US embassy cable - 96ANKARA12278 (comparison)

GLIMPSES OF THE SHARIA IN TURKEY (comparison)

Identifier: 96ANKARA12278
Wikileaks: View 96ANKARA12278 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ankara
Created: 1996-11-18 11:42:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV KISL PTER PHUM PINR TU
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Show unredacted version]
R 181142Z NOV 96
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO JOINT STAFF WASHDC
AMCONSUL ADANA 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY CAIRO 
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL//POLAD//
AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 
SECDEF WASHDC//USDP:PDUSDP/USDP/ISA:EUR//
AMEMBASSY RIYADH 
ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
AMEMBASSY BONN 
USEU BRUSSELS
CTF PROVIDE COMFORT INCIRLIK AB TU//CC/CS//
SECSTATE WASHDC 9646

=== Original (unredacted) version ====== Wikileaks (redacted) version ===
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 012278 
 
 
LONDON FOR TUELLER 
PARIS FOR LEAF 
DEPT ALSO FOR S/NIS (PRESEL) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:11/15/17 
TAGS: PGOV, KISL, PTER, PHUM, PINR, TU 
SUBJECT: GLIMPSES OF THE SHARIA IN TURKEY 
 
REF: A) ANKARA 11676;B) ANKARA 11279 
 
1.  CLASSIFIED BY POLITICAL COUNSELOR RICHARD MCKEE, 
EMBASSY ANKARA.  REASON: 1.5(B)(D). 
 
2. (C) ALONG WITH THE GROWING ELECTORAL STRENGTH OF 
PRIME MINISTER NECMETTIN ERBAKAN'S ISLAMIST REFAH 
(WELFARE) PARTY, THE IDEA OF RESTORING THE SHARIA 
(RELIGIOUS LAW) APPEARS TO BE GAINING ADHERENTS IN 
TURKEY (REF A).  THE FOLLOWING OBSERVATIONS FROM 
ISLAMIST SOURCES IN REFAH AND THE GOT'S RELIGIOUS 
AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE PROVIDE A GLIMPSE OF WHERE THE 
DEBATE ON RELIGION, POLITICS, AND SOCIETY IN THIS 
COUNTRY MAY BE HEADED. IN THIS, TURKEY'S LARGELY 
DEVOUT KURDISH MINORITY LIKELY WILL PLAY A PIVOTAL 
ROLE.  END SUMMARY 
 
----------------------------------- 
THE KURDS: "LOYAL TO THE SHARIA..." 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  IN A MEETING WITH POLOFF ON OCTOBER 31, MEHMET 
FUAT FIRAT, A KURDISH REFAH DEPUTY REPRESENTING 
ISTANBUL, COMMENTED ON THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION TO 
HIS ETHNIC BRETHREN. FIRAT NOTED THAT HE WAS A MEMBER 
OF THE REFAH CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION BOARD (NOMINALLY 
THE PARTY'S HIGHEST POLICYMAKING BODY) WITH POLITICAL 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAKKARI, SIIRT, AND OTHER PROVINCES 
IN PREDOMINANTLY KURDISH SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY, HIS 
NATIVE REGION.  (NOTE:  FIRAT'S AUTHORITY ON KURDISH 
AND ISLAMIC ISSUES ALSO IS ROOTED IN HIS OWN 
ILLUSTRIOUS PEDIGREE.  HE IS A GRANDSON OF SHAYKH SAID 
OF PALU, WHO LED THE FIRST MAJOR ISLAMIST-KURDISH 
REBELLION AGAINST THE FELDGLING SECULAR TURKISH 
REPUBLIC IN 1925. SHAYKH SAID HAS BECOME SOMETHING OF 
A CULT HERO, PARTICULARLY AMONG ISLAM-ORIENTED KURDISH 
NATIONALISTS IN TURKEY. END NOTE) 
 
