[Originally published in Turkish Daily News]
Did you know that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife are crypto-Jews who secretly collaborate with the Mossad? And that they are trying to cook-up “moderate Islam” and destroy Turkish secularism for the sake of serving the elders of Zion?
Well, I had no clue about that terrible conspiracy either, until I went into a major Istanbul bookstore last weekend and checked the bestsellers list. There were a few usual titles telling stories about how the beloved Secular Turkish Republic is targeted by internal and external plots — a highly popular and powerful paranoia in the country these days — but none of them were as informative as the one penned by a die-secularist named Ergün Poyraz.
“The Children of Moses” is the title of Mr. Poyraz’s masterpiece, and in its subtitle, there are two unexpected names: “Tayyip and Emine.” On the book’s cover, there is even a more stunning graphic message: a huge Star of David encircles the photos of Mr. and Mrs. Erdoğan.
Of course a sane and educated person does not even need to turn the cover of the book to figure out that this is totally insane. But I decided to be lenient on the author and decided to buy and read his “investigative book.” Ah, it was quite hard: The “writer” could not write five sentences in a row without a spelling or grammar mistake. (Apparently his “editor” was no better.) The bizarre claims he made throughout the text are not documented, footnoted, or anything. The “method” he uses is to cherry-pick irrelevant facts and build wild speculations on them. Any Jewish organization that Mr. Erdoğan has spoken to (such as the Anti-Defamation League or the American Jewish Committee) are given as “proofs” of his alleged “secret connections” with “global Jewry,” whom the writer obviously sees via the lenses of his forerunners in Okhrana— the secret police of the Russian Empire, which, according to many experts, penned the infamous anti-Semitic hoax, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
“The Children of Moses” sounds not only anti-Semitic but also Kurdophobiac. While exposing the alleged Jewish roots of the Erdoğan family — and how he does that is really beyond me — the writer also fervently unveils the Kurdish origin of some of Mr. Erdoğan’s current or previous advisors, as if it is something that one has to be ashamed of. It is clearly, and unabashedly, a racist book.
Nuts As Mainstream
Why do I care about a single book, you might ask. After all, each county has its nuts, and these nuts fabricate all the crazy conspiracy theories you can imagine. That’s true. But in most countries, nuts are recognized and treated as nuts. In Turkey, however, they are becoming quite mainstream.
You just need to look at the back cover of Mr. Poyraz’s book to see that. It presents two powerful endorsements. The first one is from journalist Emin Çölaşan. “I started to read this book and could not drop it, Ergün Poyraz is a magnificent researcher,” Mr. Çölaşan says. “My request from you is to read this surprising book; when you read, you will thank me.”
Well, I haven’t thanked him yet, but if you plan to do, you can find his contacts from Hürriyet, Turkey’s no. 1 daily, where he is a very well established and prominent columnist. (To be fair, I should note that mainstream Hürriyet has several other columnists who strongly disagree with Mr. Çölaşan on many issues.)
The second endorsement at the back cover of “The Children of Moses” comes from a less direct but a much more powerful source: It is from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founder! “My suggestion to my esteemed nation,” Atatürk said according to Mr. Poyraz, “is that it should not give up examining the real core of the blood and the conscious of the men whom it will choose as its leaders.”
Wow… That’s quite a suggestion. And it apparently justifies Mr. Poyraz’s obsession about the “real core of the blood” of Mr. Erdoğan and other personalities in his party, the AKP.
For the rest of us, the Atatürk quote at the back cover of a racist, anti-Semitic and anti-AKP book points to a very interesting fact: that the dogmatic Kemalists of Turkey, who are the driving force behind the current paranoia about secularism, have come to the point of fascism. In my previous columns I have criticized Turkey’s “illiberal secularists” who do not respect the freedom of religion of our citizens — whether they might be Muslim or Christian. The book “The Children of Moses” represents the mindset of the most radical wing in this illiberal camp, and actually the term “illiberal” is not enough to define their worldview. To borrow a term from President Bush and to give it a little pun, I would rather call them “secularo-fascists.”
Secularo-Fascism Versus ‘Moderate Islam’
I hope the Western world will understand that the current political conflict in Turkey is not between “Islamists” and “secularists,” as some commentators put it. No, the two poles in the conflict are actually Muslim democracts and secularo-fascists. The latter group has potrayed itself as the Westernizing force in Turkish society for so many decades, but it was actually never Western in the democratic and liberal sense. Moreover, in the past five years, especially in response to the pro-EU stance of the Muslim democrats, it has become growingly anti-Western, and, as Mr. Poyraz’s lunatic book indicates, even anti-Semitic.
You can observe that not only in Turkey’s bookshelves, but also in its streets. The giant rallies held in Ankara and Istanbul in the previous weeks in order to protest against the AKP government was full of anti-American and anti-European slogans. The “moderate Muslim” AKP was denounced as the collaborator of Western imperialism and global capitalism, which both supposedly aim to take Turkey away from Atatürk’s supposedly socialist and authoritarian model. Some secularists carried giant posters denouncing Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, the AKP’s candidate for president, with a pun: “We want no ABD-ullah as president,” their posters read. The initials “ABD” are the Turkish equivalent of “USA.” In other words, they were calling him “USA-ullah.”
This imagined alliance between the USA and the AKP started when some US officials praised Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Gül’s movement as an example of “moderate Islam.” Well, in the whole world, “moderate Islam” is a good thing. But for Turkey’s secularists, it is heresy. “We are not a moderate Muslim country,” many secularist Turkish officials and pundits angrily proclaimed, “we have nothing to do with Islam.” They actually want to see a totally secularized society in which religion has no visible presence. The only publicly free faith should be, according to them, the official cult of personality built around the country’s founder.
But why is that, you might ask. Why Turkey’s secularists can’t stand to see anything Islamic, while the Western world has concerns only about the radical interpretations of the faith? Well, one needs to explore Turkey’s century-old modern Islamophobia to answer that question. But that’s the topic of another column.