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Our founding ideology and Islam

OpinionsBy Gunduz Aktan

The most important issue (even more important than Turkey's accession to the EU) is the reconciliation of Islam with the republic. The new exegesis of the Koran and statements made by Mr. A. Bardakoglu, President of the Department of Religious Affairs, on this occasion are encouraging from this point of view. I hope you'll find interesting the article my young reader has written to whom I opened this column now and then.

He writes: "Turkey still has not reconciled its founding ideology and Islam. Religious-based criticisms against the republic continue. On the other hand, to defend the republic on religious based arguments has become sort of taboo. Some perceive a religious discussion of the republic as a threat to secularism. But there is something they forget. The very founder of the regime they wish to protect defended the republic along religious lines as well.

These words belong to Ataturk: "As you know, in the fundamentals of Shariah and the divine command, there is no mention of a specific form of government. Only the principles on how governments should govern were expressed. One of these principles is consultation, parliament. Government must immediately establish a parliament. So much so, that even our prophet would not arrange the affairs of the community without consultation. God had prohibited him from doing so. The second principle is justice. Consultation would be executed for justice." Now who can say that Islam proposes a specific form of government? Who can claim that the prophet would arrange affairs in "muamelat" (spheres outside of matters of faith and worship) without consultation and that there is no verse in the Koran that prohibits this? The Islamic principles of government in question are as follows: Maslahat (public interest), ehliyet (meritocracy), biat (representation), shura (consultation) and adalet (justice).

Let's go back to Ataturk: "If the nation were to form a parliament comprised of elected representatives (biat) whom it judged to be competent (meritocracy) of looking out for its interests (maslahat) and if this parliament acted justly, then this would be a government that is pleasing to God and the Koran." On what can the argument that the republic was founded upon un-Islamic principles be based? Are there no commandments tantamount to a representative assembly (shura and biat) in the Koran? No command for justice? Has not the notion of maslahat (public interest) been advocated by Islamic political thought for a thousand years? Isn't meritocracy a fundamental principle? For those who think that the republic was founded against Islam, the way Ataturk concluded his above statement says, "It is a matter of great pride that after 1,300 years our government has literally put into effect these Koranic truths."

Are those who claim that Islam could not accept Ataturk's steps to separate state and religious affairs unaware of the Islamic distinction between taabbud (matters of worship) and muamelat (all public spheres excluding matters of faith and worship)? How about the following statement of the great 14th century Islamic cleric Necmeddin et-Tufi: "Judgements in public spheres outside of faith and worship (muamelat), must be determined according to the principle of public interest (maslahat). Revelation in these areas are mere anecdotes and are not eternally binding." And what about the following statement by 11th century cleric Kady Abdulcebbar: "When a situation arises in which revelation and reason appear to contradict each other then reason will be upheld and revelation must be interpreted to suit it." Now let us see what Ataturk had to say about the matter: "Especially for our religion, everyone has a guideline. With this guideline, one can easilly determine what is permissible according to our religion and what is not. Whatever is in accord with reason and in the public interest is also in accord with our religion." How come when Tufi and Abdulcebbar make these statements it is considered a religious decree but when Ataturk does so it is considered blasphemy?

They said, "Ataturk gave the army the task to crush Islam," whereas, he established the chief of staff of the armed forces and the department of religious affairs on the same day. They said, "Ataturk surrendered the nation to Christians," whereas, he deported Christian missionaries from the country. They said, "Ataturk wanted to keep Islamic truths from the people," whereas, he led a parliamentary decision to translate the Koran into Turkish so his people could for the first time read and understand it and funded the task from his own pocket. They said, "Ataturk severed us from the Ummah (Muslim world), whereas, the country to be elected as the president of the Organization of Islamic Conference turned out to be his republic. They said, "Ataturk rebelled against the sovereignty of God by declaring that sovereignty belonged to the people," whereas, he declared that he "reclaimed sovereignty from the Ottoman dynasty who had usurped it from the people," and returned it to the people. They expressed outrage by saying that "Ataturk abolished the Caliphate," whereas, the law that has abolished that institution contains the following statement of Ataturk, "The Caliphate is inherent in the spiritual dimension of Parliament." They said, "Ataturk wanted to create an atheist society," whereas, he said, "The Turkish people should be more religious."

For God's sake, what else is he supossed to say?"

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