May 22, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1596

Turkish PM Erdogan in Speech During Term As Istanbul Mayor Attacks Turkey’s Constitution, Describing it As ‘A Huge Lie’: 'Sovereignty Belongs Unconditionally and Always To Allah'; 'One Cannot Be a Muslim, and Secular'

May 22, 2007
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 1596

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose political origins are with the Milli Gorus – the radical and political Islamist movement founded by the former Islamist PM Erbakan - often attacked Turkey's secular regime and its constitution.

A video clip of one of PM Erdogan's speeches delivered during his term as Istanbul’s mayor, (1994-1998) can be viewed at

The following are excerpts from the speech:

PM Erdogan on Secularism:

"If the people want it, of course secularism will go away. You cannot rule this people by force; you don't have the power to do that. This [i.e. secularism] cannot work in spite of the people.

"And anyway, for the love of Allah, what is this secularism? You ask them to define it. They can't. They say that it varies from place to place. So what sort of a strange thing is this [secularism]?

"Today, for every concept there is a definition in the dictionary. Every concept must have a definition […] The interior minister comes and says that the state can interfere with religion. What about the rest? Why don't you say the rest? No! He does not say that the religion can interfere with the state.

"Yesterday I was at the Bosphorus University; and some of the – probably impressionable – young people there asked me, 'Mr. Mayor, what do you think about secularism? There are concerns that secularism is disappearing. What will happen?'

"This is what I said to those young friends: 'In the West they say, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God's. But this country's interior minister says that Caesar has rights but God does not!'

"But the fact is that 99% of the people of this country are Muslims. You cannot be both secular and a Muslim! You will either be a Muslim, or secular! When both are together, they create reverse magnetism [i.e. they repel one another]. For them to exist together is not a possibility! Therefore, it is not possible for a person who says 'I am a Muslim' to go on and say 'I am secular too.' And why is that? Because Allah, the creator of the Muslim, has absolute power and rule!"

PM Erdogan on Turkish Constitution and Democracy:

"As for [the motto of Turkish democracy] 'Sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people.' Now, look here. This is a lie! And it's a huge lie! We [former PM Erbakan's Islamist RP (Welfare) Party] suggested this to them for their constitution: We said 'Let's put brackets next to 'sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people' and write within the brackets, 'once every five years.'

"They began to laugh. I asked them why they were laughing. Do the people have such a privilege, other than once every five years? Then what's-his-name says – and where does he say this? – it is in 1985 and we are having a discussion on the constitution in a meeting in the Marmara Hotel. He gets up and says 'No, this is not right.'

"At that moment, the former finance minister, who was completely drunk, also joins in to give advice. I told them that they must have prepared this constitution at the same table [at which they together consume alcohol]. Why? Because they do not prepare these constitutions with sober heads, but with drunken heads! That is why their constitutions last no more than two years.

"Now, this constitution is full of gaps and holes. Like a rag with patches. The other day journalists asked me what I think about this [constitution]. I said, Look, what do they say? That sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people. You must think well. When [does the sovereignty belong to the people]? It is only when they go to the polls [every five years] that sovereignty belongs to the people. But both materially, and in essence, sovereignty unconditionally and always belongs to Allah!"

For more of PM Erdogan’s statements see MEMRI reports:

The AKP Government's Attempts to Move Turkey from Secularism to Islamism (Part II): Defying European Human Rights Court Decision on Headscarf Ban; PM Erdogan: ‘Ulema, Not Courts, Have Right to Speak on Headscarf’

The AKP Government's Attempts to move Turkey from Secularism to Islamism (Part III): PM Erdogan: Islam is Turkey's Supra-Identity

Is Prime Minister Erdogan an Islamist?

The following are excerpts from a compilation of some of the statements made by PM Erdogan during his terms as Istanbul’s mayor and as Turkey’s prime minister:

"Elhamdulillah [by Allah’s grace] we are sharia-ists" (Milliyet, Nov. 21, 1994)

"I am against [celebrating] the [Christian/Gregorian] New Year" (Sabah, Dec. 19, 1994)

"I went not just to tekke [a prayer house] but to dergah [Islamic learning center]" (Gozcu, Jan. 22, 1997)

"There is no need to stand up to honor Ataturk" (Hurriyet, May 12, 1994)

"They [secular Turks] make such a big fuss every November 10th [the anniversary of Ataturk’s death] (Hurriyet, Nov. 14, 1994)

"Alcoholic drinks must be banned" (Hurriyet, May 1, 1996)

"We will turn Istanbul into Madina" (Akit)

"All the schools will become [madrassa-like religious] Imam Hatip schools" (Cumhuriyet, Sep. 17, 1994)

"I am the Imam of Istanbul" (Hurriyet, Jan. 8, 1995)

"Swimsuit ads are exploitation of lust" (Hurriyet, Mar. 6, 1996)

"National Lottery is atrocity" (Hurriyet, Sep. 29, 1994)

"Insh’allah [i.e. Allah’s willing] we will begin the construction of the mosque in Taksim [Istanbul’s largest and most central square]" (Jul. 1, 1994)

"Days that Turkey will have a president from imam hatip [school] are near" (Akit, Feb. 5, 1996)

"[Islamic color] Green is civilization" Istanbul painted in green color] [in Istanbul municipality June 25, 1994]

"Only imams should officiate all the marriages" [Milliyet, May 9, 1995]

"Our reference [guide] is Islam. Our only goal is an Islamic state. They can never intimidate us. If the skies and the earth open up, if storms blow on us, if the lava of volcanoes flow on us, we will never change our way. My guide is Islam. If I cannot live according to Islam, why live at all? [Turk], Kurd, Arab, Caucasian cannot be differentiated; because these peoples are united under the roof of Islam." [from his Dec. 6, 1997 speech], [Hurriyet, Sep. 24, 1998]

"I vouch for Yassin [Al Qadi]. I trust him the same way I trust my father. I know him like I know myself." (defending on national TV the UN black-listed Saudi millionaire Yassin Al Qadi who was declared by the UN [and U.S.] as a financier of terrorism for which he was wanted everywhere) [NTV, July 11, 2006; Hurriyet, July 16, 2006]

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