May 11, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10607

Arab Islamists Rally Behind Erdoğan In Upcoming Turkish Election Deemed 'Battle Between Islam And Unbelief,' Say Voting For Him Is A Mandatory Religious Obligation, Demonize Opposition Leader Kılıçdaroğlu

May 11, 2023
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 10607

In the weeks ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Turkey on May 14, 2023, Arab Islamists have rallied behind President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom they highly praise for promoting conservative values in Turkey, defending Islamic issues around the world and welcoming Arab Islamist dissidents in his country. Using multiple platforms, Arab Islamists went as far as considering the upcoming election a battle between Islam and unbelief and secularism and with several saying that voting for Erdoğan is a "religious obligation." They have also demonized President Erdoğan's main political opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is the opposition presidential candidate, leader of the biggest opposition party, the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP), and leader of the opposition coalition, and labeled him a secularist who is anti-immigrant and pro-West.

"He Intervened In... Many Other Places And Muslims Have Become Inspired To Restore The Glories Of The Ottoman Empire"

Emphasizing the significance of the upcoming election in Turkey, Moroccan cleric sheikh Abdellah Nhari noted in a YouTube video posted on his channel on May 4, 2023, that "it is not an issue of replacing one president with another. It is about whether Turkey will continue on the path of development, independence, caring for the issues concerning the entire Ummah, and restoring the Islamic role to be a point of attraction for Muslims in the world. The hope of Muslims in the world would be shaped by the results of this election."

Nhari pointed out that the alternative would be the "the secular leftists" who "work day and night to preserve the identity of a secular Turkey and do not hide their intention to divide Turkey into states if they win, and this has been mentioned in their constitution." After crediting Erdoğan for welcoming the Syrian and Uyghur refugees and praising him for "erasing all that the secularists wanted to implement regarding family issues" and for making Turkey among the G20 countries, Nhari responded to those who criticize Erdoğan for relations with Israel. He said: "The normalization was established before his time. The most important issue is knowing how the Prophet Muhammad dealt with events and how he would gain tactical advantage out of them to strategically move closer to establishing a statehood for Islam that would carry the banner of Islam."

"The 2023 election will have its consequences. Interestingly, there is a powerful media campaign in favor of the secularists which intends to tarnish this legacy but because this man has sided with the powerless people all what that media machine has been promoting to the Turkish people would be in vain."

Addressing Muslims, Nhari stressed that it is a religious duty that Muslims pray for Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) saying that they are "the hope of the powerless people of the world." Nhari further praised Erdoğan's interference in Libya and claimed that he had "saved Libya from further fragmentation and he intervened in Azerbaijan and regained control over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh for the Azerbaijanis, he intervened in Ukraine and many other places and Muslims have become inspired to restore the glories of the Ottoman Empire." Nhari concluded by praying to Allah to "grant victory to Erdoğan, Oh Lord, we have seen how he dealt with the earthquakes. Oh Lord, I have never seen a Muslim leader who says that in a one-year period we will rebuild all these destroyed cities."[1]

"Betraying This Group Would Mean Betraying Your Muslim Brothers, Especially The Syrians Who Were Expelled From Their Country – [Erdoğan's Opponents] Want To Send Them Back To The Oppressor"

On May 6, Turkey-based Saudi cleric sheikh Ahmad Al-Zarra' shared a video of his Friday sermon on his Twitter account, which has over 21,000 followers under the title "The Religious Position For Muslims Regarding The Elections In Turkey," arguing that the election in Turkey is a "religious matter and a battle between truth and falsehood and Islam and unbelief."

He addressed all Turkish citizens, saying they are "religiously obligated to elect Erdoğan, who is the protector of Islam in this country, him and his party and this a true statement. If the Islamic party and President Erdoğan asked you during these circumstances [to vote for them] against this corrupted stream that is trying to erase Islam, if they asked you to cast your vote, then you are religiously obligated to do so and it is impermissible for you to be reluctant or to not vote. This is a similar situation to the time of war, during which it would be impermissible for Muslims to back off."

