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Erbakan, Kisakurek, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism in Turkey.

TURKEY CONTINUES TO FUNCTION AS A MEMBER OF NATO AND nominally aspires to European Union membership, but for all practical purposes, it is positioning itself in opposition to the West. The Turkish leadership's rhetoric is increasingly similar to that of America's adversaries and is only rarely that of a partner and ally. What accounts for the gap between Turkey and the West? How deep is it? Though there is a great deal of writing on Erdogan and Turkish political Islam, we have only scratched the surface of the ideological baggage of Turkey's current elites. This article proposes to dig deeper to discern the key elements of this baggage and the extent to which Turkish policies today are a reflection of this. It links the rise of Tayyip Erdogan to his predecessor as leader of Turkish Islamism, Necmettin Erbakan, and the more uncompromising Islamist ideologue, Necip Fazil Kisakurek. The article concludes that a generation of Turkish Islamists and nationalists has been strongly influenced by a worldview that is deeply anti-Western and anti-Semitic, is based on a warped and highly conspiratorial approach to world affairs, and is increasingly widespread in Turkish society.

In December 2017, U.S. national security advisor General H. R. McMaster singled out Turkey and Qatar as prime sources of funding for extremist Islamist ideology globally. (1) Roughly at the time of McMaster's pronouncement, his point was unwittingly reinforced by a key mouthpiece of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the editor of the Islamist daily Yeni Safak, Ibrahim Karagul: "Turkey is emerging as a new power center opposing the United States, the world's strongest power... the matter is no longer about Jerusalem or about Turkey and Israel. It is a showdown between the United States and Turkey." (2) Karagul went on to claim that America's aim was to occupy Islam's holy sites, Mecca and Medina.

Either of these pronouncement would have been utterly unthinkable little more than a decade ago. Today, they only raise eyebrows. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that Turkey, aside from becoming increasingly authoritarian, is moving away from the Euro-Atlantic sphere mentally and ideologically. This, most observers realize, has important implications for the regional security of both Europe and the Middle East, not to speak of American interests.

But how deep is this shift, and what lies at its basis? There is more debate regarding these critical questions. A skeptic could observe that President Erdogan appears to use ideology instrumentally. Indeed, over the past few years his rhetoric, and evolving regime constellation, have cultivated Turkish nationalism as much as Islamism. Further, optimists maintain that Turkish society has developed rapidly in the past two decades, and that its economic strides will counterbalance the danger of radicalization. A parallel argument would hold that the problem is largely the abrasive personality of the Turkish president. Post-Erdogan, thus, Turkey may revert to the mean and return to its position as a reliable ally.

There is merit to these arguments. In particular, the excessive focus in the West on Erdogan's person does hinder deeper analysis of the intricacies of behind-the-scenes Turkish regime politics and masks the very real weaknesses of his position. And there is no question that if Erdogan is an ideologue, he is a very pragmatic one: His government at first relied on the followers of self-exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen to reduce Turkey's military and right-wing nationalist establishment to size. But when his relationship with the Gulenists turned sour, he promptly struck up an alliance with those very ultra-nationalist elements and turned against the Kurdish groups he had long cultivated while maximizing Turkish nationalist support.

Still, the ideological underpinnings of Turkish policies are undeniable. Education reforms implemented since 2012 strongly enhanced religious content in the public education system and were accompanied by a boom in religious schools, in many cases involving the forced conversion of secular public schools to religious schools. (3) A gigantic and activist state directorate for religious affairs has been built to promote Sunni Islam. (4) Simultaneously, especially following the 2011 Arab uprisings, Turkey's foreign policy was increasingly motivated by a Sunni Islamist agenda. (5) The Turkish leadership has also showed a worrisome penchant for conspiracy theories. Following the 2013 Gezi Park riots, government representatives famously blamed the "interest rate lobby" for orchestrating the unrest, and statements that clearly pass the threshold of anti-Semitism have become frequent.

This article will argue that Turkey's slide in the direction of Islamist ideology is real and goes beyond the personality of Tayyip Erdogan. To illustrate this point, it will study the ideological worldview of the current Turkish political elite and focus on two key sources. One is the worldview of Necmettin Erbakan, Erdogan's predecessor as leader of Turkey's Islamist movement, which was laid out in a posthumously published memoir. The second is the heritage of the Islamist poet Necip Fazil Kisakurek, a reference point not just for Erdogan but for a generation of both Islamist and nationalist elites in Turkey. Their once fringe ideas, far from being arcane, have increasingly become mainstream.

A Rare Window into the Worldview of Turkish Islamism

NECMETTIN ERBAKAN IS RECOGNIZED AS THE FOUNDER OF TURKISH POLITICAL Islam, and was the leader of the dominant Islamist movement, Milli Gorus (National View). His 2011 funeral was attended by a who's who of the global Islamist movement, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and the Muslim Brotherhood's former spiritual guide, Mohamed Mahdi Akef. (6) Tunisian Islamist leader Rashid al-Ghannouchi noted that "in the Arab world in my generation, when people talked about the Islamic movement, they talked about Erbakan... it is comparable to the way they talked about Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb." (7) Erbakan's political career spanned five decades; he became Turkey's first Islamist prime minister but was deposed within a year by the military in what has been termed the 1997 "postmodern" coup. Though he was banned from politics from 1998 onward, he continued to exert considerable influence on Turkish political Islam.

The title of Erbakan's posthumously published memoir, Davam, is Turkish for "my cause." The word dava, from the Arabic dawa, could mean either cause or proselytism. This remarkable book begins with a chapter on "creation and humans," followed by "our Islamic dava" and "the forces that run the world." Subsequent chapters discuss Islamic union, Cyprus, industrialization, and culture. But it is the first three chapters that provide the most significant window into the nature of the Turkish Islamist movement. They show that Erbakan's worldview differed strongly from traditional Turkish Islam and that it exhibits important influences from the modern Middle East, particularly from Muslim Brotherhood ideology. While Erbakan's anti-Western thinking appears strongly inspired by Qutb's ideas, he also exhibits an obsession with conspiracy theories and most notably, shares the Islamized anti-Semitism of European origin to which Qutb subscribed.

The Influence of Arab Islam

ERBAKAN'S OPENING CHAPTER CONSTITUTES A PASSIONATE ARGUMENT FOR ISLAM as an all-encompassing guide to individual and social conduct. Given that he was a card-carrying Islamist, this may not come as a surprise. But the book begins by asserting that "there is no source of justice or truth aside from Islam" and that "reason without Islam cannot, on its own, know the absolute truths, and cannot tell good from evil." Erbakan goes on to explain that the clashes between philosophers and the battles between ideologies are all a result of the neglect of this fundamental truth, and asserts that nothing good can come from any science or technology that does not take its inspiration from the Qur'an. To any reader familiar with Islamic theology, this perspective indicates an understanding of Islam more reminiscent of Middle Eastern Islamic traditions than the Turkish mainstream: it derives from Ash'ari rather than Maturidi theology, and from Shafi'i and Hanbali rather than Hanafi jurisprudence.

