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The Ottoman Tuğra: A Twitter Feed

Osmanlı Padişah Fermanları (1986)

When I was but a lowly undergrad studying in Brussels, I first encountered the Ottoman Tuğra in the summer of 1988. That chance meeting took place at the Türk-İslam Eserleri Müzesi in İstanbul.1 In fact, I became so enamoured with these samples of Ottoman calligraphy that I wanted to write my undergraduate thesis on them. Alas, due to lack of a qualified supervisor in the neighbourhood, that desire of mine remained unfulfilled. Needless to say, I have ever since always had a great love for Ottoman Tuğra‘s, but have in my academic career not been able to do anything about that. And, by sheer happenstance, nearly 31 years after my first exposure to the Tuğra, I just now stumbled across this quite wonderful Twitter feed, explaining nearly everything anyone would like to know about the delicate caligraphic flowers. The one doing the tweeting was Maryland-based historian who also happens to be a  PhD student Jonathan Parkes Allen, and here is a rendition. Dr Allen-to-be begins by saying these humble words: “And now a super-thread on the winding & complicated (pun intended) history of the tuǧra, a textual feature often defined as a ‘calligraphic emblem’ for ‘Turkic’ rulers, though that definition doesn’t capture the whole story. Let’s start with a ‘classic’ Ottoman tuǧra: That of Süleyman the Great. Here’s the entirety of the tuǧra I showed in detail view yesterday (LACMA M.85.237.17); it’s a good example of where the tuǧra would go under the Ottomans, with a fairly set form, lots of floral flourish, and a range of uses”.

OT1

Continuing like this: “Use of the tuǧra goes back to at least the Great Seljuks. Exact origins are fuzzy (including the word’s etymology), but it seems like that the bow and arrow emblem visible on this gold dinar of Tughril Beg (d. 1063) represents an early tuǧra, or what would become the tuǧra”.

OT2

Going on, “Our earliest textual attestation is from the Dīwān lughāt al-turk of Maḥmūd al-Kāshgarī (d. 1102), who gives this definition: ‘The tughra is the seal (ṭābiʿ) and signature (tawqīʿ) of the king; Oghuz dialect and not known to the [Western] Turks; I do not know its origin. The historian Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286) gives more context: ‘And from this time Sultan Tughril Beg began to inscribe the figure of a bow at the top of his seal, and inside it were these titles. And that sign was called ‘tughra’, and he who wrote [it] being commanded, ‘tughrai. No Seljuk tuǧras proper have survived, but Mamluk examples have, such as this one recorded by al-Qalqashandī (d. 1418) in his Ṣubḥ al-aʻshá. The basic form of the tuǧra is evident: soaring verticals (originally arrows?) with the rest of the letters interlacing (like bows)”.

OT3

Moving along, “Al-Qalqashandī also discusses the administrative uses of and scribal practices associated with Mamluk tuǧras, which eventually fell out of fashion among the Mamluk rulers. From the Mamluks the tuǧra would go in two different directions: the Ottoman one and the Indian one. n India-especially in late medieval & early modern Bengal- Turkic Muslim rulers would employ the tuǧra style in spectacular fashion in inscriptions on architecture, such as this c. 1500 example from a west Bengal mosque built by Shahzade Daniyal (Met. 1981.320)”.

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And, “Or this one from 1487 from a mosque built by the Bengal Sultanate ruler Jalal al-Din Fath Shah (d. 1487), which beautifully displays the evolution from Mamluk tuǧra-as-calligraphic-signature to tuǧra-as-monumental-calligraphy (BM OA+.2299)”.

OT6

The tuǧra would also continue, sporadically at least, to develop in India into its better known usage among the Ottomans as the calligraphic emblem of the ruler, culminating in Mughal tuǧras, such as this one of Shah Jahan embedded in a illumined rosette (Met. 55.121.10.39)”.