Providing the religious reasoning to back his position, Al-Zarra' recited a Hadith: "A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him, nor does he betray him" and said: "It would be a form of betrayal to betray a man who wants to serve the religion. This is a betrayal to the religion because empowering the religion would be by empowering this group and retainment of power as we know, see, and as they have proven. Betraying this group would mean betraying your Muslim brothers, especially the Syrians who were expelled from their country. [Erdoğan's opponents] want to send them back to the oppressor."[2]

Voting For Erdoğan "Is An Individual Obligation And The Lack Of Participation Constitutes A Refusal To Bear Witness That Could Lead To Ending Up In Hell"

A similar argument was presented by Islamist journalist and YouTuber Saber Mashhour in a video published on his YouTube channel on May 7, under the title "Taking Part In Electing Erdoğan Is A Religious Duty Mentioned In The Quran And The Sunnah."

In the video, Mashhour started by declaring a religious edict or fatwa saying: "going to the voting centers in the Turkish election is an individual obligation and the lack of participation constitutes a refusal to bear witness that could lead to ending up in hell because if Erdoğan does not win and Kılıçdaroğlu, who wants to ignite a war between the Turks and divide the country, comes to power, and that results in death and displacement, then you who decided to stay home, you will be questioned by Allah because committing treason does not only mean spying for a foreign nation but also when you become passive and do not do your part."

Highlighting the significance of the upcoming election, Mashhour said: "Now, we have two camps: The camp of the leftists and the communists which is an ultimate evil that includes no goodness at all. All those who are in it are enemies of the state, the enemies of Turkey who want to divide and destroy it. [The second] camp is Erdoğan's camp, which mainly advocates for goodness."

Mashhour then argued that Erdoğan's plan to make lessons in the Arabic-alphabet Ottoman language compulsory in high schools is a "matter of national security for Turkey, otherwise, Turkish youth would end up becoming atheists and following Greece, the U.S., and the U.K."

As to why Turks should vote for Erdoğan, he said: "Because he is the man who will safeguard Turkey as a strong Muslim state and nation. I have noticed that in Europe, they all say: let's destroy Turkey because it is a Muslim country, so those who would not go to cast their votes are hypocrites."[3]

"This Is The Battle Of Islam In Turkey... Scholars Should Collectively Or Individually Write Statements And Issue Fatwas And Should Also Contribute Heavily On This Issue"

Historian Mohammad El-Hamy is another Turkey-based Egyptian Islamist who argues that Muslims are religiously obligated to vote for Erdoğan, saying that if he loses the election, the consequences would not only impact those who sought refuge in Turkey but also those who still live in their countries.

In a speech he delivered on May 6, at a conference under the title "The Arab Communities and the Turkish Elections" El-Hamy said: "This is the battle of Islam in Turkey. This is a battle of Islam because it would save the Muslims here and in other countries."[4]

On May 7, El-Hamy published a post on his website titled "Regarding the Scholars' position on the Elections in Turkey," in which he stressed that clerics, preachers and scholars should rally behind Erdoğan by issuing statements and fatwas collectively or individually.

He wrote: "In my view, I think scholars should collectively or individually write statements and issue fatwas and should also contribute heavily on this issue. Indeed, by doing so, some would condemn these acts and consider them foreign interference and betrayal of secularism. But at the same time, Erdoğan's supporters and his allies would also say: look at our leader, he has become a leader for the entire ummah. How would you abandon such a man who is supported by scholars and pious people and elect an unbeliever who steps on a prayer matt with his shoes."[5]

"In The Event That He Loses, None Of The Yemenis And Syrians Would Remain In Turkey"

London-based Yemeni Islamist activist and YouTube As'ad Al-Shar'i spoke highly about Erdoğan in a YouTube live-stream aired on May 8, and stressed that all Muslims should be proud of him and it would be best for the Arabs that he remains in power because he has "established an example of an Islamic state."

Praising Erdoğan for allowing exiled Arab clerics and Islamist scholars to live in Turkey, he said: "Reason and logic prove that he is a good man who brings goodness to the ummah and to the people and to humanity and to us as Arab. In the event that he loses, none of the Yemenis and Syrians would remain in Turkey. The secularists would not allow you to stay in the country for a single month. Part of the campaign promises of Erdoğan's opponent is that he would expel all the foreigners."[6]

"Some Turkish Citizens Of Arab Origin [Say]…: 'Erdoğan Does Not Implement Shari'a' – So, Are Those Who Oppose Him Among The Righteous Caliphs?"