A clarification may be in order. In the eighth to tenth centuries, a highly rationalist theology known as Mu'tazila flourished in Iraq, heavily influenced by Hellenistic philosophy. It was gradually reduced to obscurity by the three chief theological schools that exist today. (8) The literalist Athari school, which gave rise to modern-day Salafi and Wahhabi doctrines and is prominent among the followers of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, rejects the very notion of theology itself, finding it an unnecessary and harmful exercise. While it has received a boost in recent decades through Saudi and Gulf support, it has traditionally languished in the shadows of the established Ash'ari and Maturidi schools of theology. These two ideologies both opposed the Mu'tazilite effort to relegate revelation to secondary status. They have many commonalities, and the main difference between them concerns the role of human reason. The Maturidi school accepts the notion that human reason can discern good from evil without the aid of divine revelation. The Ash'ari school, agreeing with the Athari and Hanbali literalists, vehemently rejects that notion. (9) In subsequent centuries, the Ash'ari school became dominant in the largely Shafi'i and Maliki lands of the Middle East and is present in all four schools of jurisprudence. The Maturidi tradition grew strong in areas dominated by the Hanafi madhab. Thus, not every Hanafi is necessarily Maturidi, but in practice, every Maturidi is Hanafi. (10)

The Ottoman Empire was the center of the Hanafi-Maturidi tradition, which remains the dominant theological school in Turkish Islam, as it does in Central Asia and the Balkans. Against this background, Erbakan's assertions are significant because they suggest a fundamental departure from traditional Turkish Islam and an embrace of theological thinking from the Middle East. As we will see, this is not the only example. This complicates the oft-stated notion of Turkish Islamism as "neo-Ottoman." It certainly is built on Ottoman nostalgia and an urge to restore the greatness of the past, allegedly built on Islam. But ideologically, it constitutes a rupture with Ottoman tradition, and its roots lie elsewhere.

Two key ideological inspirations of Turkish Islamism are responsible for this deviation: the Naqshbandi-Khalidi order and the Muslim Brotherhood. As M. K. Kaya and I detailed in a study in Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, the Naqshbandiyya's Khalidi branch was the locus of Turkish political Islam's formation: it was only with the explicit permission of Erbakan's Naqshbandi shaykh that he launched a career in politics. (11) The nineteenth-century founder of the Khalidi branch, Khalid-i Baghdadi, stood out for his emphasis on sharia law. As his Turkish biographer summarizes, he was "itikaden Es'ari, fikhi yonden Safii, mesrep acisindan Naksibendi-Muceddidi"--Ash'ari by creed, Shafi'i by jurisprudence, and Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi by spiritual way. (12) Thus, the shaykhs he empowered and who went on to establish the Khalidi branch as the most influential religious order in present-day Turkey were, from the outset, trained in the Ash'ari and Shafi'i tradition. They brought this with them to Turkey, where the Naqshbandi became increasingly influential in the nineteenth-century Ottoman bureaucracy, following the suppression of the Bektashi order. While the predominant Hanafi-Maturidi school did exert influence on many Khalidi disciples in the bureaucracy, their rise nevertheless opened Ottoman Islam to influences from the Middle East.

A second, subsequent source of influence that would confirm this worldview is Muslim Brotherhood ideology. Erbakan writes that Islam is the salvation of all mankind and therefore, every human being, whether Muslim or not, must accept Muhammad's leadership. (13) In this, one cannot ignore the inspiration Erbakan drew from Sayyid Qutb, the key ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, who argued in his seminal work, Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones), that "for human life, there is only one true system, and that is Islam." (14) As we will see, this is far from the only area where Qutb influenced Erbakan.

Erbakan's View of the West

THE WAY ERBAKAN SAW THE WESTERN WORLD WAS, NEEDLESS TO SAY, TYPICAL of Islamist thinkers and highly negative. He allowed that in comparison to the socialist bloc, the West had managed to build a society with higher production and therefore greater material well-being. But in the end, the West is not so different from the East: both rely on materialistic principles, and human conscience has been lost. Worse, women are forced to work on the same level as men and thus, responsibilities are being forced upon women that conflict with their nature. As a result, Western women are by definition unhappy--unlike in Islamic society, where materialism and spirituality exist side by side. Muslims, in contrast to people in the materialist and selfish West, do not forget their modesty and charity once they acquire material wealth. Quite to the contrary, they constantly strive to help others. And most importantly, women are given tasks in accordance with their nature, to maintain the home and family while men earn the family's living. In this, Erbakan channels Qutb's veneration of the homemaker in Al-'Adalah alijtima'yya fil-Islam (Social Justice in Islam). (15)

Erbakan's disdain for the West goes deeper, and illustrates the question many Muslims ask: if Islam is so superior to other religions, why then is the Muslim world so backward? (16) Erbakan's answer is simple: because all that the West has, it took from the Muslims. At least 60 to 70 percent of human knowledge, he alleges, was produced by Muslims, but "arrogant and imitator" Western scholars fail to admit that much of what they produced builds on what they took from Muslims. The European languages were so poor that it took Westerners until the seventeenth century to understand the knowledge taken from Muslims in the fourteenth century. As a result, Erbakan argues, Muslims are awed by the knowledge in Western books they read, unaware that "those principles were taken by reading books written by Muslims." In the process, Erbakan commits glaring errors: he claims "a Muslim" (Jamshid al-Kashi) rather than the Greeks first calculated the number pi accurately, but neglects to mention the many Asian and European scholars, before and after al-Kashi, had perfected this calculation. He claims Muslims discovered the decimal system, but omits reference to Chinese discoveries centuries earlier. And finally, he relates the apocryphal story of how Columbus calmed a near-mutiny on his ship by telling his crew that he knew from Muslim scholars' books that there is land in the West, and "Muslim scholars never lie." (17) Two things stand out in Erbakan's analysis of the West. First, he exhibits either ignorance or deception concerning the history of science and ideas and the role played by Western societies in their development. Second, it is notable that when discussing other civilizations, he defines them by their ethnic identity--Indians and Chinese, not Hindus, Buddhists, or Confucians--yet when speaking of Arab, Persian, or Turkish historical figures, he systematically defines them by their religious identity, as Muslims, rather than their ethnic or national origin. In other words, he applies different standards to different peoples.

The Central Role of Anti-Semitism

ERBAKAN'S CHAPTER ON "THE FORCES THAT GOVERN THE WORLD" IS MORE REmarkable and chilling than his anti-Western diatribes. Events do not happen by chance, Erbakan argues: "It is necessary to see there is a force that wants to ensure its hegemony and enslave, subordinate, and exploit all humans." (18) That makes it imperative to understand the methods used by this force. Who is this force? The answer: the Jews. All Jews blindly follow the orders given in the Torah, Erbakan asserts. But what is the Torah? Only five of its thirty-nine books were given to Moses, and the others were written over subsequent centuries by men. Therefore, it is not the unadulterated word of God--it has been manipulated and has lost its religious nature. Zionism and the belief in a superior race, which Erbakan believes comes from the Torah, cannot be attributed to a prophet, nor can what he terms the "sexual perversity" found there. Therefore, it follows, Judaism is not really a religion. Jews do not worship God but themselves, and strive only to protect their race's superiority. Judaism is an ideology created by rabbis based on racial arrogance, and then decorated to look like a religion. The atheism of the Jews is shown by Genesis 32:28, which proves that the Jews see themselves above God, since Jacob "struggled with God and won." Since Jacob was told his name would henceforth be Israel, the name of the State of Israel is a symbol of being against God.

In fact, Erbakan argues, the Jews have made control over the world a central element of their ideology. The Talmud broadened the Torah's edicts on world hegemony and explained Jews' racial superiority. The Torah announced that a Jewish land would be created in Canaan and would be the center of a world kingdom. The Jews harbor a deep hatred for all other peoples, which has led to their orchestrating countless massacres and instigating multiple wars. Over time, their wish to control the world became a belief in its own right: world hegemony became their religion. As a result, in the past 400 years, the Jews exploited the riches of America, Europe, and Asia. They created world capitalism, which made them astronomically wealthy. Gradually, they came to control the politics of all countries. To accomplish this, they took over all media and news agencies, as well as think tanks. In sum, Erbakan writes, they created a "secret world state" and now manage the world.

