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If revolutions are such incidences of large-scale sudden changes in the composition of political elites as a result of spontaneous or organized mass mobilization, Turkey has undergone none.

Turkey has somehow escaped a fate that befell on such countries in its neighborhood as Russia, Iran, or Egypt. Turkey has somehow managed to contain all radicalisms, whether of the Leftist or the religious kind and even transformed some, if not all, agents of radicalisms into the servants of the dominant political and economic system.

Turkey has nurtured, however, a number of groups or movements that have pursued a revolutionary agenda. One of them, a religious kind, has pursued an unusual strategy. The group's strategy is unusual, however, in that it necessitated extreme temporal patience, or years of hard work. Even though Turkey has undergone no social revolution, it still witnessed a dramatic transformation of the character and composition of its political elite. This transformation was the work of many actors.

This paper argues that this movement pursued an unusual strategy to bring about the said transformation. It was unusual because the movement's strategy necessitated extreme temporal patience, or years of hard work. This article traces the movement's strategy back to the messianism of Said Nursi and discusses the conditions that led the movement to adopt such a strategy. As it stands now, however, the movement's future in Turkey is uncertain: it has lost almost all gains of its past activities and has been totally decimated in its home country especially after July The eventual fate the movement met provides another illustration of revolutions' Saturn-like nature: they devour their own children.

This paper is about this religious group, the Cemaat, introducing first its messianic character and then its unusual strategy. Said Nursi was born in in Nurs, a village in the mountainous region south of Lake Van and passed away in in the south-eastern city of Urfa. More importantly, this disparity had already created a hostile international environment for the Muslim world. Major international powers were blatantly aggressive and had already colonized a good part of it.

In this life and death battle of survival the Ottoman statesmen had been reforming the Ottoman state at least since the early nineteenth century, building a European-style army, educational and legal system and centralizing its administration.

Whatever we call it, modernization, state building, westernization, the whole process was also transforming religion or, to be more specific, noticeably restricting its public role in the Empire. The Republic would go even further than the Ottoman Empire and implemented a series of reforms, all in an effort to carve an even more restricted space for religion in public life, reforms ranging from the abolition of the caliphate to the closure of religious seminaries, religious courts, to closure of Sufi orders.

Said Nursi became the man he was in this context. He was born into a Kurdish peasant family with no prominent religious figure among its ranks: yet, his father also served as a local imam who steered his children towards religious education. Said had in fact pursued a quite irregular religious education in different madrasahs of the Kurdish region, finally obtaining his diploma in After graduation, Said travelled in different cities of the Kurdish region and first settled in Bitlis in and then in Van in In both cities, where he had stayed for a total of 12 years, Said Nursi further expanded his knowledge of religious sciences and, more importantly, familiarized himself with natural sciences.

During his stay in Bitlis and Van, Said Nursi also became familiar with the major political and intellectual problems of the period. It was probably in this period that Said Nursi developed this powerful feeling that the very existence of Islam was under threat.

Yet, that feeling had intensified, reaching the level of paranoia, only after Said Nursi met with Mustafa Kemal in Ankara in If Said Nursi's recollections are to be trusted, he would say about what he sensed in Ankara:.

I went to Ankara in But, unfortunately, because those who knew Arabic were few and those who took the treatise seriously were rare, that extremely concise and abbreviated proof did not have its effect and sadly, the current of atheism both developed and gained strength. Deeply disappointed Said Nursi left Ankara and settled in Van.

Even though Said Nursi refused to join the rebellion, he was exiled to a small village, Barla, in south central Anatolia. Nursi would spend the rest of his life under the watchful eyes of the Republic in different Anatolian towns.

Having gone through enormous personal hardships during the one-party period, Said Nursi's view of the new regime could not be positive. His view of Mustafa Kemal was particularly harsh. Nursi's view of him can be most clearly seen in a treatise called 5. Said Nursi had no other option, but to devote himself fully to religious scholarship.

In Barla he set out to pen what became Risale-i Nur, a gigantic collection of religious treaties. During his stay in Istanbul during the Independence War — , he published several other works. During the Republic, Said Nursi simply expanded the main points of these earlier works, making them more understandable to the masses by extensively employing illustrative allegories.

This is critical to note. Said Nursi saw himself on a religious mission, a mission that countered Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's Sufyanic-mission. And that mission had to be necessarily a mission only Mahdi, the awaited Christ-like figure of Islam, could undertake. Said Nursi never called himself the awaited Mahdi. For him the task of Mahdi was so monumental, no one person could have undertaken it. That mission required the shoulders of many forming a religious group.

Said Nursi, however, claimed that writing Risale-i Nur, which would strengthen faith in God, was the first stage in the realization of that giant mission of Mahdi. Upon these two stages the awaited Mahdi would rise and complete the third and final stage: that is to establish the Islamic Shariah.

Said Nursi did not live to see the second stage of his prophetic vision, a stage his students would enter all walks of life. By the time he passed away in his closely-knit community of disciples had not expanded much beyond a few hundreds and was active only in a few towns.