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OT8

Dr Allen-to-be then says that the “Mughals would also use a blockier (to use the technical language) form of the tuǧra affixed to official documents, such as this c. 1645 instance, also from Shah Jahan, w/ that of his son Dara Shikoh, on a fermān responding to a request for aid (Met. 1997.205)”.

OT9

Finally getting down to the nitty-gritty he says: “Now for the Ottomans: one of our earliest surviving tuǧra, on a coin minted by a şehzade (prince), Süleyman Çelebi (d. 1411), shows what would become the typical features of the O. tuǧra: three verticals going up & two ellipticals going left, name & titles inside”.

OT 10

Explaining then that the “tuǧra would become an emblem used especially by sultans but also by other members of the elite; with a few exceptions, calligraphers from the inner hierarchy would draft, write, & illumine the reigning sultan’s tuǧra, the process governed by an array of officials & steps. Besides fermâns, the tuǧra was affixed to deeds, endowed books, to coins, (eventually) architectural inscriptions, and various other substrates, such as this book of Islamic jurisprudence with Bayezid II’s gorgeous gold and floral bedecked tuǧra (Khalili Collections MSS 83)”.

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Or this set-on-its-side tuǧra of Selim III, added in 1802 to a book of fatwas (Khalili Collections MS 84)”.

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Coins continued to feature sultanic tuǧras, such as this lovely instance minted in 1703 under Ahmed III (BM 1947,0606.1567)”.

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Going into some more detail, Dr Allen-to-be explains that the “tuǧra made its way into other contexts, too, such as in the following analogy made by the sufi şeyh Ismail Hakkı (d. 1725) in his Kenz-i maḫfî: ‘All of the prophets with the divine books in their hands are like a fermân of the exalted Sultan, while the Messenger of God, with the Qur’an in his hand, is like the fermân’s ṭuǧrâ. Just as if a sultanic fermân is not marked with a ṭuǧrâ it is not in force, if all of the prophets [& their books] had not been revealed & made manifest within the Muhammadan form…they would not be in circulation’. Ahmed III helped usher in new developments in the tuǧra, by drafting a hadith (‘My intercession is for those in my community, who commit greater sins’) in tuǧra form, which would become extremely popular in coming years, like other material forms of devotion”.

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And on, “[m]any, many copies of this hadith-tuǧra, to use Philippe Bora Keskiner’s term for it, exist, such as this elegant 18th c. copy, which would have been mounted by itself, similar to a hily-i şerîf. Going to stop for now- other tasks call- but I’ll pick this thread up later with 19th and 20th century permutations of the tuǧra, and of course others’ contributions and/or questions are welcome!”. . . And you can tweet him at @Mar_Musa.

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1Osmanlı Padişah Fermanları (Kültür Bakanlığı Yayınları Ankara 1986 ).

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The end of multiculturalism, Islamophobia and the role of NATO

Tuesday, 23 November 2010. 

tevhid kelimesi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected last year with a larger majority, which allowed her to form a coalition with the free-market party Free Democratic Party (FDP), or Freie Demokratische Partei in German, more in line with her own conservative political values.

Recently, Frau Merkel has managed to get noticed beyond Germany’s borders and occupy the internatifonal headlines — Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, a senior director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, even spoke of a “global media tsunami.” In a speech she gave at a meeting of younger members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Frau Merkel namely said the unthinkable: “At the start of the ‘60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn’t stay, that one day they’d go home. That isn’t what happened. And, of course, the tendency was to say let’s be ‘multikulti’ and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly.”