4. (C) THE KURDS, FIRAT ASSERTED, WERE "LOYAL TO THE 
SHARIA."  THIS WAS THE DIRECT RESULT OF THE TEACHINGS 
OF THE NAKSHIBENDI TARIKAT (TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL 
ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD), TO WHICH FIRAT HAS FAMILY TIES. 
MOST NAKSHIBENDI MURIDS (ADHERENTS) IN TURKEY WERE 
KURDS, HE NOTED.  FIRAT OBSERVED THAT NAKSHIBENDI 
KURDS WERE NOT FANATICS, HOWEVER; AS EVIDENCE, HE 
CONTRASTED THE RELATIVELY AUSTERE, RESTRAINED 
NAKSHIBENDI RITUALS WITH THOSE OF THE MORE ECSTATIC 
KADIRI TARIKAT. IN FIRAT'S VIEW, THE KURDS OF TURKEY 
SIMPLY WANTED THE KIND OF JUSTICE THAT OBTAINED IN THE 
UNITED STATES -- INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO USE THEIR OWN 
LANGUAGE AND DEVELOP THEIR OWN CULTURE.  ACCORDING TO 
FIRAT, THESE FREEDOMS WOULD BE PERMITTED UNDER THE 
SHARIA. 
 
5. (C) FIRAT EXPRESSED DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE ATTITUDE 
OF MANY NAKSHIBENDI SHAYKHS, WHOM HE ACCUSED OF 
PURSUING THEIR OWN INTERESTS AND ALLIANCES WITH "THE 
STATE" AT THE EXPENSE OF THEIR MURIDS.  "ALL THEY WANT 
TO DO IS GET RICH," HE LAMENTED.  WITH EVIDENT PRIDE, 
FIRAT STATED THAT IN CONTRAST, SHAYKH SAID HAD USED HIS 
WEALTH TO RAISE AN ARMY; "HE SPENT HIS MONEY ON 
SOLDIERS." 
 
6. (C) FIRAT RELATED HOW AS A YOUNG MAN HE HAD MET 
SAID NURSI (AKA SAID KURDI), THE ISLAMIC SCHOLAR WHOSE 
WRITINGS BECAME THE BASIS FOR THE MYSTICAL NURCU 
MOVEMENT.  ACCORDING TO FIRAT, NURSI WAS IMPRISONED 
FOR HIS ACTIVITIES ON BEHALF OF ISLAM AND KURDISH 
CULTURAL AUTONOMY BY MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK.  BEFORE 
HIS DEATH IN 1960, NURSI VOWED TO A GROUP OF KURDISH 
NOTABLES INCLUDING FIRAT THAT THE KURDS WOULD "GET 
THEIR REVENGE AGAINST THE KEMALISTS." 
 
------------------ 
...BUT WHAT IS IT? 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) REFAH DEPUTY FROM BITLIS ABDULHALUK MUTLU, LIKE 
FIRAT ANOTHER NAKSHIBENDI KURD, OBSERVED TO POLOFF AND 
VISITING INR OFFICERS ON NOVEMBER 14 THAT THE KURDS 
WERE "BOUND" BY THE PRINCIPLES OF ISLAM.  HE LAUGHED 
AS HE RELATED HOW HIS NEPHEW, A STUDENT IN THE UNITED 
STATES, WAS FOND OF TELLING PEOPLE THAT THE U.S. WAS 
THE MOST "ISLAMIC" STATE IN THE WORLD, BECAUSE IT 
EMBODIED THE SHARIA'S PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE TO A 
HIGHER DECREE THAN ANY OTHER REGIME. 
 
