December 18, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5908

Turkish President Erdogan, AKP Government Increasingly Steer Country Back To Ottoman Past, Declare War On Ataturk Reforms

December 18, 2014
Turkey, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 5908

The following report reviews recent statements and activity by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and by other officials in Turkey's AKP government, and recent government-dictated changes in Turkish education and military institutions.

Erdogan often displays strong anti-West feelings, glorifies the Islamic and Ottoman era, and demands a transformation of Turkey's education system "to create a devout and obedient youth."[1] Both he and Turkish Prime Minister and ruling AKP leader Ahmet Davutoglu are pushing for instituting and expanding an Islamist agenda in Turkey, and undoing reforms put in place nearly a century ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. They are doing so with a promise to revive and rebuild the Ottoman "world state,"[2] which they claim is the only hope for solving the problems in the Middle East that Erdogan has claimed were "intentionally created by Western powers."[3] 

After he said on November 15, 2014 that America was discovered by Muslims 300 years before Columbus,[4] Erdogan vowed on December 8, 2014 that Turkish children would be taught this, and stated, "Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language [i.e. Ottoman Turkish written in Arabic script] will be taught and learned in this country."[5] He also said, "We want normalization, self-confidence, and courage. We have over 100,000 religious leaders to do this [i.e. to institute Islam in Turkey]."[6]

In a December 2 speech, Erdogan proposed a new curriculum for schools, after complaining that students knew about foreign figures like Einstein and Beethoven and Western pop stars, but not about Muslim and Ottoman Turkish ones.[7] He instructed the Ministry of Education and High Education Board (YOK) to compile a new history curriculum that would show the contribution of Middle East and Islam to science and art.[8]

At its early December convention, Turkey's National Education Council adopted dozens of recommendations, including compulsory preschool teaching of the Koran (later amended to begin in elementary schools), the banning of bartending courses in hotel and tourism schools, and an intent to introduce gender segregation in schools, and particularly the compulsory study of Ottoman Turkish in secondary education institutions. This sparked fierce national debate in the country. Currently, circles opposing the ruling AK P are speaking out against what they refer to as the party's "Arabization" and "Islamization" efforts.

Below are statements from November and December 2014 by Erdogan and members of the ruling AKP government, that show the direction the country is taking, away from the West, along with a number of recent shifts towards Islam in government institutions:

Erdogan: Westerners Do Not Like Muslims, Just Their Money; They Like To Watch Our Children Die

On November 27, 2014, President Erdogan said, in an address to the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul: "Foreigners cannot solve the problems of the Middle East because Western countries do not like us."

He continued: "Only we can solve our problems. I say this openly: Foreigners love oil, gold, diamonds, and the cheap labor force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East. Believe me, they don't like us. They look like friends, but they want us dead. They like seeing our children die. How long will we stand for this?"

He added that Middle Eastern countries could solve their problems on their own with no help from the West: "The only condition to overcome the crisis in the Islamic world is unity, solidarity and alliance. Believe me, we can resolve every problem as long as we are united. If we act together, we will end the solitude of Palestine, which has continued for nearly a century... If we unite, it is possible to end the bloodshed in Iraq and the killing of Syrian children."

He also slammed Turkish critics of his statements that Muslim explorers had reached the Americas before Columbus, saying that they suffered from an "inferiority complex." He added, "I have been the target of heavy criticism by the Western media, just because I repeated a fact based on scientific research."[9]

Erdogan: "Whether They Like It Or Not, The Ottoman Language Will Be Taught And Learned"

In his December 8, 2014 address to the National Education Council in Antalya, President Erdogan said that for the past 200 years (i.e. since the Tanzimat reforms of the Ottoman era) no free discussion of matters related to Islam had been allowed. He said: "Religion and piety were looked down upon and presented as the reason why Muslim societies fell behind in science and technology. Yet we are the members of a religion that commands us to read and learn. There were times in this country when the teaching of the Koran, the call of the ezan in its real language [Arabic], and head coverings [for both men and women] were banned. People who prayed, Islam, and believers were insulted and rejected.

"We have been criticized and attacked because we said [we will raise] 'a religious generation,' because we brought the freedom to cover one's head, because we made religion [i.e. Sunni Islam studies] compulsory, because I said 'Muslims reached America before [Columbus]... It is the pawns at home who are bringing these [Western] attacks against us. The international media, that criticize us for the things we say, know that we are now asking questions that we could not ask for 200 years. We are defying their taboos.

"They want us to be quiet, but we are insisting on saying 'Palestine,' and on asking for justice in Syria, and we are saying that the world is larger than the five [permanent UN Security Council member countries]. This, of course, goes against their interests. They do not want to give away the power that they grabbed. They will use every tool to attack us. Not one single country [in the Security Council] represents the 1.5 billion-strong Islamic geography. Where is the justice?

"Those who imitated [in Turkey] the separation of church and state of Christian Europe, and those who are hostile to Islam and to its rightful place in the public space, have invented a religion for themselves. Knowingly or unknowingly, they have invented an artificial 'civil religion' to counter Islam. They created idols [alluding to Ataturk] and worshipped them. There are those here [in Turkey] who still want to preserve this.