In spite of the fact that she tried to balance these harsh words with subsequent statements stressing Germany’s openness and its willingness to give people “opportunities,” overnight Frau Merkel’s shrill condemnation of the multicultural experiment became an international sensation. Her words came in the wake of the controversy surrounding former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin. His book “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (“Germany Does Away With Itself”), appearing at the end of August 2010, caused indignation nationally and internationally. At the time, the BBC reported that in his book “Mr Sarrazin has criticised German Muslims, suggested the existence of a Jewish gene, and warned of ethnic Germans being outnumbered by [Muslim] migrants.” These two high-profile outrages indicate that the guest-workers (gastarbeiter) of yesteryear, who used to do all the heavy and unpleasant jobs unfit for locals, have now assumed an altogether different identity. Whereas previously these immigrants were primarily seen as foreign nationals, mostly from Turkey, but also hailing from Morocco and Algeria, they have now become an altogether different group: They are now seen first and foremost as Muslims.

Merkel_Download

Foreigners in Germany

So, how did these foreigners end up in Germany? Following the end of World War II in Europe (May 8, 1945) and the promulgation of the Marshall Plan (April 3, 1948), West Germany went through a time of bustling economic activity. In the ’50s and ’60s, Germany witnessed the so-called “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) which transformed the war-ravaged country into an economic powerhouse. In order to dispose of sufficient labor forces, the then-West German government signed a number of bilateral recruitment agreements with countries that could supply some much-needed workers to do the job. In 1955 Germany signed a deal with Italy; in 1960 with Greece; in 1961 with Turkey, and two years later with Morocco. But the reality was such that after 1961, Turkish citizens (largely from rural areas) soon became the largest group of gastarbeiter in West Germany. These Turks had at first arrived on their own, single men willing to work and eager to return home laden with money and luxury goods. But, as indicated by Frau Merkel in her notorious speech, these men were soon joined by their wives, established families and subsequently struck deep roots in German soil. Second and third-generation Turkish immigrants grew up in Germany facing racism and discrimination. These German-born Turks met with prejudice and intolerance, based upon their status as foreigners, foreigners from the backward East, speaking a different language and practicing a different religion. But the locals saw them primarily as “Turks,” as individuals belonging to a different ethnic or national group. Back in those good old days of overt xenophobia, brave investigative journalists like Günter Wallraff were able to report on the racism Turks were bound to encounter in the German workplace. In his 1985 book “Ganz unten” (“Lowest of the Low”) Wallraff describes how Turkish workers were routinely mistreated by employers, landlords and the German government. Back then, the racism encountered by the Turkish gastarbeiter was the plain and simple kind that discriminated against the outsider on account of his or her ethnic or national background.

Nowadays, however, commentators and politicians alike tend to forget national or ethnic identifiers, instead opting for religious markers, and thus speaking about the Muslim other present in Germany (and by extension, Europe), the Muslim other whose presence and actions are incompatible with Western civilization and alien to the Judeo-Christian tradition which provides the framework for much, if not all, of Europe’s culture and identity. The professor of sociology, scholar and expert in Islamic matters, Stefano Allievi rightly remarks that the “immigrant … has progressively become ‘Muslim,’ both in his/her perception by the host societies and in his/her self-perception.” Nowadays, Europeans express their dislike of the “other” in religious and/or cultural terms. This has led to the creation of a new term that is oftentimes not even associated with racist sentiments and/or reflexes: Islamophobia. But we should be clear about this: Islamophobia is nothing but a new name given to the age-old reflex of racism. I can already hear some people objecting and uttering the phrase, “But Islam is not a race.” In fact, some scientists have argued over the past years that the mere concept of race as a distinguishing factor between humans does not really exist. Scientists like C. Loring Brace, Steve Jones, Nina Jablonski and Norman Sauer have made their case on more than one occasion. Rather than claiming racial differences between individual humans, they suggest that the criterion of race is as much a cultural artifact and a social construct as it is reflective of real differences between individuals and/or social groups. In that sense, racism is the term we use to describe the act of discriminating against an individual or a group of people based on certain traits (held in common) that are seen as undesirable, unwelcome and alien. On the BBC World Service, Professor Jones declared that “races are really in the eye of the beholder” and not necessarily a biological reality. As a result, the term Islamophobia suggests that the trait held in common by the people deserving discrimination and exclusion is their religious affiliation rather than their skin color or physiology, and thus we could term Islamophobia a clear form of “cultural racism.”

