The coup in Turkey failed and democracy was saved. The president Tayyip Erdogan got a real vote of confidence where ordinary people from all walks of life came out in support of his call to defeat the coup and Allahﷻhelped them. Subsequently a state of emergency has been declared in Turkey and over 60,000 people have been arrested. Admittedly it is stated that those arrested are not being tortured. But what is the credibility of such a claim made by the arresting party? I also want to point out that torture is not only physical. What do you think happens to a man/woman and his/her family who is suddenly arrested without any charge and taken away for an indefinite period, probably to an unknown location with the family being unable to remain in touch? Then when the case comes up and there is no evidence and the person is freed, the judgment doesn’t say, ‘He is innocent.’ It says, ‘The police were not able to produce sufficient evidence.’ Meanwhile his job, reputation, relationships, family’s reputation, police record (which he will need if he applies for a passport or any government job) are all destroyed. Many have to even leave the city they live in because they are boycotted by neighbors. All this for the one who returns proven innocent. Who says that the knock in the night is not torture?
The alleged (alleged only as of this writing as there is no concrete evidence yet) perpetrators of the coup are Fethullah Gulen and his followers of the Hizmet Movement.
This is what Wikipedia has to say about the Hizmet Movement:
Most Gülen Movement schools are private; its educational footprint extends to over 160 countries. In 2009 it was estimated that members of the Gülen Movement run schools in which more than two million students receive education. Estimates of the number of schools and educational institutions vary widely; it appears there are about 300 Gülen Movement schools in Turkey and over 1,000 schools worldwide.
Movement participants have set up a number of media organizations to promote its core values such as love, tolerance, hope, dialogue, activism, mutual acceptance and respect. These media organs include TV stations (Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV), (Ebru TV) (English), the newspapers Zaman, Today’s Zaman (English), magazines and journals in Turkish like Aksiyon, Sızıntı, Yeni Ümit, The Fountain Magazine (English), Hira (Arabic), The International Cihan News Agency and the radio station Burç FM (tr).
In short the Hizmet Movement is spread over 160 countries with over 2 million students. And these are only estimates. By its very nature of being highly decentralized and secretive accurate numbers are not available (not even sure if Gulen himself knows) but in my opinion the actual number, if anything, would be more, not less. In short, it is a movement with a huge number of followers all over the world. To go into its history a little bit; the Hizmet Movement was designed to infiltrate the army and civil administration but even more importantly to do this by bringing about a change in mindset of the people, because it was the Kemalist Junta who were ruling Turkey. Hizmet operated on the age old principle of shaping minds of the youth. The Jesuits say, “Give us your child for the first five years of its life. Then take him back. He’ll always be ours.” Childhood conditioning is the most powerful. They did this very successfully resulting in the establishment of democracy in Turkey and its return to Islam without a military intervention. That itself is a very major phenomenon of the use of civil power that we were all witness to. That is how Erdogan came to power and introduced so many welcome changes of freeing Masaajid from slavery of the military, introduction of Quranic teaching, use of Arabic in Adhaan, permission for women to wear hijab and other things. We need to remember that none of this would have happened had it not been for the enormous ground work done by Hizmet. Done very subtly and secretively under the noses of the Military Junta rendering them ineffective and changing the mindset of the nation.
This is a very major phenomenon of social engineering sustained over 50 years or more that must be studied. Erdogan is a beneficiary of it without doubt. If there had been no Hizmet, there would have been no Erdogan. That is the truth; perhaps not so palatable today, but still the truth. All through that time Erdogan was with them. Later he fell out with Gulen but it was Gulen who was the Shaikh and the mastermind behind the movement without which Turkey would still have been the godless secular anti Muslim country it was, which Kemal Ataturk made of it. The ability of Gulen to inspire millions of people over at least two generations to work according to his principles is a feat not achieved by many. The highly decentralized nature of the movement, strong ideological commitment and loyalty of members to their leader and their willingness and ability to quietly do their work without any formal public appeals for funds has few parallels in history. It is a very big mistake to allow dislike for a person to cloud one’s perception of his strengths. That is what Erdogan seems to be in danger of doing.
