Political Self-Sabotage in Turkey

Of all the global leaders that have made a name for themselves for being controversial, president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan definitely stands out.

Seen both as a hero who navigated the country out of long-running economic misery and a rightist ever pushing Islamist reforms and endangering Ataturk’s secular legacies, Erdogan appears to ideally fit the definition of someone who knows how to stay in headlines.

The fact that he can be argued to have a few accomplishments to his credit makes his ‘feather-ruffling’ rhetoric all the more piquing. From his ascension to the seat of Prime Minister in early 2000s, he has presided over periods of high economic growth and has led the country through a sharp rise in the financial well-being of citizens.

During his long rule, Turkey’s power and standing has improved among not just among its middle eastern-neighbors, but also at global level. But the way he has practiced politics has put him at odds with many. He’s known to issue some of the most polarizing statements of any head of state – among which are those that, as perceived by his critics, are brazen attempts to dilute Turkey’s secular character, excessive criticism of west, particularly of what he calls their prejudice against Turkey, women’s societal role, gender equality, and even social media.

We’ll now look at some of the most ‘storm-stirring’ comments he has made over the years. Regarding Islamization of politics, a subject that has come to serve as a lightning rod of criticism for most, he remarked, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…” About women, “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times.”

And, “Our religion has defined a position for women (in society): motherhood. “ Even social media couldn’t escape his salvo. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

These remarks, along with many others, have put major dents in Erdogan’s political reputation at home and come to strain his relations with the west. Voters, who once held faith in Erdogan ability to take their country forward, are now increasingly questioning his ability to lead.

It is indeed a sad set of affairs for the president, something for which only his politically self-sabotaging tendencies can be blamed. The example of Erdogan thus demonstrates how indiscretion can rob a leader of his popularity, despite having a portfolio of achievements under his belt.

Reflection & Knowledge

When we want to speak about reflection and how it serves man in his intellectual Islamic life on his journey to seek a close proximity to Allah s.w.t, we find that it is heavily emphasized within the Holy Qur’an’s teachings.

Let us ponder over this verse one moment:

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

“Those whom are [in a state of] remembering Allah s.w [while] standing up, sitting down or on their sides, reflecting over the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying] Oh our Lord, you did not create all this in vain, Glory be to you! Grant us salvation from the Fire.” Al-Imran [3:191]

Reflection can be defined as a calm state of careful and intended consideration of something where one is not unconscious towards the respective subject of reflection, but conscious of its presence and pondering over its very essence to discover more about it.

Spirituality in the parameters of Islamic teachings is not a state of unconsciousness similar to that of toxicity of sleep based on imagination and fantasy, on the contrary a Muslim is one whose vision is sharp and looks to pierce the reality of things even further.

It is the mind that Allah s.w.t has given us as a means and a tool to drawing closer to Him, as it is the mind of man that has made him distinguished from the rest of Allah s.w.t creation with its ability to pierce the internals of things and understand their inner workings, and not only the apparent surface of things. It is through man’s mind he can unveil the hidden secrets of existence without being restricted by time and space, breaking all material boundaries. It is also through man’s mind Allah s.w.t is known and worshipped.

So thinking is the key to this…

الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ): مَن أكثَرَ الفِكرَ فيما تَعَلَّمَ أتقَنَ عِلمَهُ، وفَهِمَ ما لم يَكُن يَفهَمُ.

Imam Ali (AS) said, ‘Whoever increases his thinking in whatever he learns, his knowledge will become proficient, and he will come to understand whatever he did not understand before.’ [Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 8917]

The Holy Qur’an has been revealed to man to define the methods for a believers thinking and reflection so that faith may not be blind.

It nurtures the human mind to be bestowed a faith, based on the grounds of reflection and convictive conclusions that are based on open mindedness and sound thought, nurturing it to be the most robust it can be.