The secrets of the Jews are found in kabbalism--of which freemasonry is a product--and only three kabbalists in Jerusalem know all the secrets of the conspiracy. This group is selected from among the Sanhedrin, a seventy-member council of rabbis, under which a "sworn council" of seventy is tasked with implementing the requirements of those who rule the world. To control the world, Erbakan claims, the Zionists created a number of organizations. These include formal ones such as the United Nations, but equally important are the informal groupings, particularly the Bilderberg Group, "created by a group of Jews in 1954" to "plan world politics and economics for Zionist profit." (19) To advance the Zionist aim of a world union under Jewish control, the Bilderberg Group created the European Union, as well as the Trilateral Commission. To run America's foreign policy, Zionists created the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), run by thirty-seven permanent members, of which ten are Jews and the remainder Freemasons. The CFR controls the "showpiece" State Department.

How do the Zionists control the world economy? Their means, asserts Erbakan, include driving countries into economic crises and then lending their governments money at exorbitant interest rates. Most of the decolonization movement in the third world was for show: colonies became independent states, but the new rulers were Freemasons who further entrenched the dependence and colonization of their countries. For Zionists, Erbakan argues, dividing and breaking up other countries and forcing them into war with one another is not just politics, "it is a belief." For, Erbakan says, the Torah and kabbalah both note that Jews are the superior race; other races developed from monkeys to serve the Bani Israel (children of Israel). Further, "those who control the world" take 9 percent of the value of all flight tickets through the International Air Transport Association, insure all world shipping through Lloyds of London, and charge 1 to 5 percent commissions on all banking transactions.

As proof of this conspiracy, Erbakan cites the great seal of the United States on the one-dollar bill: "Annuit coeptis" really declares the victory of the Zionist project, and "novus ordo seclorum" announces the Zionist world order. Lest anyone think the date 1776 has anything to do with the Declaration of Independence, Erbakan knows better: it refers to the creation that year, by Zionist leader Adam Weishaupt, of the first lodge of the Order of the Illuminati.

The first step in Jewish world domination is for Jews in the Diaspora to gather in Palestine, and then to form Greater Israel between the Nile and the Euphrates. Then, Zionists will rebuild the Temple of Solomon on the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque in the belief that the Messiah will arrive. For Israel's security, therefore, there can be no independent Turkey. Erbakan relates Theodor Herzl's approach to Sultan Abdulhamit to buy land in Palestine, a staple of Turkish Islamist--and extreme nationalist--conspiracy theories. When this request was rejected, Erbakan claims, the Zionists at the first Zionist Congress in 1897 decided to overthrow Abdulhamit, dissolve the Ottoman Empire, and within a hundred years, dissolve Islam itself. To implement the plan, the Zionists created the Committee for Union and Progress, which completed the first task in 1909, sending Abdulhamit into exile. Then, Zionists forced the empire into the First World War, bringing about its dissolution with the Treaty of Sevres, which was "fundamentally a project of Greater Israel." While the Turkish war of independence reversed their plans, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne was introduced in order to create a state where the Turks would be alienated from their religion and all their institutions taken over by world Zionism. Thus, from that point onward, "collaborators" in Turkey have tried to join the EU to remove Turkey from its own identity. Every force Turkey confronts--nay, every force in the world--is controlled by world Zionism and bent on the destruction of Turkey as a state, nation, and community.

If this account of the "real" politics of the world were not so dangerous, one would credit Erbakan for managing to fit so many diverse conspiracy theories together in one seemingly coherent scheme. Erbakan manages to bring in traditional nineteenth-century conspiracy theories focusing on the purported role of Jews and secret societies, as well as modern conspiracies better known as the "New World Order." Subsequently, he broadened his reach even further, naming the Rotary and Lions Clubs as the lowest levels of the world conspiracy. (20) In other words, Erbakan hardly found a conspiracy theory he did not like--and gave them voice in the many television interviews he gave in the later years of his life. (21) In these, he often appeared with his hands full of internet printouts, pictures of the great seal, or newspaper clippings that he claimed prove his points, while he methodically and calmly explained the elements of the "Secret World State."

The Muse: Necip Fazil Kisakurek

BORN IN 1903, NECIP FAZIL KISAKUREK WAS THE IDEOLOGICAL INSPIRATION FOR a generation of Turkish Islamists and right-wing nationalists. Kisakurek was not primarily a politician but a prolific poet and writer, who built a coherent ideological structure for Turkish Islamism called Buyuk Dogu, or "Great Orient." As we will see, his intellectual legacy was broader and deeper than Erbakan's.

Kisakurek was born into an upper-class Istanbul family in 1904 and attended several elite schools, which made him fluent in French and led him to spend a year at the Sorbonne in 1924-25. His Islamist and nationalist tendencies were already developing, but Kisakurek led a troubled personal life until 1934, when he met the Naqshbandi shaykh Abdulhakim Arvasi, who immediately exerted an enormous influence on him. Arvasi led him to be initiated into the Naqshbandi order, which remained a key guiding light for him until his death. Kisakurek was a prolific writer, publishing dozens of books as well as the influential Buyuk Dogu periodical, which was published intermittently between 1943 and 1978. None of Kisakurek's books has been translated into English, though Burhanettin Duran's 2001 doctoral dissertation provides an excellent summary of his life and work. (22)

Kisakurek's ideology was based on a rejection of the modernizing revolutions--from the 1839 Tanzimat and the 1876 Mesrutiyet to the 1923 proclamation of the republic. Instead, he advocated an Islamic revolution, leading to a society based on sharia law. While the emphasis on sharia might seem odd for a Sufi, it is fully coherent from the point of view of the Naqshbandi order, which has always sought to remain in the Sunni Orthodox mainstream and views the mystical elements of Sufism as a second story on top of sharia. Indeed, as Thierry Zarcone has demonstrated, the twentieth-century Naqshbandi thinkers of Turkey accorded growing attention to the eleventh-century theologian Al-Ghazali and sixteenth-century Naqshbandi shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi because of their efforts to reconcile Sufism and Orthodox Sunnism. Indeed, as Zarcone puts it, these theologians are "at the core of this movement, which tends to approximate as much as possible, to the point of conflating, Sufism and Sharia." (23) However, Kisakurek was dismissive of modern Islamist thinkers, from Muhammad Abduh to Sayyid Qutb and Abul A'la Mawdudi, because they rejected the medieval ulema and were anti-Sufi, and thus they refused to appreciate the hidden, inner meaning of Islam. (24)

Kisakurek, however, particularly admired the medieval theologian Al-Ghazali. (25) From Al-Ghazali, Kisakurek drew not only the marriage of Sufism and Orthodoxy, but an understanding of Islam that determined every aspect of political, social, and individual life, leading him to compose a manual of social and individual rules. (26) Indeed, just as Lenin concluded that there was no private life for a Communist, Kisakurek believed the same about Muslims. (27) The ideology he developed was clearly totalitarian in spirit.

Kisakurek, like most modern Turkish Islamists, was heavily influenced by Western, and particularly fascist, political thought, which he adapted to Islam. Thus, he saw the Islamic revolution--which would take place in Turkey and spread to the rest of the Muslim world--as the culmination of the French, Bolshevik, and fascist revolutions and believed that liberalism, socialism, and fascism would find a balance in the Islamic system, a "synthesis of their thesis and antithesis." (28) The Islamic system would be a deliverance not just to Muslims, but to all of mankind. As a totality, Islam would correct all wrongs and answer all questions. Kisakurek, thus, was fundamentally anti-Western, as he aspired to have the Islamic revolution form a counterbalance to the West's "material and spiritual imperialism." But he was astute enough to understand the weak position of the Muslim world and therefore argued that Islam must take what is good from the West, such as technology, but not the bad, particularly its lack of spiritualism. Importantly, he argued in favor of maintaining good relations with the West until such time as the Islamic revolution had matured and the Muslim world was able to stand up to the West. (29)

The Islamic revolution, in Kisakurek's view, would enable the full reversal of Kemalism. When the state was guided by Islam, it would employ state institutions, law, and education as vehicles of revolution to create a new, pious youth.