8. (C) IN THE KURDISH MIND, THE SHARIA NOW WAS 
ASSOCIATED WITH FREEDOM AND "DEMOCRACY," MUTLU SAID. 
LIKE "DEMOCRACY," HOWEVER, "NO ONE WAS SURE WHAT IT 
(SHARIA) MEANS."  MUTLU ARGUED THAT DESPITE THE 
TRAPPINGS OF DEMOCRACY IN TURKEY, HE, LIKE THE REST OF 
TURKEY'S KURDS, HAD NEVER LIVED UNDER A TRULY 
DEMOCRATIC REGIME; THUS, HE HAD TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HE 
KNEW LITTLE ABOUT HOW A REAL DEMOCRACY WORKED. 
ILLUSTRATING HIS POINT, MUTLU PREDICTED THAT REFAH 
WOULD NOT TRY TO RESTORE RELIGIOUS RULE IN TURKEY. 
INSTEAD, IF REFAH EVENTUALLY WON A PARLIAMENTARY 
MAJORITY, IT WOULD THEN "ASK THE NATIONAL SECURITY 
COUNCIL FOR ITS RECOMMENDATIONS" ON THE SUBJECT, HE 
LAUGHED. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TURKEY AND THE TALEBAN 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) LATER ON NOVEMBER 14, POLOFF AND INR OFFICERS 
CALLED ON NIYAZI KAHVECI, THE HEAD OF THE RESEARCH 
DEPARTMENT AT THE GOT'S RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE 
(THE "DIYANET," AS IT IS KNOWN IN TURKISH).  AN 
ISLAMIC SCHOLAR, KAHVECI ASSERTED THAT LITTLE HAD 
CHANGED IN ISLAMIC DOCTRINE SINCE THE MIDDLE AGES. 
CONSEQUENTLY, SUNNI ISLAM IN TURKEY AND AS PRACTICED 
BY THE TALEBAN IN AFGHANISTAN WAS BASICALLY THE SAME. 
MUSLIMS BELIEVED THAT THEY WERE BOUND BY THE WORD OF 
THE QURAN.  ALTHOUGH KAHVECI AND A FEW COLLEAGUES IN 
ACADEMIA WERE TRYING TO "REFORM" ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES TO 
FIT THE MODERN DEMOCRATIC WORLD, MOST TURKISH SCHOLARS 
HAD LEARNED THEIR TRADE IN "ALGERIA AND EGYPT" (READ: 
WHERE RADICAL "FUNDAMENTALIST" OR TRADITIONAL VIEWS OF 
THE SHARIA PREVAIL).  THEOLOGY PROFESSORS IN TURKEY'S 
UNIVERSITIES GENERALLY SUPPORTED REFAH, KAHVECI ADDED, 
AS DID THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE STAFF AT THE 
DIYANET. 
 
10. (C) KAHVECI NOTED THAT REFAH HAD BEEN VERY CLEVER 
IN GETTING ITS MESSAGE ACROSS TO THE PUBLIC AND IN 
FACT HAD POSITIONED ITSELF AS THE PRIMARY SPOKESMAN 
FOR RELIGIOUS TURKS.  IN KAHVECI'S VIEW, THE SECULAR 
PARTIES PLAYED INTO REFAH'S HANDS BY GANGING UP ON THE 
ISLAMISTS.  FOR EXAMPLE, POLITICALLY-ORIENTED TV 
DEBATES ROUTINELY DEVOLVED INTO A SHOWDOWN BETWEEN 
REFAH ON ONE SIDE AND EVERYONE ELSE ON THE OTHER. 
THIS LEGITIMIZED REFAH'S RELIGIOUS CREDENTIALS IN THE 
MINDS OF THE TV VIEWING AUDIENCE.  MOREOVER, THE 
SECULAR PARTIES HAD LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT THIS. 
"WHY NOT?" KAHVECI SAID. "THEY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING 
ABOUT ISLAM." 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
COMMENT: DEFINING SHARIA -- AND WINNING VOTES 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
11. (C) "'IJMA" -- CONSENSUS -- TRADITIONALLY WAS ONE 
OF THE CARDINAL SOURCES OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE ALONG 
WITH THE QURAN, THE SUNNA AND HADITH (TRADITIONS AND 
SAYINGS ATTRIBUTED TO THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD), AND QIYAS 
(ANALOGICAL REASONING). TODAY, 'IJMA IS THE FOCUS OF 
SOME SCHOLARLY ATTEMPTS TO DISCERN COMMON POINTS 
BETWEEN DEMOCRATIC AND ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES. 
 
12. (C)  IN CLASSICAL JURISPRUDENCE, HOWEVER, 'IJMA 
MEANT CONSENSUS OF THE LEARNED; THE OPINIONS OF THOSE 
NOT SCHOOLED IN THE FINE POINTS OF ISLAMIC DOCTRINE 
CARRIED NO WEIGHT. IN KEEPING WITH THIS TRDITIONAL 
ATTITUDE, TURKEY'S MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN MORE THAN WILLING 
LET THE SCHOLARS INTERPRET THE SHARIA AND ENLIGHTEN 
THE FAITHFUL. IN POLITICAL TERMS, NOW THAT AN ISLAMIST 
ALTERNATIVE TO THE SECULAR REGIME IS AVAILABLE IN THE 
FORM OF REFAH, MANY RELIGIOUS "CONSERVATIVE" VOTERS 
WHO BY DINT OF HISTORICAL CIRCUMSTANCE HAD SUPPORTED 
SECULAR PARTIES ARE RIPE FOR THE PICKING BY REFAH 
PRIME MINISTER ERBAKAN -- THE "HOCA" (TEACHER) AS HE 
IS KNOWN AMONG HIS FOLLOWERS. 
 