In Islam, man does not need to look into the books of philosophy, but rather look into the book of the universe (The Holy Qur’an) and reflect over it in our existence to witness that there is an all-encompassing intelligence that is governing the whole universe and that He is grand in his countenance and presence.

The Holy Qur’an was also revealed for the purpose of nurturing man’s thought to rise to the level of opening up to Allah s.w.t and to be able to gain what it may understand of Him. Man is not able to understand the essence of Allah s.w.t as His essence is not in the realms of sensory experience or experimentation, but man can understand Him regarding what he has revealed about Himself and by reflecting over his actions in creation.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

“We shall certainly show them our signs in the [vast] horizons and in their souls until it becomes unveiled that He is the [ultimate] Truth, is it not enough that your Lord is a [all encompassing] witness over all things?”[Fussilat [41:53]]

The method of Islam, gave man the freedom of thought which was not granted to the rest of man’s limbs, for they were instructed to move within their prescribed limits, such as what man sees, what he hears or the way he uses his hands and feet or any of the bodies instruments is limited, except the mind, that was given utter freedom in what it may think and reflect over.

The mind of man was not created with tight restrictions like the external faculties which are restricted physically where they may go, for when we read the Holy Qur’an the mind travels the whole universe without any restriction what so ever…

Allah s.w.t told the mind to be free in what it thinks, think of Allah s.w.t, think of what the others may say and what they don’t say, but you are accountable to what you may think in the sense that what you think about must be on the path of that what is going to give you conclusive outcomes that make you reach the Truth, for in the hereafter man’s mind will be put to account before his limbs.

وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً

“And never concern thyself with anything of which you have no knowledge of: verily, [thy] hearing and sight and heart – all of them – will be called to account for it [on Judgment Day]!” [al-Isra’17:36]

الإمام الحسن المجتبى(عليه السلام): عجبت لمن يتفكر في مأكوله، كيف لا يتفكر في معقوله، فيجنب بطنه ما يؤذيه، ويودع صدره ما يرديه

Imam Hassan (a) said:”I wonder those who think about their body’s food, but do not think about their soul’s food. They keep away disturbing food from their belly, but fill up their heart with destructive subjects.” [Safeenatul Bihar Ch.2 page 84]

Passiveness has no place in Islam, as Islam is rigid in its composition and infinite in the vastness of its discoveries. One must be attentive as indicated by this hadith :

إمام علي ع قال: ألا لا خير في علم ليس فيه تفهّم .. ألا لا خير في قراءة ليس فيها تدبّر .. ألا لا خير في عبادة ليس فيها تفقّه.

Imam Ali (a) says: “Surely there is no goodness in learning if there is no understanding, surely there is no good in reading without there being any reflection, surely there is no good in worship if there is no depth of its laws”[Jawahir al Bihar Ch. 49]

Also Allah s.w.t mentions in the Holy Quran:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْاْ عَنْهُ وَأَنتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ* وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ* إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ* وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لأَسْمَعَهُمْ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّواْ وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ

“O you who have attained to faith, pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not turn away from Him now that you hear [His message]; * and be not like those who say, “We have heard”, the while they do not hear. * Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason. * For, if God had seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear: but [as it is,] even if He had made them hear, they would surely have turned away in their stubbornness. “ [Al-Anfal 23-20]

We will certainly be punished for not reflected and using our abilities to discover the truth:

وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ

“And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle -nay, they are even less conscious of the right way: it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless!”[al-A’raf 7:179]

The higher levels:

It is only through reflecting over knowledge of Allah s.w.t, that is manifested in everything, that we can reach the higher worlds that are invisible to the human eye, but are visible to the eye of the heart and mind.

The invisible is what manifests itself into the visible, for example, our souls are manifested into our bodies and the souls of other creatures into the material body.

Knowledge itself is invisible but is manifest and acting all around us.

This draws the conclusion that the invisible is more profound than the visible (even secular models teach this) and material, for it is the invisible that animates the material.