runnymede_s

Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All’

In 1997, the Runnymede Trust, “the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank,” issued an influential report in this respect: “Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All.” In the report one can read that the term Islamophobia is “the shorthand way of referring to the dread and hatred of Islam — and, therefore, the fear or dislike of all, or most Muslims.” Additionally, the report claims that this “fear or dislike of all, or most Muslims” first appeared in the mid-’70s. Today, Islamophobia as a social phenomenon is all but commonplace all over Europe: in the UK, the racist British National Party (BNP) is steadily gaining in force and popularity; in the Netherlands, the Islamophobic hate-monger Geert Wilders has booked an expected electoral victory for his Party For Freedom (PVV), or Partij voor de Vrijheid; neighboring Belgium also recently saw a good showing for the separatist and xenophobic Flemish Interest (VB), or Vlaams Belang, while in Sweden, prior to last September’s elections, Björn Söder, a member of the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), or Sverigedemokraterna, claimed that an “Islamic revolution akin to the one that swept through Iran in 1979 could easily take place in Sweden.” Söder’s statement is particularly revealing of the current mood not just in Sweden but in the whole of Europe. Let us put his statement into a bit of context. In 2009, a report on migration in Sweden established that there were about 450,000 to 500,000 Muslims in Sweden, which translates to around 5 percent of the total population. Yet Söder felt completely at ease to warn his fellow Swedes of impending doom and gloom, as these 5 percent of the total population were about to unleash an “Islamic revolution akin to the one that swept through Iran” in Scandinavia. Southern European countries are not immune, either. In Italy, the Northern League (LG), or Lega Nord, is particularly vociferous in its condemnation of Muslim immigrants. And now Germany’s centrist Christian-Democrat Angela Merkel also seems to be pandering to populist Islamophobic sentiment by declaring the death of multiculturalism.

How did this happen?

The continent of Europe had in the post-World War II era decisively moved towards a secular society, a society where one’s religious beliefs and cultural preferences were increasingly confined to one’s private life and where multiculturalism was thus allowed to bloom and prosper. Racism, xenophobia and sheer chauvinism were supposed to be traits of the past in Europe. In reality, however, the population of Europe has never really been able to suppress its covert “racist” instincts and distrust of the “other.” But nowadays these atavistic sentiments receive a religious label, which is no doubt linked with 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror.” In fact, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall religion has been making a comeback in Europe — at first in the former communist countries and now also in Western Europe. In Europe, more and more people appear to rediscover their Christian roots. The present pope, Benedict XVI, is currently cunningly tapping into that well of resurgent Christianity and has openly declared his hostility towards “aggressive forms of secularism” and “atheist extremism.” These trends feed into the age-old rivalry between Islam and Christianity. On a political level, such a development had been sanctioned as long ago as February 1995. Then, Willy Claes, NATO secretary-general from 1994-95, said, “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security” in the aftermath of the fall of communism. Claes added that extremist Muslims oppose “the basic principles of civilization that bind North America and Western Europe.” The then-NATO secretary-general was nevertheless diplomatic enough to remark that his declaration should not be seen as a call for “a crusade against Islam.” Nevertheless, Claes had let the genie out of the bottle, and here we are today, in a world where racism in the form of Islamophobia is rampant and on the rise. The situation has become even more volatile and combustible now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the US-led “war on terror,” which some see as a thinly veiled “war on Islam.” Is it any wonder that Claes’ words have turned out to be prophetic? In view of Europe’s now sizeable Muslim population, it is imperative that the multicultural experiment be continued to achieve a future of peace and prosperity. But the fact that Germany’s chancellor can now recklessly declare the failure of multiculturalism in Germany (and Europe) appears to indicate the absence of the political will to oppose the creeping trend towards open hostility against Islam and Muslims. Instead, politicians increasingly pander to the whims of an electorate that has been manipulated into viewing Islam as a threat and danger to the “basic principles of civilization.” Will the future see a revival of open hostility between Islam and Christianity? Will Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” become a political and possibly even military reality in years to come? Only time will tell . . . 