Kisakurek developed a very detailed political ideology. As Tunc Aybak has summarized it, he advocated the "introduction of a totalitarian Islamist regime inspired by the Turkish-Islamist synthesis." (30) This included a depiction of an ideal state, which he termed the Basyucelik, meaning the "rule of the most exalted." Kisakurek rejected the very principle of democracy, namely that the people were the source of government. To him, without doubt, God was the source. Thus, Kisakurek spoke of a government whose slogan would be hakimiyet hakkindir, power belongs to God, a clear statement of opposition to Ataturk's motto, egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz milletindir, meaning sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people. In Kisakurek's system of government, the country would be led by the most exalted leader, the Basyuce, the most perfect man, who is elected by the members of the Basyucelik Divani, the "Council of the most exalted." This leader would embody the will of the people--milli irade--and concentrate executive, legislative, and judicial power in himself. His decrees, as long as they were in accordance with sharia, would be considered the extension of divine law. Only if the 101 exalted members of the council were irreparably split would there be recourse to the people's will through elections. Of course, in this state, Turkey would have been homogenized into a religiously Sunni and ethnically Turkish nation, with minorities forced to assimilate or leave. In other words, the "people" as seen by Kisakurek was exclusively the Sunni Turkish majority. (31)

Kisakurek's only attempt at entering politics directly did not succeed. In 1951 he created the Buyuk Dogu Party, which did not survive long. After a brief stint in jail, he struck up a relationship with Democrat Party (DP) leader Adnan Menderes, from whom he accepted covert payments. (32) He urged Menderes to destroy the Republican People's Party (CHP), something Menderes resisted (though in the late 1950s, he did take steps to marginalize the opposition). Kisakurek was convinced this failure to destroy the CHP is what led Menderes to be hanged. He then supported the DP's successor, the Justice Party, in the 1960s, and shifted his allegiance to the first overtly Islamist party, the National Salvation Party, when Erbakan created it toward the end of the decade. But this did not last long: Kisakurek was a rigid ideologue, and Erbakan a shrewd politician. When Erbakan had the opportunity to form a coalition with the CHP under Bulent Ecevit's leadership in 1974, he jumped at it, and became deputy prime minister. Kisakurek, like many Turkish Islamists, was enraged that an Islamist party would even consider cooperating with the godless party of Ataturk. He denounced Erbakan as a traitor to the cause and shifted his support to Alparslan Turkes's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). In so doing, he was also able to extract concessions. Turkes, in part in order to receive Kisakurek's endorsement, publicly declared in 1977 the MHP's commitment to a Turkish nationalism wedded to Islam. (33)

Not surprisingly, Kisakurek's worldview was as warped as Erbakan's. If at all possible, it was colored by anti-Semitism to an even greater extent, though his conspiracy theories were not quite as lurid as Erbakan's. It was also considerably more racist. As Gareth Jenkins observes, racist and virulently anti-Semitic ideas "were not peripheral to Kisakurek's worldview but were at its core." (34) Indeed, among the long list of "orders of the Basyuce" that Kisakurek helpfully proposed in his Ideolocya Orgusu, the magnum opus which in rough translation is entitled "web of ideology," there is a specific section on expulsion. It states very clearly that the first groups that need to be expelled from Turkey are the Jews and the Donme --the latter being descendants of followers of the seventeenth-century false messiah Sabbatai Zvi, who converted to Islam in 1666. The Donme, while nominally Muslim, have maintained a distinct community since then. While Kisakurek argued for the expulsion of other non-Muslim communities such as Greeks and Armenians, these groups were offered the chance to become assimilated to a Turkish and Muslim identity. Even if they did not, they would be compensated for expropriation of their assets when exiled. Not so the Jews and Donme. According to Kisakurek, Jews had an innate identity that was unchangeable, and thus they could never become real Turks and Muslims. Proof of this fact was the Donme community, which in spite of its conversion to Islam centuries ago, refused to assimilate. In Kisakurek's words, they had "shown for centuries that they will not be of us." (35) Therefore, all their assets were to be expropriated, and they would be handed only enough money to survive for a year upon their exile. When this ethnic cleansing was complete, Turkey would be clean and "shine like a diamond." (36)

Kisakurek's hatred of Jews was conditioned by his conviction that the Jews and Donme, together with Freemasons, had conspired to overthrow the Ottoman Empire. In a much more detailed way than Erbakan, Kisakurek explained that the Mesrutiyet reforms of 1877-1909 were the work of a cabal of Jews, Masons, and Donme aiming to destroy Islam. The righteous sultan Abdulhamit worked diligently to defend the empire, Islam, and Turkishness against this cabal and the Western imperialism it represented, and that is why he became its victim. In other words, the Young Turk Revolution was a plot by Jewish-led forces against the empire. Especially after Abdulhamit rejected the Jews' offer to pay all the empire's foreign debt in exchange for a slice of Palestine, the Jews put in place the Committee for Union and Progress to overthrow him and realize their plan. Then, when the empire collapsed, the Jews orchestrated the "fake" liberation of Turkey from the Western powers on the condition that the nation and state be separated from Islam. Hence the revolution of Ataturk, and the Arab world's division into dozens of states that the Jews could easily control and pit against each other. (37)

This fixation with Jews is not limited to Kisakurek's Ideolocya Orgusu. The subject colors his treatment of Abdulhamit, Ulu Hakan, and occupies a chapter in his 1973 book Turkiye Manzarasi and an entire volume symptomatically entitled Yahudilik--Masonluk--Donmelik, "Judaism, Freemasonry, and the Donme." In all these texts, two things are clear: Kisakurek, on one hand, has a very specific Turkish context for his hatred, namely the conspiracy theory concerning the Ottoman Empire's collapse. Simultaneously, his anti-Semitism is inspired by European conspiracy theories. Thus, Kisakurek blames the Jews for the French Revolution, the emergence of capitalism, and the creation of Communism. On repeated occasions he published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion--in appendices to his books, including Yahudilik, and through serialized commentary in Buyuk Dogu. Similarly, he republished Henry Ford's The International Jew with his commentary and praised both works effusively. As Sean Singer has remarked, "for all his claims about the absolute division between East and West, Necip Fazil's works, and his anti-Semitism, bear the imprint of European influence." (38)

Conspiracy Theories and Anti-Semitism in Turkish Islamism

THE WORLDVIEWS DESCRIBED ABOVE COULD BE EASILY DISMISSED AS DELUSIONAL rants by an aging politician and a marginal ideologue. But that would be a mistake, for two reasons. First, these theories are not marginal in Turkish society, and second, their premise is far from innocent. As Daniel Pipes showed in his study of conspiracy theories in the Middle East, The Hidden Hand, far from being relegated to the fringe, "conspiracism constitutes one of the region's most distinctive political features." (39) As Pipes put it, "however wrong-headed they may be, these views have great consequence... analyzing the region without taking the hidden hand into account is comparable to studying the American economy without Wall Street or Soviet Politics without Marxism-Leninism." (40) Writing in 1996, Pipes argued that "conspiracism has little real impact on the mainstream of public life in Turkey," but he did include examples from Turkey in his appendix, "with an eye to the future." (41) While his analysis was correct at the time, that future has arrived with a vengeance and contributed to making Turkey increasingly Middle Eastern.