"This is why we want normalization, self-confidence, and courage. We have over 100,000 religious leaders to do this [i.e. to institute Islam in Turkey]. Despite the 200 years of oppression, and despite all the efforts to sever our connections to our roots, Turkey's [religious] leaders are standing strong.

"There are those [i.e. anti-Islamist opposition in Turkey] who are disturbed by the thought of teaching the Ottoman language to the children of this country. [But] it is through this language that we will learn the truths. It is a tragedy to lose this knowledge, when we have many so many knowledgeable people [to teach it].

"Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language will be taught and learned in this country. Our religion has a defender [now], and this defender will protect this religion for as long as the Earth exists. If we cast off the roles assigned to us [by the foreigners] and stay true to ourselves, justice will rule on Earth. Do not hesitate, and do not be afraid to ask the necessary questions. Do not be on the defensive; surge forward. We will always be behind you, and our people will be beside you."[10]

Islamic Studies Introduced At Turkish Military Academies

According to a November 7, 2014 report, the Turkish Armed Forces has updated its secondary education regulations, adding a new section to the "Protection of Students" chapter that bans the viewing of content such as Game of Thrones in order to protect students from "sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment and all negative behaviors." Previously, in 2012, four officers were expelled from the army for allowing their students at an Istanbul military academy to watch that show.

The new regulations also prepared the ground for the introduction of Islamic studies at military academies, to be based on "religious education, the Koran, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad," the report said.[11]

Turkish Military - Guardian Of The Secular State And Of Ataturk's Reforms - Now Using Ottoman Marching Music, Chanting "Allah-U Akbar"

The Turkish military, which has always been the guardian of the modern and secular Turkish Republic and of Ataturk's reforms, is now marching to the Ottoman-era "Army March," and chanting "Allah-u Akbar" as they march. A video posted to YouTube on December 11, 2014 shows commando soldiers training in this manner for their swearing-in ceremony at Yeni Foca army base in Izmir:



Turkey's Diyanet: We Will Open Mosques At All Turkish Universities

The head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Mehmet G├Ârmez, announced in November 2014 that the construction of mosques is underway at more than 80 universities in Turkey, saying: "We have opened 15 mosques on university campuses so far, and 50 more will be opened in 2015."

He continued: "There are around 20 million young people in Turkey. We want to reach this young population. We attach importance to mosques inside the university campuses, where religious clerics will communicate with young people. We want [our] youth to have spiritual development and to have access to mosques. These mosques should not be places that open before prayers and close after prayers. We want them institutionalized."

Previously, at the April 2014 opening ceremony of the mosque at Ataturk University in Erzurum, Gormez said that Diyanet was pioneering the construction of many more mosques on the campuses of Turkish universities campuses. He said: "Places of worship and universities have always been together throughout history [i.e. in the form of madrassas]. Historically, universities have emerged from houses of worship. They cannot be separate."[12]

Turkish Science Minister: 700 Years Before Galileo, 71 Muslim Scientists Discovered That The Earth Is Round

On November 28, 2014, following Ergodan's claim that Muslims had discovered America 300 years before Columbus, Turkish Science and Technology Minister Fikri Isik told business leaders in Konya: "Some 700-800 years before Galileo, 71 Muslim scientists led by Al-Khwarizmi convened by the order of the Caliph Al-Ma'mun and revealed that the Earth is a sphere."[13]

Erdogan: Gender Equality Is "Against Nature"

Speaking in Istanbul on November 24, 2014 at the first Women and Justice International Summit hosted by the Turkish Women and Democracy Association in Istanbul, Erdogan said: "What do women need? What is particularly essential is equality under law. They talk about 'men's and women's equality.' But what is more correct is 'equality among women' and 'equality among men.'

"You cannot bring equality between women and men; it is against nature because their nature, and creation, is different. For example, in work life, you cannot impose the same conditions on a pregnant woman as a man. You cannot ask women to do men's work like they used to be forced to do by communist regimes.

"Our religion Islam has assigned a high position for women [in society]: motherhood. Some people can understand this, while others can't. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don't accept the concept of motherhood."

Quoting statements attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, Erdogan added, "Paradise lies at the feet of mothers," and added, "I used to kiss my mother's feet because they smelled of paradise."

"Motherhood is like nothing else, it is the highest of all positions," he added.[14]


[1] Hurriyet (Turkey), February 1, 2012.

[2] Yeni Akit (Turkey), September 15, 2014.

[5] Hurriyet (Turkey), December 8, 2014. As part of his many modernization reforms, in 1928 Ataturk replaced the Arabic script used to write Turkish with Latin characters.

[6] Hurriyet (Turkey), December 8, 2014.

[7] Cumhuriyet (Turkey), December 2, 2014.

[8] Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), November 18, 2014.

[9] Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), November 27, 2014.

[10] Hurriyet (Turkey), December 8, 2014.

[11] Cumhuriyet, Hurriyet Daily News, November 7, 2014.

[12] Hurriyet Daily News, Cumhuriyet, Anatolia News Agency (Turkey), November 21, 2014.

[13] Hurriyet (Turkey), November 29, 2014. Both Erdogan and Isik base their claims on the theories of Fuat Sezgin, a Turkish professor emeritus in Arabic-Islamic science.

[14] Cumhuriyet, Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), November 24, 2014. Also see MEMRI TV Clip No. 4650, Turkish President Erdogan: Women Are Not Equal to Men, November 24, 2014.

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