Willy Willy

 

 

Banksy’s Mural Support for Zehra Doğan

Zehra Dogan

On Thursday, 15 March 2018, the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, in cooperation with another “graffiti artist [named] Borf“ unveiled a mural depicting Zehra Doğan behind bars on the Bowery in New York City. The anonymous artist even spoke to the New York Times in an attempt to draw public attention to the plight of the imprisoned Turkish artist. Banksy said the following: “I really feel for her. I’ve painted things much more worthy of a custodial sentence”, adding that Dogan had been “[s]entenced to nearly three years in jail for painting a single picture“.1

Zehra Dogan 2 (Banksy, March 18)

Last year, the London-based wrtie and photograpger Perwana Nazif explained that the Turkish-Kurdish painter and journalist Zehra Doğan has been sentenced to two years, nine months, and 22 days in prison for creating a painting which depicted the destruction caused by Turkish security forces in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, a Kurdish region in Turkey . . . According to Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, the Mardin Second High Criminal Court in Turkey handed down the sentence because she drew Turkish flags on buildings destroyed by Turkish forces. However, according to Artforum, the court expressed that Doğan’s sharing of the image of her work, featuring current military operations, was the cause for her prison sentence“.2

Zehra Dogan (Banksy, March 18)

Doğan herself tweeted “I was given two years and 10 months [of jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, [the AKP-led Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it”.3 The tweet has since apparently been deleted. There had been a two-year cease-fire in place between Turkish security forces and the PKK, when the negative election outcome in July 2015 led the Prez Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP henchmen to renew hostilities in order for popular sentiment to become more amenable to a renewed AKP mandate . . . which was successfully delivered in a election re-run in November — Turkey’s so-called November Surprise. Since then, all-out war between the two parties has erupted anew, a war which has now also swept into Syria, where the AKP-led government is currently fighting the PKK-affiliated PYD with the help of its Jihadi terrorist warriors carrying the misleading moniker FSA or Free Syrian Army.

Zehra D

1Tom Powell, “Banksy unveils New York art mural as a protest against jailing of Turkish artist Zehra Dogan” Evening Standard (16 March 2018). https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/banksy-unveils-new-york-mural-in-protest-against-jailing-of-turkish-artist-zehra-dogan-a3791411.html.

2Perwana Nazif, “Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack” Artnet News (24 March 2017). https://news.artnet.com/art-world/painter-zehra-dogan-sentenced-to-jail-for-artwork-902015.

3Perwana Nazif, “Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack”.

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS (2011-03-09)

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS

CAN ERİMTAN

Some time ago, the Turkish government made public that it planned to alter the way in which alcohol is being sold in the country. According to some, the current Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has been waging a war against the consumption of alcohol in the country in a bold-faced attempt to bring Turkey more in line with Islamic rules and regulations.

Two vocal critics of the AKP and its government, Soner Çağaptay and Cansın Ersöz, researchers affiliated with the Turkish Research Program at the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, categorically write that since “the AKP rose to power in Turkey in 2002, special taxes on alcohol have increased dramatically, making a glass of wine or beer one of the most expensive in Europe, and for that purpose anywhere in the world.” In June 2002, the AKP adopted the Special Consumption Tax, or ÖTV, which raised the tax on alcoholic beverages from 18 percent (the standard VAT rate) to 48 percent, and as time went by, the ÖTV rate increased more and more until it reached 63 percent in 2009. Subsequently, the government came under fire for its policy and in 2010, some ÖTV taxes were eliminated.