In the case of the failed 2016 coup perhaps Gulen used the same network against him. I say perhaps because suspicion is not evidence. But assuming that the allegations are correct, Gulen’s sin was losing. And of course his weakness was in not being able to let go of power when his aims had been achieved. He should have stepped back and let Erdogan have the limelight. True, Erdogan may not have been toeing the exact line that Gulen drew but that is the nature of powerful successors; they paint the landscape in their own colors. However, the wisdom of the founder lies in taking satisfaction from the fact that only the colors of the picture have changed, not its structure. Gulen’s aim was to Islamize Turkey. Erdogan was doing that par excellence. Gulen should have left him alone and let him carry on and support his work, directly and indirectly. Instead, he demonstrated his own humanness (aren’t we all human?) by playing power games. And he lost. Losing is the cardinal sin.
I made some recommendations in my article:
Arrest and try those who actually killed civilians in the coup and let the courts pass sentence. Investigate suspected supporters of the coup and take action depending on the nature of their support. Once again, suspicion in not evidence in law. Any action taken without evidence is unislamic and illegal and will attract justified criticism. Erdogan must minimize all possible criticism as he is going to get a good bit of it in any case as he is not short of enemies. So don’t add to that by taking actions that can’t be defended in law.
The coup proved beyond doubt that the people of Turkey now view Erdogan as their rightful leader. Let’s reflect: the two critical factors that enabled the success of the coup were that CNN Turk was allowed to function and broadcast Erdogan’s appeal to the people to come out in the streets and the fact that his plane was not shot down though there were F16s of the coup rebels in the air. Thirdly despite the fact that there were so many tanks and armored carriers on the street, there was no bloodbath like in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Ask yourself, ‘What prevented the F16s from shooting down Erdogan’s plane? What prevented the tanks from firing on the people? What prevented them from destroying CNN Turk’s ability to broadcast? Or why didn’t the operator simply refuse to broadcast Erdogan’s message?’ I would say that all these incidents (and I am sure there will be more if we analyze in more detail) show that Erdogan is seen as the rightful leader. People’s hopes are in him and they look up to him. Soldiers may come out into the street on the command of their generals because they have little choice but to obey; but having got there, to pull the trigger or not is at their discretion and they didn’t. Same is true about the F16s. So as far as Erdogan was concerned when he landed safely at Istanbul, he had won and the coup was defeated. This is where I have suggested following the example of Rasoolullahﷺby showing mercy and not taking revenge. Honor those who were loyal. But honor even more those who could have harmed you but didn’t. They too deserve your mercy, perhaps even more.
Erdogan by his purges may root out some of the Gulenists but who will take their place? I would seriously doubt if the purges can even root out all those who sympathize with Gulen. After all, if the organization is really so secretive that it evaded the Turkish Military Junta for decades, what is the chance that suddenly Erdogan will be able to find every last one of them. And their leader, Fethullah Gulen is safely in the US anyway, but now able to capitalize on the sympathy wave and righteous anger with the arrest of every innocent person that Erdogan’s purge will create. They are talking of shutting down Hizmet schools. Who will be effected? The children of common people. Will this generate love for Erdogan? How much easier to monitor what they teach and leave the schooling system intact. Finally, even if Erdogan does all this, it will be only in Turkey; 1/160 countries that these schools operate in.
