or a state. Europe chased for lands in Africa clashing with the Spaniards and the Portuguese because natural resources was the sure way to riches and longevity of king and country. Therefore, modernisation had to be under the ambit of western ideology and governance therefore, the imperative was to idolise the west and demonise everything foreign. The Muslim dynasties that ruled was still seen as pariah therefore, the extermination of the Caliphate became the mainstay of the American and European alliances known as the Entente. Fast track to WW1 & WW2 and the division of the world into nation states beyond the colonial map became the breeding ground for the new world order and the next world order. Turkey by the end of WW1 was already dissolved of its Ottoman Caliphate and reduced to a nation state under the tenacious craft of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of Turkey. He saved the Ottoman land from the Treaty of Sèvres which if enacted would have dissolved the entire Ottoman empire at the time into fiefdoms like that of the Middle East example, Saudi Arabia, Qattar, Abu Dhabi and the likes which in essence fizzled the universality of the Muslim brotherhood into nation states. Kemel’s nationalisation of Turkey ushered in a deeper sense of Turkish patriotism through the rigour of redress and reformation.
Under Kemel, the sweeping reforms that ushered in secularism at an unprecedented pace left the Ottoman’s theocracy to die. Its death was a physical one under the rapid Turkification but the essence of Islamic faith persisted in form under the repressive leadership of Kemel who sanctified western governance, industrialisation and modernisation fielding much of the precepts of the French Revolution. After the death of Kemel in 1938, the resurgence of Turkey inspired more interest in the Ottomans because there was an opening to what was repressed in Turkey and that was Islam.
“Peace at Home, Peace in the World“. Kemel’s famous expression.
Islam was seen as a threat after its initial phase of grand influence in the time of the Ottomans, then the threat was subdued with the rise of Communism but re-emerged with the fall of Communism and today, it is again a fear. However, it is imperative to understand and know that unlike colonisation, the Ottoman rule cannot also be equated to an empire. An empire in the sense of what we know from the Romans to the current occupation of Muslim lands is bent on resource extraction, extermination of indigenous people, brutal land expropriation, regime change, alienation of indigenous religion and long term service to the political vision of the conqueror. The Ottoman rule established itself on the concept of a Devlet where the underpin was to ‘feth’ (open) other lands to the religion of Islam. The ‘feth’ is translated by orientalists and modern historians as a conquest and therefore, the word empire became synonymous with the Ottomans. However, historians like Prof. Dr. Mehment Maksudoglu expressly write the history as the Osmanli history and its institutions to illustrate the fact that Islam under the rule of dynasties were not colonial in any way. The reversion of people into Islam cannot therefore be put under the very general statement that Islam spread by the sword because in the very nature of the Devlet’s sociopolitical structure there is no form of colonisation. The discourse on this is vast and it can be researched as well. The emphasis here is to illustrate that Turkey is seen as the last bastion of hope for the Muslim world yet at the same time, it is either idolised and demonised. This conflicting position is within all of us because world politics presents facts that puts us at odds with our beliefs and world views too. Therefore, facing these brutal facts will give us the power of conviction and deeper understanding of what we truly believe in.
Muslims believe in the nobility of the Muhammad ﷺ and when he was vilified, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the only Muslim leader who was vocal on the matter including condemning France over demonisation of Islam. In this way Turkey became idolised by Muslims all over the world and it was like the reawakening of the Devlet again. In the ring of fire that surrounds Turkey currently it is not hard to imagine what will the next foreign policy be on Turkey with the new President elect, Mr J.Biden. It is clear that the Nagorono-Karabakh war which Turkey provided military support to Azerbaijan is a red herring, although the extent of its support is disputed it does ring within the chambers of the White House. Therefore, it is important to understand and contextualise now that Armenia signed a treaty after defeat. Turkey on this matter is suffering a kind of demonisation because it is now seen in the light of USA, France, Russia and the likes of aiding and supporting regime change and armed conflict in situations where it can well remain independent. This dispute in context of the glorious history of the Ottoman Devlet can pivot Turkey into the space of super-powers fighting for domination in the realm of a military economy. For critics this can be smoking gun that alliances want to begin a campaign against Turkey. The most fervent campaign I think will begin on the stream of consciousness shaped by the ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ hoping to make Turkey vulnerable but then again the leadership in Turkey is poised differently with a newfound patriotism tinged with clear concern for the welfare of the wider Muslim community the world over. Unlike Kemel, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not secularist therefore, his agenda of a state within framework of Islamic law is seen as a threat because it does not conform with dictates of the next world order we see playing itself out.
“As a politician who cherishes religious conviction in his personal sphere, but regards politics as a domain belonging outside religion, I believe that this view is seriously flawed.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
A very capitalist corporatisation of the world is taking place with a few major economic role players shaping history such that Independent nation states in the Middle East and Africa for example have signed normalisation agreements with Israel whilst Turkey has not, makes it look like a holocaust denier when in fact it is not. It is not because, Turkey’s humanity is seen also in the massive number of refugees it is housing on its soil is far better than the way refugees are treated in Greece for example. The idolisation of Turkey is growing even when juxtaposed against the long standing issue with the Kurds. The internal conflict with the Kurds is the red herring that can, like the lie of WMD in Iraq, escalate into a ring of fire drawing international condemnation which would begin the drumbeat for a war. Like an orchestrated civil strife that was ignited in a generally safe Libya under Gadaffi that erupted into the messed up Libya today, is a kind of entrapment that is probably at play to weaken Turkey at the knees. The oil fields of Libya are liberated for alliances today that thrive on a war economy. This scenario is what Turkey, in my opinion is aware of therefore, the modernisation, technological advancement, development of a strong military complex and an advanced education system makes it a strong opponent and not an ally that can be hoodwinked. This vantage gives Turkey a sense of independence but opens the door for demonisation when it appears to extend its military influence beyond its borders like USA, France and UK to name but a few. The influence of Turkey is growing beyond its borders and its gaining momentum through the very same medium that got USA into our homes.