The conspiratorial worldview of Erbakan and Kisakurek was marginal as late as the mid-1990s, but it has now become mainstream and enjoys state support. Turkey's Islamist circles are deeply permeated by conspiracy thinking, but variations of such conspiracy theories are not limited to the Islamists. On the left and on the right, among nationalists and Kemalists, similar conspiracy theories abound, whether or not they include the Jews in a prominent role. Many Kemalists believe that the West, particularly America, seeks to destroy Turkey--and that Western and U.S. support for Erdogan and "moderate Islam" in Turkey is a vehicle to achieve that goal. (42) As they found themselves out of power, they began to spin even more lurid tales, even accusing Erdogan and Gul of being crypto-Jews in the service of the same Zionist world conspiracy. Yet as Marc Baer has shown, these secularists have merely borrowed conspiracy theories created by the Turkish Islamists and extreme right--sometimes acknowledging earlier Islamists as their source--and reversed the roles. (43)

Some of these books have become huge bestsellers, which is worrying in its own right. But what is different about Erbakan's worldview is that his work is not the rant of a conspiracist journalist, but a political leader--a leader who created and inspired the movement that led to creation of Turkey's dominant party, in which Turkey's current leaders got their political education. In Kisakurek's case it is, as we will see, the worldview of a person still seen as an intellectual reference point for Turkey's entire ruling elite. Importantly, delusional conspiracy theories focusing on anti-Semitic tales are not an occasional feature of their ideology. They are a central tenet, a pillar of both Milli Gorus and Buyuk Dogu thought, from which their social, political, and economic agendas and perspectives on the West cannot be separated.

Furthermore, this central tenet leads all domestic enemies of political Islam to be defined as collaborators with Zionism, and therefore as traitors to the nation. Thus, the works of Erbakan and Kisakurek provide a window into exactly how radical and extreme the environment of Turkish political Islam is--and how its followers' worldview is distorted by wild conspiracy theories. (44)

As both Bassam Tibi and Marc Baer have shown, this form of anti-Semitism is not based on traditional Islamic antipathy to Jews, but draws distinctly on European nineteenth-century racist thought: the Jews are immutable and evil, and "carry essential biological traits that can never be altered." (45) Indeed, these ideas were introduced into Turkey in the late Ottoman period in part by British diplomats, who had theorized that the Young Turk Revolution was the work of Jewish Freemasons from Salonika. (46)

Tibi defines this as genocidal anti-Semitism, distinct from the traditional Jew-hatred in the Muslim world. (47) As he argues, European anti-Semitism was exported to the Muslim world in the early twentieth century, with Nazi propaganda during the Second World War playing a crucial role--a fact decisively demonstrated by Mattias Kuntzel. (48) While it was taken up eagerly by Arab nationalists, it was internalized by Islamists, who in turn give "antisemitism a religious imprint and aim to make it look like an authentic part of traditional Islam, not an import from the West." (49)

From Mas-Kom-Ya to the "Interest Lobby"

THE DISCUSSION ABOVE HAS ILLUSTRATED THE WORLDVIEW OF ARGUABLY THE TWO most influential figures of Turkish political Islam in the past fifty years. Yet this does not, in and of itself, say much about the Justice and Development Party (AKP), or the political thought of Turkey's dominant political figure, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Indeed, the AKP was formed very much as a break with the past, with the political tradition that Erbakan represented. Yet while the AKP's founders broke with Erbakan, they never repudiated his vile conspiracist worldview, and even more symptomatically, they never broke with Kisakurek, whom Erdogan and virtually the entire AKP leadership continue to glorify to this day.

Erbakan was a controversial leader of Turkish political Islam. Already in the mid-1970s his harsh leadership style led non-Naqshbandi orders to leave the party, and by 1977 he was challenged for the party leadership by Korkut Ozal, brother of future president Turgut Ozal. (Incidentally, Erdogan sided with Korkut Ozal in this struggle.) (50) As a result, Turkish Islamism was divided: large sections of Islamist circles supported other parties of the right rather than Erbakan's, which prevented political Islam from reaching its true potential. Further, the tensions between Erbakan and Erdogan are well-known: Erbakan was suspicious of Erdogan, and may even have prevented him from gaining a seat in parliament in 1991. (51) Thus, while Erbakan's ideology was representative of the Turkish Islamist movement as a whole, there was no direct mentorship relationship between the two men. There is no indication that Erbakan was particularly fond of Erdogan; if anything, he considered him a threat to his control over the party. Erdogan, of course, went out of his way to placate Erbakan, going so far as to name his son Necmettin Bilal after Erbakan. (52)

Erdogan's main inspiration is not Erbakan, but Kisakurek. He confirmed this in a 2002 interview with the Economist's Turkey correspondent, who asked which world figure had influenced and inspired him. The response was unequivocal: "Necip Fazil Kisakurek." (53) Nor was he alone: former president Abdullah Gul similarly identified Kisakurek as "the most important intellectual who had a major impact on my worldview." (54) In fact, the nineteen-year-old Gul wrote an admiring letter to Kisakurek, explaining that he was at his service "under any conditions." (55) Much later, Gul told a friendly British biographer that later in life, he was "somewhat embarrassed by some of Fazil's ideas." (56)

Erdogan, however, appears to feel no such embarrassment. In fact, he frequently appears at events in Kisakurek's honor. In 2013, at an event organized by the Union of Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, Erdogan related how he "had read [Kisakurek's] works, got to know him, and found the opportunity to walk in his footsteps." (57) In 2014, Erdogan gave the keynote speech introducing an award given in Kisakurek's honor by the pro-government newspaper Star. He recounted that during his university years, an event involving recital of the "Master's" poetry was going to be held. There were two finalists, Erdogan and another youth. Kisakurek rapidly dismissed the first youth but approved of Erdogan's reading. "This was a beginning," added Erdogan; "we went to many places with the Master. And in this context I got to know him closely." (58) Indeed, at a 1975 "National Youth Evening" organized by the Islamist student organization Milli Turk Talebe Birligi (National Turkish Student Organization, MTTB), Kisakurek recited his poem to Turkish Youth, "Genclige Hitabe," then reportedly called Erdogan to the stage. (59) Speaking at an event in Konya in 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay emphasized that "starting with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the entire cadre that runs the country, including a large majority of the cabinet, were influenced by Master Necip Fazil." (60) And when Erdogan in late 2017 warned that relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would lead to Muslims losing Mecca and Medina, the occasion was yet another event honoring the memory of the Master. (61)

Indeed, the career of the young Erdogan illustrates the degree to which he had internalized Erbakan and Kisakurek's worldview. In 1974, Erdogan helped direct, and also starred in, a play called Mas-Kom-Ya--short for "Mason, Komunist, Yahudi," or "Freemason, Communist, Jew." The young Islamist's interest in theater stems from the chaos in 1970s Turkey, which was plagued by violence between leftist and rightist groups. The Islamists of Erbakan's National Salvation Party decided not to get involved in the street fights, instead focusing on developing the Islamist presence on Turkey's cultural scene. As French journalist Pierre Boisson's fascinating research shows, a small team in the party's Istanbul youth wing found an older play called Kirmizi Pence, written by Mustafa Bayburtlu in 1969. They began to adapt the play to Turkey's contemporary situation, which included strengthening its anti-Zionist narrative. (62)

The action takes place in a factory somewhere in Turkey, where Ayhan bey, the factory boss, is warned by pious Muslims of the growing Communist threat. As an enlightened person who sent his son to Europe to study, he ignores their pleas. When his son Orhan--played by Erdogan--returns from Europe, he ridicules Islam and tradition, complains of the smell in the streets and the backwardness of the people, and boasts of his debauchery in Europe. His grandmother points an accusatory finger at Ayhan bey, saying she had urged him to send Orhan to study the Qur'an in childhood, but he had not listened. In the final scene, the workers occupy the factory in the name of the Socialist revolution. Ayhan bey finds out that the instigator of the revolt is a young Jew who had adopted a Muslim name, Memed, and tries in vain to berate the workers for being tricked by this degenerate. His friends lament how the Jews are behind every evil in the world, and would "burn the world to cook an egg." In a final turn of events, the workers are themselves arrested by Communist, presumably Soviet, soldiers who break into the room led by Memed the Jew. Memed cruelly announces that he has fooled everyone, that the Communist revolution has been completed. Everyone is now a slave of the Communist regime, will be forced to work, and will be given just enough food to survive. Before being taken away, the workers turn on Memed, asking, "Do you not have a shred of Turkishness or faith in your body?" (63)