There are no vaccums in life. They always get filled. Only Erdogan won’t know who is taking the place of Gulenists. After all we are talking about feelings and thoughts and nobody can see those. Remember that these people have been successful because they are good at working quietly. Also all oppressive actions only strengthen the rebel and provide perfect proof for the need to rebel and are great recruiting material. It is a big mistake to provide grist to the mill of rebellion by your actions. By not showing mercy he’s playing into the hands of his enemies. At this time, he must show patience and maturity. Not anger. We stand out by what we do differently from others. Not by behaving like them. Rasoolullahﷺ didn’t eliminate his enemies by purging and killing them but by killing enmity. He showed mercy which removed the rai·son d’ê·tre for rebellion. He took the higher moral ground which took the wind out of the sails of his enemies. People who could have justifiably been put to death or imprisoned were freed. People who could have been financially ruined by being forced to pay compensation for the harm they did to the followers of Rasoolullahﷺwere let off. How could anyone then raise a voice against him? He ended enmity, ended mutual hatred and the Ummah was born. He is our example. Erdogan’s example. I hope he follows it. The argument, ‘but others do the same’, doesn’t hold because they don’t have Rasoolullahﷺas their role model. We do. We must show the difference. We must stand out. We must write history. There are only two kinds of people, those who write history and those who are its statistics. It is time to choose.
What to do about Gulen? First of all, stop making charges that can’t be proved – calling him a traitor and his movement a terrorist movement. Large scale arrests and detentions give the impression of running scared; or impending totalitarian dictatorship. Especially when this is not something that is intended, it is essential to lay all misgivings to rest by complete transparency. Don’t give the opposition a chance to level charges that appear to be true. It is not only important that justice is done but that it appears to be done. Allegations are not evidence. Suspicion is not evidence. When you have evidence bring the charges. Until then remain silent. Deal with those who participated in the coup as I have suggested earlier and so won’t repeat here. As for Gulen, I would definitely get him back on my team. Too much talent to lose. And too dangerous to have him as an enemy with US backing. Very stupid to continue the feud. As I said, he may not return but Erdogan would have taken the higher moral ground. Always better to know what your enemy is up to and keep him close to you. If he is far away, you don’t know what he’s doing and you’ll be more vulnerable. As Lenin said and which I quoted: I’d rather have him inside my tent pissing outside rather than outside pissing inside.
All this takes wisdom and patience. Not anger.
As for the charges of treason, sedition and so on, the question to ask is, ‘Who defines what is treason?’ Going against the government of the day is not treason. If going against the government of the day is defined as treason, then every freedom movement begins with treason. History is full of examples of those who were branded ‘traitor’ and hanged but whose blood sustained the struggle and gave it more strength until it overthrew those who hanged their leaders. It is oppressive retaliation, unprovable accusations and harsh punishments which sow the seeds for the ultimate destruction of those who have power. It is very important for Erdogan not to fall into that trap.
Erdogan is indeed the best Muslim leader we have today. This coup is a defining moment for him. It is up to him how he wants to use it. As a means of inspiring future generations by writing his own name in history. Or by having his name written in history by others showing him as someone who lacked the patience and foresight to overcome his anger. Anger is fire. The result is always ash.
I want to end by a beautiful story of Imam Ash Shafi and his student.
It is said that Yunus Ibn ‘Abd al-A’ala (a student of al-Imam ash-Shafi’i) differed with his teacher, al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Idrees ash-Shafi’i, over an issue while he was delivering a lesson in the mosque. So he angrily got up and went home.
At night, Yunus heard a knock at his door and asked who it was. The one knocking answered, Muhammad Ibn Idrees.
Yunus thought of everyone who he knew by that name except the Imam. Upon opening the door, he was shocked to see him.
The Imam said:
“O Yunus, hundreds of issues unite us, and only one issue divides us? Don’t try to be triumphant in all differences; sometimes, winning hearts is more important than winning situations. Don’t demolish bridges you built and crossed, for you may need them again one day for your return. Always hate what is wrong, but do not hate the one who errs. Hate sin with all your heart, but forgive and have mercy on the sinner. Criticize speech, but respect the speaker. Our job is to wipe out the disease, not the patient.”
I wish we can learn from the great lives of our teachers.