But now the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, or TAPDK, has issued new regulations restricting advertisements for alcoholic beverages as well as its sale tactics. The decree requires catering companies that organize events that serve alcoholic beverages to get a license before each event. While it also prohibits supermarkets and grocery stores from placing alcoholic products for sale near goods aimed at children and youngsters. In addition, the sale of alcohol will be banned at municipally owned establishments and along roads designated as highways and state routes in the traffic code. However, no such provision in the regulation will apply to the sale of alcoholic beverages at venues in coastal zones. Draconic measures which restrict access to a product which is already restricted as a result of its high price?

Çağaptay and Ersöz opine that in “2003, Turkey’s per capita alcohol consumption rate was 1.4 liters per year. For that same year, this amount was 10.9 liters in Belgium; and 11.5 liters and 9.0 liters in neighboring Cyprus and Greece respectively. Even, Qatar, which implements a rigid version of the Shariah under the Wahhabi school, had higher per capita alcohol consumption rates than Turkey, at 4.4 liras per capita.” In other words, Turkish citizens do not appear to partake of alcoholic beverages all that much to begin with.

Arguments claiming to protect the young are very popular when it comes to restricting access to “forbidden” products such as pornography and/or drugs the world over. Mehmet Küçük, the head of the TAPDK, has publicly said that the aim of the new decree was not to restrict individuals’ freedoms but to lessen alcohol’s incentive. In other words, Küçük merely wants to limit the availability of attractive seducers, arguably in a way somewhat similar to the effect of laws that eventually prohibited the Marlboro Man from riding into the sunset while willingly exposing his body to carcinogenic substances in Europe and elsewhere. Küçük is thus suggesting that Turkish citizens require a nanny-state that knows best what is right or wrong. Turkey, a country that straddles the Balkans and the Middle East with a population that is officially 99.9 percent Muslim, is arguably the only country with an Islamic population and culture that allows its citizens unrestricted access to alcoholic beverages. Are the new regulations regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages in Turkey a somewhat cynical ploy to increase the state’s tax revenues or is there more than meets the eye?

In my opinion, the whole debate surrounding the consumption of alcohol in Turkey is primarily about perception. Opponents of the AKP government accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ministers of secretly planning to introduce Islamic codes and attitudes via the backdoor. They thus regard this new TAPDK decree as a direct attack on the country’s “secular constitution.”

Is this really the case, and if so, why? In my book, “Ottomans looking West?” I posited that the “proclamation of the Republic . . . liberated Turkish citizens from the restrictions of Islam and the Şeriat [Shariah].” As a result, Republican Turks were meant to enjoy this world and its delights to the fullest and the decision to let Turkish citizens “partake of the delights of the mortal world was arguably crystallized in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. A strict interpretation of Islam explicitly prohibits the drinking of intoxicants in this world.” Hence, the issue of unrestricted access to beer and other alcoholic intoxicants has now assumed political, if not ideological, importance.

Turkey’s Muslim citizens have had legal access to alcohol since 1926. Turkey’s Islamic neighbor states do not grant their citizens equally easy access to the forbidden delights of alcohol. As a result, some Turks regard the issue as critical to the definition of secularism in the country. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also defines secularism as “Concerned with the affairs of this world, wordly; not sacred.”

But nowadays, the term, particularly in its French form of laicité (at the root of Turkey’s laiklik), denotes a strict separation of church (or religion) and state. And, the theory is that Turkey, as a result of the reform movement, known as the İnkılap, is a secular state. In reality, however, ever since the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic has regulated its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister.

Consequently, proponents of secularism in Turkey quite naturally feel the need to attach a lot of importance to certain symbolic issues: the availability of alcoholic beverages springs to mind, as well as the thorny headscarf issue, or rather the notion that women possess the freedom to don more or less revealing outfits (arguably, to please the male gaze). Let us call these charged matters “beer and bikinis” as a shorthand for the contentious topic of Turkish secularism in the 21st century.