This play was no marginal affair. When it was screened by the MTTB in Istanbul in 1976, over two thousand people attended the premiere. It was staged twenty to thirty times in Istanbul and kept drawing full houses in cities and towns across the country for the next two years, as Erdogan and his friends toured by bus on weekends. In 1977, the play was staged in the Ankara Palace, with Deputy Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan in the audience, along with other Islamist dignitaries. Erdogan's co-actor Atila Aydiner, presently mayor of the Istanbul municipality of Bayrampasa, reported that Erdogan was even more brilliant than usual that night--and that Erbakan took note of the young man. (64)

That Erdogan and his friends were young firebrands is, at least to Turkey watchers, no surprise. But many have assumed that as they grew older, they changed or evolved. Indeed, this "evolution" is the key foundational myth that made the AKP acceptable to centrist domestic audiences and to Europeans and Americans. (65) But there is much more evidence to suggest that the core worldview and values of Turkey's leaders have remained the same, even though they have proven able to repress them when needed. Indeed, their more controversial statements and actions of late are indicative of the extent to which they continue to be inspired by the Islamist ideology of their youth, and in particular by Kisakurek's ideas.

First and foremost, as some Turkish commentators have concluded, Kisakurek appears to be the main inspiration for the presidential system Erdogan won approval for in the 2017 referendum. (66) It is easy to see the parallels between the exalted position of Erdogan and Kisakurek's utopian Basyuce. Like the Basyuce, Erdogan rules without checks and balances, initiates legislation, and seeks to dispense justice unilaterally. Of course, Turkey today is not a full Basyucelik--there is a parliament, though it is increasingly reduced to rubber-stamping Erdogan's initiatives. There are courts, though increasingly, they, too, are solidly under the executive's control. Moreover, just like the Basyuce, Erdogan finds it appropriate to take an interest in the private affairs of his subjects, dispensing advice on the role of women in society, how many children they should have, and the appropriateness of various cultural genres. While still prime minister, Erdogan famously stated that "I am the prime minister of this country. Everything is my business." (67)

When faced with corruption allegations against his government and family in late 2013 as a result of the raids by prosecutors aligned with Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan responded by mobilizing his followers through large demonstrations under the banner Milli Irade, or "national will." Not coincidentally, this was the very same term used by Kisakurek for the popular consultation mechanism envisaged in the Basyucelik form of government. (68) Another inspiration lies in Kisakurek's notion of sovereignty: hakimiyet hakkindir, or "sovereignty belongs to God." In a notorious 1994 speech that can still be viewed online, a young Erdogan can be seen telling a large crowd that Ataturk's notion that sovereignty belongs to the people is a "huge lie." Erdogan purposefully uses Ataturk's concept of egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz milletindir (sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people), changing it to egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz Allah'indir (sovereignty belongs unconditionally to Allah).." (69)

The list could go on. As Fatih Yasli has observed, during deliberations for the 2012 reforms that began to re-Islamize the education system, Erdogan spoke about "raising pious generations," using language that borrowed heavily from Genclige Hitabe, Kisakurek's poem to Turkey's youth, mentioned above. (70) Some have drawn a parallel between Kisakurek's hatred for the CHP and Erdogan's frequently voiced grievances against the single-party regime's deeds--noting his focus on the same matters that most preoccupied Kisakurek. (71) Finally, a trace of Kisakurek's thinking can be seen even in Erdogan's approach toward minorities. On one hand, Erdogan strongly emphasizes his ethnic Turkish heritage, disregarding the well-known fact that much of his family hails from Georgia. He has reacted viscerally to allegations that he is anything except Turkish by heritage, channeling Kisakurek's racism, which is less visible in Erbakan's more pan-Islamic thinking. (72) Even in Erdogan's much-lauded approach to the Kurdish issue, Kisakurek's inspiration does not seem too far-fetched: while Kisakurek advocated the ethnic cleansing of Armenians and other smaller minorities, he was more conciliatory toward the Kurds. Because they are Sunni Muslims, Kisakurek envisaged them remaining in the country, on condition that they assimilated under the Muslim and Turkish umbrella. Indeed, Erdogan's own Kurdish "opening" similarly appeared to assume that he could focus on the Kurds' Sunni Muslim identity, and that given the greater emphasis on this religious identity under his rule, the ethnic question would somehow go away.

The negative attitude of Turkey's rulers toward Israel and Jews is by now well established. At times, Erdogan has toned down his vitriol for reasons of political expedience. This was the case in the early years of the AKP, when Erdogan needed American and European support; it has been the case again following what can best be termed a cease-fire with Israel after the 2016 coup attempt.

The AKP's hostility to Israel was visible early on, not least in its opening to Hamas at the expense of relations with Fatah. Erdogan's reaction to the 2008 Gaza war and sponsorship of the 2010 "Ship to Gaza" flotilla were part and parcel of this attitude. In January 2009, Erdogan stated that "there is a world media under the control of Israel," a statement he repeated when the Economist endorsed the opposition in the 2011 elections. (73) The anti-Semitic conspiracy mentality went into overdrive following the 2013 Gezi protests, when Erdogan blamed an unspecified "interest rate lobby" for instigating the riots. His close associates, Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek and Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, did not bother with coded language, openly blaming the Jewish Diaspora. (74) In 2014, following the mining accident in Soma, Erdogan screamed an anti-Semitic slur at a protestor, calling him an "Israeli sperm." (75)

In a December 2014 speech, he spoke of a "higher intellect," a "mastermind" behind events that had afflicted Turkey in the past eighteen months, urging his audience to research the nature of this mastermind for themselves, but adding, "you know who it is." (76) Three months later, a pro-government television station broadcast a feature-length documentary that began with Erdogan's words, filling in the blanks: for 3,500 years, it alleged, the Jews had sought to gain hegemony over the world. (77) In February 2015, he told a crowd that Judaism is demeaning to women and that the Torah had been doctored. (78) The list could go on. In May 2017, after winning the constitutional referendum and after the tenuous mending of Turkey-Israel relations, Erdogan gave a speech that decried Israel's "racist" policies and urged hundreds of thousands of Muslims to visit Jerusalem and "support our brothers there." (79) When President Trump announced America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Erdogan furiously declared Israel a terrorist state--at a ceremony commemorating Kisakurek. Outdoing himself, Erdogan then declared that "if Jerusalem goes, we will lose Medina. If Medina goes, we will lose Mecca. If Mecca goes, we will lose the Kaaba!" (80)

This should come as no surprise: there is a straight line linking Erdogan's 1976 role in Mas-Kom-Ya with the thinly veiled allegations of Jewish responsibility for the Gezi riots in 2013 and frequent outbursts against Jews and Israel. As the prime expert on Turkish anti-Semitism, Rifat Bali, concludes:
President Erdogan claims to have given up the ideology of Milli Gorus
and to have changed. But the fact that he continues to use
anti-Semitics stereotypes shows that reality is entirely different, and
shows that the negative stereotypes that he learnt during years reading
and listening to them have decisively marked his mentality. (81)

Looking Ahead: Implications for Turkey and America

THIS ARTICLE HAS AIMED TO PROVIDE A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THE formative elements in the worldview of Turkey's current leadership. It has shown that Erdogan and his entourage are deeply immersed in the mindset of Turkish Islamism, as exemplified by Necmettin Erbakan and Necip Fazil Kisakurek. Crucially, the problem is not limited to Erdogan: conspiracy theories that used to be relegated to the margins of Turkish political debate have now become mainstream, encompassing groups from secularist Kemalists to nationalists and Islamists. (82)

What does this mean for Turkey's future? The answer depends on the degree to which the Islamist movement is able to impose its worldview on the rest of society. Stated differently, it depends on the degree to which Turkish society accepts or rejects this worldview, now backed by the institutions of the state and pliant media.