Muslim Brotherhood member and Egyptian YouTuber Essam Talima who is based in Turkey commented on the Turkish election in a video published on his YouTube channel on May 7, and revealed that he has Turkish citizenship and he will vote for Erdoğan for many reasons.

In a video titled "Why should President Erdoğan Be Elected?" Talima argued that despite the fact that Erdoğan is not perfect, Turkish citizens of Arab origin should elect him as his opponents would be worse. He said: "Even though I did not like some of his policies, in the end, politics should not be judged by a couple of policies but rather by the overall approach. Unfortunately, some Turkish citizens of Arab origin commit a sort of political immaturity or religious immaturity by saying: 'Erdoğan does not implement Shari'a.' So, are those who oppose him among the righteous caliphs? He is better with regard to our Islamic, religious and Arabic issues."[7]

"The Issue Now Is [Choosing] Between Islam And Unbelief"

In a video titled "The Importance Of The Turkish Elections And The Obligation Of All Muslims In The World Toward It" posted on May 7, Syrian cleric Dr. Abdulkader Al-Housien accused the parties that oppose Erdoğan of having a single objective of toppling the Islamic government.

He further referred to them as the "nationalist, racist, and atheist stream that seek to erase everything related to Islam, such as banning of hijab, the banning of the Quran, the banning of religiosity and shutting down religious schools and objecting to anything related to Islam. Then you would find some who claims to be Muslim siding with this group. Where is their religion and fear of Allah?"

Al-Housien then condemned opposition candidate Kılıçdaroğlu by describing him as "the atheist who is waging war against Allah and his Messenger publicly and declared at his campaigns that he will support the kinds [of people] who are rejected by all religions and you all know who they are. They are those that the U.N. advocates for their rights while they contradict nature and Islamic values."

Addressing the Turkish people, Al-Housien urged them to take part in the elections and vote for Erdoğan whom he described as a "performer of prayer who is fearful of Allah and the hereafter."

After downplaying Erdoğan's mistakes, Al-Housien said: "This is not the issue now. The issue now is [choosing] between Islam and unbelief. I say you are obligated to cast your vote to empower Muslims. This applies to those who have Turkish citizenship. For those who are not Turkish, every Muslim in the world who can hear me should dedicate prayer to Allah when they are the closest to him... praying to Him to empower Muslims in that country and to elevate the word of Allah... to the one who practices ablution and performs prayer to Allah and starts his speech by the name of Allah."[8] 

Turkey-based Egyptian Islamist Moustapha Al-Badri also voiced his support for Erdoğan in a video posted on his YouTube channel on May 6, and defended the Islamists' support for him despite his bilateral relations with Israel by saying: "Yes, we support Recep Tayyip Erdoğan... for two major reasons, because he safeguards the rights of Muslims, whether here in his country in Turkey, or outside of Turkey when he intervenes on many issues such as the Palestinian issue, the Muslim issue in Burma, in Turkestan, and in other countries. The second reason is that the international system opposes him. What more reason would you need? See how the Western press and media talk about him. See how committed they are to toppling him."[9]

In an article titled "Why Votes Should Be Casted For Erdoğan" published in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, on May 9, Kuwaiti Islamist writer Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fadli listed several reasons why Turkish people should vote for Erdoğan.

After saying that Erdoğan should be elected because he will continue to support Islamic issues and preserve the dignity of Turkey and the Turks, Al-Fadli wrote: "I wish that that the Turkish people would learn from the lessons of others and learn from what had happened to other nations that abandoned their patriotic presidents and chose those who are followers of the West: They become more impoverished, their situations have deteriorated, and their freedoms have been compromised."

"I call on my Turkish brothers to read history and learn from its lessons and to not believe the Western promises to support the Turkish economy if the opposition candidate were to win. They promised the Arabs independence if they helped in toppling the Ottoman Empire, and after they helped, they were occupied by Britain and France."[10]


[1], May 4, 2023.

[2], May 6, 2023.

[3], May 7. 2023.

[4], May 8. 2023.

[5], May 7, 2023.

[6], May 8, 2023.

[7], May 7, 2023.

[8], May 7, 2023.

[9], May 6, 2023.

[10], May 9, 2023.

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