Ali Bardakoğlu, the president of the Diyanet until recently, publicly called for the establishment of an independent religious authority in Turkey in an interview he gave to the self-avowed atheist Ahmet İnsel of daily Radikal (Oct. 23-24, 2010). After he made these statements, Bardakoğlu was replaced by Mehmet Görmez as the head of the Diyanet (Nov. 11).

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Jihad goes to School in Turkey

Hamdi

AKP member Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, who used to be a driver of Turkey’s President but at present seems to be a member of the Youth, Sports and Culture Commission of the Ministry for National Education,(1) has now also made the news in Turkey.

MEB-cihad

And this driver-turned-official has namely made a number of remarks relating to the Ministry for National Education’s decision to include the teaching of the concept of Jihad in Turkey’s schools. On Friday, 21 July 2017, Çamlı told the press the following: “[w]hen you look at the Ottoman sultans, almost none of them performed the pilgrimage in order not to take a break from jihad . . . There is no use in teaching math to a kid who does not know the concept of jihad”.(2) While it is true that no Ottoman Sultan has ever undertaken the holy pilgrimage to Meccah, the reasons were more likely practical that concerned with upholding jihad. The Ottomans did not see themselves as mujahids (practitioner of jihad or striving in the way of God), and did not employ the concept of jihad in their war efforts till the late 18th century. Quite some years ago now, I talked about the concept of jihad (Originally published on 18 September 2010): “[n]owadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a ‘mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time’. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards”.(3)

Quran_29_69

Ghaza not Jihad

Back in the 1930s, the Orientalist Paul Wittek ‘proposed his Ghazî thesis to explain the sudden and apparently inexplicable emergence of the Ottoman state at the end of the 13th century. The Austrian historian and Orientalist argued that the Ottomans, [had been] imbued with a Ghazî spirit, meaning a zealous warlike attitude brimming with a glowing fervour for Holy War [or Ghaza, in Wittek’s wording], necessarily carried the day at the time. Wittek thought that Ottoman Ghazîs possessed a clear advantage over their contemporaries as members of a polity that had always been inspired by a fanatic enthusiasm for conquest, booty, and expansion’. Ghaza and not Jihad had been the Ottomans’ raison d’être acccording to this Orientalist. And this opinion was adopted by historians and Ottomanists alike. In due time though, authors like Rudi Lindner and Cemal Kafadar offered a somewhat different perspective, basically debunking the whole Ghazî ethos and spirit, but popular opinion still seems largely beholden to this interpretation. With regards to the application of the concept of jihad in an Ottoman context, we have to wait till the year 1774. At that stage, Sultan Mustafa III (1757-74) was waging war against Catherine the Great (1762-96) and the Ottomans were on the losing side. As a result, Mustafa III had his Sheik-ul-Islam issue a call for jihad to defend the Ottoman Empire against a victorious infidel, the Russian Empire. After all, according to Islamic theory jihad is a defensive mechanism . . . following the Prophet’s death in 632, the first time Muslims declared a jihad was in the year 1099. The Crusaders besieged the city of Jerusalem in the period 7 June – 15 July 1099 before conquering the third holy site in Islam. In response to this calamity, Muslims rulers called for a universal jihad to liberate Muslim lands from the hands of Christian infidels . . . but the reconquest of Jerusalem did not take place until 2 October 1187.(4)

fall-of-jersualem

(1) ‘Mil.Eğit. Genç. Spor ve Kültür Kom. Üyesi’ “Ahmet Hamdi ÇAMLI” Twitter. https://twitter.com/ahmethamdicamli.

(2) “Ruling AKP’s Deputy: Useless To Teach Math To A Kid Who Does Not Know Concept Of Jihad” SCF (22 July 2017). https://stockholmcf.org/ruling-akps-deputy-useless-to-teach-math-to-a-kid-who-does-not-know-concept-of-jihad/

(3) “The War in Afghanistan: Jihad, Foreign Fighters and al Qaeda” The Erimtan Angle (04 Feb 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/the-war-in-afghanistan-jihad-foreign-fighters-and-al-qaeda/.