On one hand, we can expect a gradual acceleration of existing tendencies toward the Islamization of society. In other words, Erdogan is unlikely to be satisfied by the results of the referendum that strengthened his presidential powers. His further ambitions may not be visible yet and are likely to remain in the background until he is presumably re-elected president in June 2018 and the presidential system is implemented. Then, it is likely that he will seek to further monopolize executive control over the legislative and judiciary branches and to marginalize the parliament and courts.

A key battleground will be the Islamization of education. In coming years, if Erdogan gets his way, the government will continue to expand Imam-Hatip schools--religious schools originally intended to provide trained imams for mosques, but which grew into an alternative school track--and to Islamize the curriculum in secular schools. (83) If the AKP stays in power for another decade, it may well preside over a major shift in the worldview of the next generation of Turks. Thus, even if Erdogan's presidency is cut short, considerable damage has been done. The thinking that inspired Erbakan and Kisakurek is spreading to significant portions of Turkey's new elites. Practically all political forces advance conspiracy theories with abandon to tar their enemies, without considering the damage done to the Turkish public's worldview. This is a reality that all future Turkish leaders will have to deal with--as will Turkey's partners abroad. In foreign policy, the situation described in this article complicates the already stretched notion of Turkey as a reliable ally of the United States, simply because its leadership's worldview and interests differ so markedly from those of America. Most obviously, it has already become clear that Turkey's leadership viewed Sunni jihadism as a minor threat in Syria and Iraq, far less harmful than either Kurdish nationalism or the Assad regime.

But on the other hand, there are signs that the enthusiasm of Islamization's proponents may be declining and resistance against it mounting. The last several years have seen both a stagnation of Turkish economic growth and a civil war within the Islamist movement, pitting supporters of President Erdogan and the Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen against each other. This confrontation, in which the traditional state establishment sided roundly with Erdogan, culminated in the failed military coup of July 2016 and continues to traumatize Turkey. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Islamists have lost some of their swagger as a result of these developments, while traditional establishment forces have been able to reassert themselves, especially within state institutions. Indeed, over time, Erdogan himself has shifted his rhetoric in a nationalist direction, speaking of defending Turkey against foreign threats real or imagined, to broaden his base to supporters of the nationalist MHP.

Furthermore, Erdogan's emphasis on one-man rule, along with the growth of corruption within the government, has led to unease within the broader Islamic movement itself. Ahead of the June 2018 early election, it is significant that the Saadet Party, representing Orthodox Islamists, joined the broad opposition coalition led by the secularist CHP.

There is no question that Kisakurek's and Erbakan's ideas have now entered the mainstream. It is, however, far from certain that they will become hegemonic. Turkey is therefore at a turning point, and the policies adopted by the United States and its European allies will play an important role in determining the outcome. So far, these policies have remained primarily in the realm of economic and security relations. But as this article has shown, the realm of ideas is of crucial importance and is one where the West's track record is poor indeed. Going forward, it will be crucial to remedy this lacuna if the battle for Turkey's soul is not to be lost.


(1.) Joyce Karam, "US National Security Adviser: Qatar and Turkey are New Sponsors of Radical Ideology," National, December 13, 2017,

(2.) "Karagul: Kudus'ten sonra hedefleri Mekke ve Medine," Fars News Agency, December 16, 2017, (Author's translation.)

(3.) Svante E. Cornell, "Headed East: Turkey's Education System," Turkish Policy Quarterly 17, no. 1 (2018); Svante E. Cornell, "The Islamization of Turkey: Erdogan's Education Reforms," Turkey Analyst, September 2, 2015,

(4.) Svante E. Cornell, "The Rise of Diyanet: The Politicization of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs," Turkey Analyst, October 9, 2015,

(5.) Eric S. Edelman et al., The Roots of Turkish Conduct: Understanding the Evolution of Turkish Foreign Policy in the Middle East (Washington: Bipartisan Policy Center, 2013),

(6.) "Global Muslim Brotherhood Leadership Gathers at Erbakan Funeral," Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, March 20, 2011,

(7.) "Tunisian Islamist Leader Embraces Turkey, Praises Erbakan," Hurriyet Daily News, March 3, 2011.

(8.) See, e.g., Robert R. Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2011).

(9.) Meric Pessagno, "Intellectual and Religious Assent: The View of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi," The Muslim World 69, no. 1 (1979): 18-27.

(10.) Mehmet Kalayci, "Maturidi-Hanefi Aidiyetin Osmanli'daki Izdusumleri" [Projections of Maturidite-Hanafite identity on the Ottomans], Cumhuriyet Ilahyat Dergisi 20, no. 2 (2016): 9-72.

(11.) Svante E. Cornell and M. K. Kaya, "The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey," Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 19 (2015),

(12.) Aburrahman Memis, Mevlana Halid-I Bagdadi (Istanbul: Kaynak Yayinlari, 2011).

(13.) Necmettin Erbakan, Davam: Ne Yaptrysam Allah Rizasi icin Yaptim, Ankara: Milli Gorus Vakfi, 2011, p. 48.

(14.) Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (New Delhi: Islamic Book Services, 2002), p. 117.

(15.) Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam, trans. John B. Hardie (New York: Octagon Books, 1970), pp. 49-53.

(16.) Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy (New York: St. Martin-Griffin, 1998), pp. 289-305.

(17.) Erbakan, Davam, pp. 59-69.

(18.) Erbakan, Davam, p. 73.

(19.) Erbakan again makes telling errors. He correctly attributes the founding of Bilderberg to Jozef Retinger but terms Retinger both a "Jewish cleric" and a grand master of Swedish freemasonry. But far from being Jewish, Retinger in his youth contemplated becoming a Catholic priest; and Swedish freemasonry, unlike most other Masonic orders, requires members to be Christian, making Erbakan's claims incongruent. Moreover, he claims the "Jewish" Rockefeller family finances the Bilderberg group--but the Rockefeller family was of typical WASP descent, and patriarch John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was a devout Baptist in his late life.

(20.) "Erbakan: Iyi Cocuklar ama Politikalari Yanlis," T24, December 3, 2010,,114567.

(21.) See, for example, "Necmettin Erbakan - Gizli Dunya Devleti YENI," ATV, October 17, 2016,

(22.) Burhanettin Duran, "Transformation of Islamist Political Thought in Turkey from the Empire to the Early Republic (1908-1960): Necip Fazil Kisakurek's Political Ideas" (PhD dissertation, Bilkent University, January 2001),

(23.) Thierry Zarcone, "Les Naksibendi et la Republique Turque: De la Persecution au Repositionnement Theologique, Politique et Social (1925-1991)," Turcica: Revue d'Etudes Turques 24 (1992): 141.

(24.) Duran, Transformation, p. 260.

(25.) Necip Fazil Kisakurek, Ove Ben (Istanbul: Buyuk Dogu, 1974), pp. 123-124.

(26.) Necip Fazil Kisakurek, Iman ve Islam Atlasi (Istanbul: Buyuk Dogu, 1981).

(27.) Duran, Transformation, p. 262.

(28.) Necip Fazil Kisakurek, Ideolocya Orgusu (1968; 22nd reprint, Istanbul: Buyuk Dogu, 2016), p. 209.

(29.) Ibid., p. 212.

(30.) Tunc Aybak, "The Sultan is Dead, Long Live 'Basyuce' Erdogan Sultan!," Open Democracy, May 31, 2017,

(31.) Kisakurek, Ideolocya Orgusu, pp. 285-388.

(32.) Abdullah Kuloglu, "Necip Fazil Kisakurek: 'Menderes'ten nicin para aldim" [Necip Fazil Kisakurek: Why I took money from Menderes], Timeturk, January 3, 2013,

(33.) Duran, Transformation, p. 312.