This can also be applied to the relationship between the creation and Allah s.w.t, which is the hidden secret to all that is manifest, but has made Himself known to us through it.

If one ponders deep into his soul and discover it, then after look into its kernel, then into the kernel of the kernel, will witness the countenance of His grand Lord at work…

The mind and heart of man are tools for traversing the vast horizons of Allah s.w.t through reflection and thought.

Is it a wonder that it has been made an obligation upon us to gain it?

رسولُ اللهِ (صَلَّيَ اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَ آلِهِ): طَلَبُ العِلمِ فَريضَةٌ عَلى كُلِّ مُسلِمٍ

The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim [Amali al-Tusi, p. 488, no. 1069]

And there is no strength except In Allah and peace be upon those whom follow the guidance…

ولا قوّة إلا بالله والسلام على من اتبع الهدى

How Reliable is Social Media?

In my early years at secondary school, one of the first things I remember being taught about in History was the reliability of evidence. We were told of the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how we should analyse the content of such sources before making a judgment on their ramifications on the topic at hand. Unfortunately, scrutiny of information in today’s world only seems to be something that journalists and academics are interested in.

Whenever a major news story breaks out, we are quick to share articles and images related to the subject through social media. Take this image of Lionel Messi holding a t-shirt that says Free Palestine. Whenever a new act of Israeli aggression occurs and people remember the plight of Palestinians, this image spreads like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter. However, this image has clearly been Photoshopped and the original can be seen here. The t-shirt he can be seen holding has the logo for Rosario’s bid to host the 2019 Pan American Games, which is Messi’s hometown. Interestingly, the Argentine Olympic Committee didn’t even end up putting Rosario forward for the bid, opting for La Punta instead, illustrating that having the world’s greatest footballer on your side doesn’t always lead to victory.

Another story that was publicised last year was that Cristiano Ronaldo had donated €1.5 million to Palestinian children in Gaza. It first appeared on Russia Today’s website, citing Real Madrid’s Arabic news website as a source and from there it was published on a number of blogs. It didn’t appear on any credible news outlet, nor did Real Madrid acknowledge the donation, so it is quite likely that this was a hoax too. The Real Madrid Foundation does do work in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Ronaldo did donate money towards Palestinian causes in 2011, albeit a significantly smaller amount, but it’s strange why someone would make up such a story.

Freddie Kanoute is one footballer that has always been outspoken in support of Palestine and even lifted his football shirt after scoring a goal to reveal a t-shirt in support of Interpal. Last November, he published a statement on his website expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza, which was signed by a number of prominent footballers. The statement that appears on there has been edited since it first appeared, with a few of the footballers disappearing, such as Dider Drogba and Yohan Cabaye, after denying that they had signed such a statement. Eden Hazard’s name can still be seen there, despite his agent saying that Hazard never speaks out about political issues.

This problem is not just confined to the topic of Palestine. When Rohingya Muslims were being persecuted in Burma, a number of images appeared on social media sites relating to the issue. However, Faraz Ahmed of The Express Tribune did a little digging to find that many of these images were used completely out of context. Just last month, after the Hazara genocide in Pakistan, this picture was shared on Facebook and Twitter, showing a father in a grave clutching his dead child, however the image was actually from a Turkish television show called Ali Memati.

Even more worrying than the people who share these stories on social media without verifying them is that there are other people out there who started the spread of these stories and images in full knowledge that they are either false or used out of context. Issues relating to Palestine, Burma and Pakistan don’t need celebrity endorsement or powerful imagery to draw people’s attention to them. Within these countries and many others around the world, people are suffering and dying, and this itself should be a strong enough reason for us to take an interest in the issue at hand.

But above all, we should realise that social media is not a replacement for news media, and just because your friend has posted a photo or story relating to a hot topic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes from a true source. We are all equipped with the intellectual tools to analyse these stories for their credibility, and sometimes all it takes is a bit of Googling to determine whether something is authentic.