There are just so few nation states today that exude influence and a kind of fatal attraction and natural affinity because of its people through film. The United States of America hold this spot through Hollywood and won Vietnam on the set too and Turkey’s Ertuğrul series and follow up Kuruluş: Osman has entered the Guinness Book of World Records but, here is the new difference. While the culture of America has become the norm in societies because of the hype and sensation it is given through Hollywood, people are beginning to search for a new horizon because they see society getting sick and depraved. My personal interaction with people from Turkey in South Africa has only won my admiration because of the refinement of character and the sheer ambition to benefit humanity at large. In many instances the refinement of good behaviour played out like a scene from Ertuğrul. For decades now, the Turkish influence in South Africa is growing all because they are active in the socio-educational sphere opening schools, skills centres, feeding schemes and training centres giving people a clear insight of them as a people interested in common good.
We did not get the chance and not getting the chance to see the common good that people of Afghanistan for example were and are doing under the yoke of wars they were and are experiencing. Therefore, the Afghan is demonised under the stereotype and generalisation captured in the image of Osma bin Laden. Unlike the Afghanistan that defeated the Russians and earned the wrath of western media through rise of Taliban against the Northern Alliance and were demonised with its people; Turkey fought no war on its territory and therefore remained a mystery to the world. The mystery lie in the fact that it is transitioning from a secularist state to a religiously aware state reclaiming its history of greatness. This is attracting the world’s attention. This resurgence is idolised by many in light of how people are now identifying Islam with Turkey and its President and demonising the perpetrators of the murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi for example; which means that awareness is growing and people the world over now want to see Islam in practice and not in the glorious past or the books we write. The fact that we say, “As long as we follow Allah’s path, nobody can bring us to our knees.”, the practice of that is what the world wants to see and what we must do. It appears as though Turkey is attempting following that path and more than that, not as Turks but as a people wanting to express that Islam is a way of life. However, under the current geo-political climate they do not want to messed around with like the people of Iraq to Syria to Sudan. They don’t want to be brought to their knees because its demeaning and it sows hopelessness. They learnt first hand the duplicity of treaties with the west and know it to be destructive and weighted in favour of everything non-Turkish. Turkey, idolised or demonised is not up to you and I to decide but, its a position to take because without a position on anything you are already on your knees. In my mind there is great admiration of Turkey by what I experienced in Turkey as tourist but also as a guest of the people here in South Africa especially in their schools.
The passion they have for schools is tremendous and very encouraging because it is filling the gap within Africa where governments struggle to make headway. The extent of their influence in this sector is not en masse but, it is significant enough to be more than the mosquito in the room. In South Africa for example, they are on the same competitive edge of many independent schools making them an important role player in leveraging the scope of competences for the indigenous people. This is the phenomenon across the world where they have established their schools under various brands where quality of infrastructure, teaching, empowerment, employment of locals and learning is top notch. The vigour with which they embrace education has made their schools, institutions that will leverage a new graduate who like the graduates of Harrow and Eton will take on the reigns of leadership in various sectors of Turkey. Furthermore, their manners attract you with a depth of love that you wish you had met these people before. You know, the most secularised Turk will have such respect for the call to prayer that it will astound you and we on the other hand, have had court cases on the call to prayer. ‘Manners maketh a man’ goes the adage and when you find the same thread in a people you have to realise there is a soul attachment to life. Etched in mind amongst many is the video of President Erdogan shopping at a supermarket and paying for it and the people watch. The common courtesy and rapport signals a people who value culture, tradition, religion and human relationships.
It is this relationship with body, mind and soul with a conscious awareness that makes you admire what you see. You are forced to reflect. You do reflect on yourself because of the general collective good behaviour of the other. Turkey no doubt, has the rabble rousers, village idiots and the likes but realistically they are so few and far between that you left wondering. Please draw a comparison with what you see daily in front of you with the people you meet and take note. When all of this is put into perspective it is clear that a great deal of idolisation of Turkey has overwhelmed many therefore, it is very difficult to frame and stigmatise them when they have such a profound and an incredible history. This history of Turkey that we reflect on from the angle of experience with the very people whose parents or grandparents lived it, will be impossible to diminish when they write it. Think about it: it is very possible that a grandparent is alive whose lineage is that with Abu Ayyub al-Ansari or Ertuğrul or of the supreme architect of the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul who can inspire greatness or be the ideal role model. A reality of this nature is palpable. This incredible history is so intense, deep and astounding that it will enliven your soul like the reading of the Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity, An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub‘s conquest of Occupied Palestine. Therefore, the writing of their own history will in many ways depreciate the western narrative because what they will write or have written will change the landscape of understanding geo-politics. It is like the deer writing the history of how it outran the lion many times. This addition will bolster strong authenticity to their narrative. This authenticity will overshadow the western bias we have become so used to as the ‘truth’. Idolised or demonised, Turkey in opinion will be protected because they want to follow Allah’s path and do not in any way want to be on their knees for any power. Yes, they will bend the knee in all of the great mosques they built and their schools will now teach them Islam without fear. History beckons a new horizon! The struggle to get Turkey on its knees is the new agenda on the world’s stage of geo-politics.