There is, however, no question that the group helped Risale-i Nur enter all walks of life. Furthermore he could not lay claim to any other socio-religious capital: his father was an ordinary prayer leader in Korucuk, an obscure village in the province of Erzurum; no other family member was known to be a prominent religious figure; nor was he blessed by any Sufi Sheikh.

He joined Said Nursi's movement, but was not in the leadership cadre. Fortunately he was a preacher at the Directorate of Religious Affairs, so had a regular access to the masses through the pulpit.

But, that was also a disadvantage. He therefore had to focus on ritual perfection, extreme asceticism 8 and ceaseless activism for what he called the service of Islam. Yet, he could not overcome the age disadvantage.

Since then the Cemaat has actively worked to recruit new members among secondary and high school students. As it happened elsewhere in the Muslim world, the expansion of the public educational system, yet with gradual deterioration in quality, provided invaluable opportunities for the Cemaat. By offering free and private classes to secondary and high school students, the Cemaat could keep regular access to the pool of young recruits.

Having such a young body of followers, who were yet to make critical life decisions, the Cemaat elders or abiler in Turkish , inadvertently perhaps, also came to play a role in helping them make those decisions. In Turkey of the s the group did not have much option either.

The state was then, and still is to a certain extent, a major employer. Among all the state institutions, the Armed Forces and the Police were particularly attractive. Both institutions recruited its ranking officers in the tradition of the old Ottoman devshirme system when they were young. Yet, it is hard to assess the extent the Cemaat had benefitted from this recruitment system in the s.

Who would constitute the future leadership of the Cemaat seemed to have entered either Ministry of Education as teachers or the Directorate of Religious Affairs as prayer leaders and preachers. But, some must have entered the Police High School.

A few police chiefs who are jailed now as part of the ongoing investigation entered the Police High School in the s. The military unleashed a sweeping crackdown on both the Left and the Right and destroyed whatever network they had developed among the masses, especially among the high school and university students.

The coup unintentionally perhaps emptied the space that the Cemaat filled in and exponentially increased its membership throughout the s especially among university students. The military also initiated an economic liberalization program that eventually also helped the Cemaat, and other religious groups, for economic liberalization came to benefit a new class of businessmen and merchants independent of the state.

Backed by this newly moneyed class like other religious groups the Cemaat expanded its activities into media, education and business. It even opened its own interest-free bank, Asya Finans, later Bank Asya. In the s, the Cemaat had no apparent reason not to place its student-members in the state especially in the military and the police as it had an ever-expanding pool of them: the Cemaat encouraged those bright secondary school students into the schools that trained the officer corps of the military and the police.

The military proved to be much more immune to the Cemaat's efforts than the rest of the state institutions. The military had been more autonomous than the police and other state institutions from the political parties in government.

Furthermore, the military systematically purged the members of the Cemaat from its schools and ranks. Since then the Armed Forces had systematically purged members of the Cemaat and other religious groups from its ranks well until The police had been much easier simply because unlike the military it had been fully under the civilian control. While a special council, the High Military Council, had basically been running the military in making the critical decisions of promotions and appointments, the Ministry of Interior had been running the police, making all appointments and promotions within the police.

Facing an electoral competition, the politicians did not really want to upset the conservative voters and had therefore been more lenient towards the Cemaat's penetration into the police.

Along with educational activities the group also helped its businessmen and merchant members to undertake ventures in these new places. The group's newspaper, Zaman , became the largest newspaper in Turkey, its circulation reaching at around 1,, except in summers. Throughout the s and the s the Cemaat had distanced itself from all political parties and very carefully kept an above-politics image. This was to change in the s. The strong man of the party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 17 who was himself victim, like the Cemaat, of the Kemalist guards, must have seen in the Cemaat an ally.

Even though Erdogan hailed from political Islam tradition, he seemed to have developed cordial relations with the Cemaat especially during his tenure as the mayor of Istanbul. Many other leading figures of the JDP had also cordial relations with the Cemaat. It was not surprising then that the JDP, once in power, would promote the Cemaat's cadres in the state.

New in power, the JDP had yet to consolidate its popularity among the masses. To this economic recovery was its wildcard for the s were economically depressing years for many in Turkey.

With the JDP, Turkey was back again on the path of continuous economic growth. Between and , the Turkish economy grew from More confident now, JDP could directly aim at taming its most stubborn enemy, the Kemalist establishment in the higher echelons of the military, the judiciary, universities and the media. In this task the JDP found the Cemaat's cadres in the state as its natural allies. In retrospect, what happened in Turkey then was really a within-state struggle, one group marginalizing and purging another with the strong support from the JDP government.

It was because no group other than the Cemaat could mobilize such a broad cross-institutional coalition within the state, it was most likely that the Cemaat's cadres in the state pursued and brought to a conclusion both the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations.


Meaning of "hüsnüteveccüh" in the Turkish dictionary



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