(4) Cfr. Wikipedia.

Ali al-Omar: Message on the Occasion of “Eid Al-Fitr Day 2017”

Ahrar al-Sham logo

Ali al-Omar (a.k.a. Abu Ammar or Babi Ammar Taftanaz) is is the general commander of the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (Movement of the Free Ones of the Levant, more commonly referred to as Ahrar al-Sham) . . . ‘Al-Omar and his family come from the area around the large market town of Taftanaz, located 11 miles northeast of the city of Idlib in Syria’s northwestern governorate of Idlib . . . Taftanaz has historically been a site for the recruitment and mobilization of militant Islamist organizations that seek to overthrow the al-Assad government by force, both under Hafez al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad. Further, al-Omar has a longstanding familial connection to the militant Islamist movement against the Assad regime. Reportedly, his family was associated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood that actively contested the government of Hafez al-Assad in the 1970s and early 1980s’.(1)

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(1) Nicholas A. Heras, “In Brief: A Snapshot of Two Rebel Commanders Vying for Survival in Damascus Governorate (Free)” Militant Leadership Monitor ,volume: 7, issue: 12 (11 Jan 2017). https://jamestown.org/brief/brief-snapshot-two-rebel-commanders-vying-survival-damascus-governorate-free/.

Turkey and the EU: Words of Warning?!??

PIRI, Kati (S&D, NL)

On 20 June 2017, the EU Rapporteur on Turkey Kati PIRI (S&D,NL) made the following remarks: “All the groups in this Parliament have a different position about what should be the future of EU-Turkey relations. While we see that the Commission and the Council are actually silent about what’s going on in Turkey I am proud and of course it was the toughest battle to make sure that Parliament speaks with one voice. One voice of concern about the human rights in Turkey and one voice that it will have consequence’s on the accession process. So, what we adopted today says, if the constitutional package will be implemented unchanged this means that we will have to lead to the formal suspension of the accession talks with Turkey . . . If there is a suspension of the accession process, automatically you also have a suspension of the so-called pre-accession funds. We also indicated that in case that scenario comes into reality, the money that is now allocated to Turkey should be spent directly on civil society in Turkey. So, not back to the EU budget but the money that was meant for the Turkish population should be directly also dispersed to the Turkish population . . . Turkey to be honest over the last 6 years, of course, have done a lot when it comes to hosting refugees. There is still 3.2 million refugees today in Turkey and we also urge in the report. The member states of the EU, they made a promise with the EU-Turkey deal to take more vulnerable refugees from Turkey to the EU. So, it is not just critical when it comes to the Turkish government but we also clearly insist that the EU sticks to its part of the deal”.(1)

European Commission: Daily News 20 / 06 / 2017

EU Syria Trust Fund: new assistance package to support Syrian refugees and host communities crosses €1 billion mark

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis adopted new projects worth €275 million that will support refugees and their overstretched host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, the Western Balkans, and Armenia. Projects will focus on education, health care, support of local community, social inclusion, gender equality. The newly adopted assistance package brings the current overall volume of the EU Trust Fund up to over €1 billion which was the goal set by President Juncker on 23 September 2015 at the Informal meeting of the European Council on migration and in the Communication on Managing the Refugee Crisis. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini said: “We are giving a lifeline to millions of Syrians inside the country and across the region, helping create a future for Syrian refugees and host communities. By enabling girls and boys to access quality education, we are helping to prevent a lost generation of children whose lives have been devastated by the Syrian conflict […]”. EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn commented: “Thanks to the EU Trust Fund, children in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are able to go to school and have access to safe spaces for non-formal education, protection and psycho-social care. […] The EU will continue to respond to the needs arising from the Syria conflict, as testified by the fact that more than €1 billion is being channelled to improve lives via this Trust Fund”. The full press release is available online as well as the dedicated factsheet. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887).(2)

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