(34.) Gareth Jenkins, "Review of Gerald MacLean, Abdullah Gil and the Making of the New Turkey," International Journal of Turkish Studies 21, no. 1/2 (2015).

(35.) Kisakurek, Ideolocya Orgusu, p. 335.

(36.) Ibid.

(37.) Ibid., pp. 473-474.

(38.) Sean R. Singer, "Erdogan's Muse: The School of Necip Fazil Kisakurek," World Affairs 176, no. 4 (November/December 2013): 84.

(39.) Pipes, Hidden Hand, p. 2.

(40.) Ibid.

(41.) Ibid., p.385.

(42.) Zeyno Baran, "Patriot Games" National Interest 83 (Spring 2006): 134-138.

(43.) For an excellent overview, see Marc David Baer, "An Enemy Old and New: The Donme, Anti-Semitism, and Conspiracy Theories in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic," The Jewish Quarterly Review 103, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 523-555.

(44.) Sabri Sayari, "Turkey's Islamist Challenge," Middle East Quarterly 3, no. 3 (September 1996): 35-43,

(45.) Baer, "An Enemy Old and New," p. 527.

(46.) Christoph Herzog, "BeobachTuncen zu Verschworungstheorien in der Turkei," in Lale Behzadi et. al., eds., Bamberger Orientstudien 1, Bamberg: Univeristy of Bamberg Press, 2014, p. 429.

(47.) Bassam Tibi, Islamism and Islam (Yale University Press, 2012), p. 57.

(48.) Matthias Kuntzel, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11 (New York: Telos Press, 2009).

(49.) Tibi, Islamism and Islam, p. 57.

(50.) Jean-Francois Perouse and Nicolas Cheviron, Erdogan: Le Nouveau Pere de la Turquie? (Paris: Editions Francois Bourin, 2016).

(51.) Ibid.

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) As related by Economist correspondent Amberin Zaman. See "Necip Fazil Kisakurek, 'islam inkilabi' ve AKP," Politez, January 8, 2013,

(54.) Gerald MacLean, Abdullah Gul and the Making of Modern Turkey (London: Oneworld

Publications, 2014).

(55.) "Abdullah Gul'un Necip Fazil'a Mektbu," Sabah, August 15, 2011,

(56.) MacLean, Abdullah Gul.

(57.) "Basbakan Erdogan'dan Necip Fazil Kisakurek Siiri" [Necip Fazil Kisakurek's poetry from Prime Minister Erdogan],, September 24, 2013,

(58.) "Erdogan, hic bilinmeyen Necip Fazil anisini anlatti," Ihlas Haber Ajansi, November 2, 2014,

(59.) "Erdogan, Necip Fazil'la yasadigi o aniyi anlatti," Ihlas Haber Ajansi, November 2, 2014,

(60.) "Necip Fazil'in takdir ettigi genc Erdogan'dir," Haber 7, May 20, 2013,

(61.) "'Kudus giderse Kabe'yi de kaybederiz'," Yeni safak, December 15, 2017,

(62.) Pierre Boisson, "Macons, Communistes, Juifs? Quand Erdogan etait comedien," Nouvel Observateur, February 13, 2014,

(63.) Mustafa Bayburtlu, Kizil Pence (Corum: Toker Matbaasi, 1969). An adequate summary of the play can be found at soL Haber Portali, "Arsivden bulup cikardik, Erdogan'in yillar once oynadigi piyesin metni," January 4, 2016,

(64.) Boisson, "Macons, Communistes, Juifs?"

(65.) Eric Edelman et al., Turkey Transformed: The Origins and Evolution of Authoritarianism and Islamization under the AKP (Washington: Bipartisan Policy Center), pp. 29-35.

(66.) Fatih Yasli, "Baskanlik yetmez, basyucelik devletine gecelim," soL Haber Portali, June 26, 2012,; Murat Sevinc, "Kilavuzu Necip Fazil Olanlar ve Basyucelik Devleti," (The ones that have Necip Fazil as reference and the Basyue state) Diken, December 8, 2015; (; Murat Ozbank, "Erdogan'in hukumetten isteyip de alamadigi sey 'Basyucelik' olabilir mi? [Is the Basyucelik what Erdogan wants but cannot get from the government?], T24, April 11, 2015,,293252.

(67.) Mehmet Yilmaz, "Her seyden sorumlu olmak mi, her seye karismak mi?," Hurriyet, May 31, 2012.

(68.) Kisakurek, Ideolocya Orgusu, pp. 288-91.

(69.) Erdogan purposefully uses Ataturk's concept of egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz milletindir, changing it to egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz Allah'indir. He uses the term "Allah" rather than the synonymous "Hakk," but the meaning is identical. Nazli Ililcak, "Erdogan hedef tahtasi," Yeni safak, August 2, 2001, For the video, see "Egemenlik Kayitsiz sartsiz Allah'indir!," June 14, 2014,

(70.) Fatih Yasli, "Baskanlik yetmez."

(71.) Ozgur Mumcu, "Necip Fazil Kisakurek'in 'islami baskanlik sistemi' istedigini unutmayin," Diken, October 15, 2014, Only two references to this appear in English-language-media: Alan Makovsky, "Erdogan's Proposal for an Empowered Presidency," Center for American Progress, March 22, 2017,, and Tunc Aybak, "The Sultan is Dead."

(72.) "Bana Gurcu, affredersin cok daha cirkin seylerle Ermeni diyenler oldu," Diken, August 6, 2014,

(73.) "Erdogan: Israil'in pervasizligi diger ulkelerin umursamazligi," Ihlas Haber Ajansi, January 16, 2009,; "Turkish PM Denies Anti-Semitism, Says 'Jewish-Backed Media' Spread False Info on Gaza," Ha'aretz, January 13, 2009; and "Turkey's Leaders Livid over Economist Article," Reuters, June 6, 2011.

(74.) Tulin Daloglu, "Atalay Claims Jewish Diaspora was Behind Gezi Park Protests," Al-Monitor, July 3, 2013,; "Erdogan Hints Israel 'Delighted' by Wave of Unrest," Times of Israel, June 13, 2013; Zach Pontz, "Erdogan Associate Blames American 'Jewish Lobby' for Turkey Protests," Algemeiner, June 18, 2013,; "Kod adi Istanbul isyani," Yeni safak, June 16, 2013.

(75.) "Angry Erdogan Calls Protestor 'Israeli Sperm,'" World Jewish Congress, May 16, 2014,

(76.) "Erdogan: Ust Akil Kim Diye Soruyorlar," Yirmi Dort Haber, December 12, 2014,

(77.) Mustafa Akyol, "Unraveling the AKP's 'Mastermind' Conspiracy Theory," Al-Monitor, March 19, 2015.

(78.) Oda TV, "Rafael Sadi yazdi: Erdogan Tevrat'i tahrif etti," February 7, 2015,

(79.) "Erdogan Continues Row with Israel over Jerusalem and Its 'Judaization,'" Newsweek, May 9, 2017,

(80.) Svante E. Cornell, "Erdogan's Turkey: The Role of a Little Known Islamist Poet," BreakingDefense, January 2, 2018,

(81.) Rifat Bali, "Verschworungstheorien, Antisemitismus und die turkischen Juden in der heutigen Turkei," KIgA Berlin, 2016, p. 20, See also Rifat Bali, "The Banalization of Hate: Antisemitism in Contemporary Turkey," in Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives, ed. Alvin H. Rosenfield (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).

(82.) Baer, "An Enemy Old and New"; Herzog, "BeobachTuncen zu Verschworungstheorien."

(83.) Cornell, "Headed East."

By Svante E. Cornell
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Title Annotation:Necmettin Erbakan and Necip Fazil Kisakurek
Author:Cornell, Svante E.
Publication:Current Trends in Islamist Ideology
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jun 1, 2018
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