13. (C) FOR KAHVECI, THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE 
"MEDIEVAL" REFAH UNDERSTANDING OF THE SHARIA LARGELY 
HAS BEEN PROTECTED FROM SCHOLARLY EXAMINATION AND 
COMPETITION BY THE KEMALISTS' HOSTILITY TO ISLAMIC 
POLITICAL INFLUENCE, WHICH HAS HAMPERED FREE, INFORMED 
DEBATE ON THE SUBJECT.  WITH NO POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE 
OF THEIR OWN, TURKEY'S RELIGIOUS KURDS HAVE BEGUN TO 
FLOCK TO REFAH, HELPING TO TURN ERBAKAN'S PARTY INTO 
THE COUNTRY'S LARGEST.  KAHVECI'S FEAR IS THAT MUCH OF 
THE REST OF TURKEY WILL FOLLOW. 
 
14. (C) OUR SENSE IS THAT SUPPORT FOR RESTORING THE 
SHARIA IS STILL CONFINED TO A MINORITY -- ALBEIT A 
SIGNIFICANT AND GROWING ONE (SEE REF A FOR SOME RECENT 
PUBLIC OPINION POLLING ON ATTITUDES TOWARD ISLAMISM 
AND THE SHARIA).  MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE DIVIDING LINES 
BETWEEN AVOWEDLY SECULAR (EVEN IF, IN RARE CASES, 
PERSONALLY OBSERVANT) AND SELF-CONSCIOUSLY 
RELIGIOUS/ISLAMIST CITIZENS ARE BECOMING MORE 
PRONOUNCED.  VIOLENT INCIDENTS, PARTICULARLY ON 
UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES, COULD WELL ENSUE. 
 
GROSSMAN 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 012278 
 
 
LONDON FOR TUELLER 
PARIS FOR LEAF 
DEPT ALSO FOR S/NIS (PRESEL) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:11/15/17 
TAGS: PGOV KISL PTER PHUM PINR TU
SUBJECT: GLIMPSES OF THE SHARIA IN TURKEY 
 
REF: A) ANKARA 11676;B) ANKARA 11279 
 
1.  CLASSIFIED BY POLITICAL COUNSELOR RICHARD MCKEE, 
EMBASSY ANKARA.  REASON: 1.5(B)(D). 
 
2. (C) ALONG WITH THE GROWING ELECTORAL STRENGTH OF 
PRIME MINISTER NECMETTIN ERBAKAN'S ISLAMIST REFAH 
(WELFARE) PARTY, THE IDEA OF RESTORING THE SHARIA 
(RELIGIOUS LAW) APPEARS TO BE GAINING ADHERENTS IN 
TURKEY (REF A).  THE FOLLOWING OBSERVATIONS FROM 
ISLAMIST SOURCES IN REFAH AND THE GOT'S RELIGIOUS 
AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE PROVIDE A GLIMPSE OF WHERE THE 
DEBATE ON RELIGION, POLITICS, AND SOCIETY IN THIS 
COUNTRY MAY BE HEADED. IN THIS, TURKEY'S LARGELY 
DEVOUT KURDISH MINORITY LIKELY WILL PLAY A PIVOTAL 
ROLE.  END SUMMARY 
 
----------------------------------- 
THE KURDS: "LOYAL TO THE SHARIA..." 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  IN A MEETING WITH POLOFF ON OCTOBER 31, MEHMET 
FUAT FIRAT, A KURDISH REFAH DEPUTY REPRESENTING 
ISTANBUL, COMMENTED ON THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION TO 
HIS ETHNIC BRETHREN. FIRAT NOTED THAT HE WAS A MEMBER 
OF THE REFAH CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION BOARD (NOMINALLY 
THE PARTY'S HIGHEST POLICYMAKING BODY) WITH POLITICAL 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAKKARI, SIIRT, AND OTHER PROVINCES 
IN PREDOMINANTLY KURDISH SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY, HIS 
NATIVE REGION.  (NOTE:  FIRAT'S AUTHORITY ON KURDISH 
AND ISLAMIC ISSUES ALSO IS ROOTED IN HIS OWN 
ILLUSTRIOUS PEDIGREE.  HE IS A GRANDSON OF SHAYKH SAID OF PALU, WHO LED THE FIRST MAJOR ISLAMIST-KURDISH 
REBELLION AGAINST THE FELDGLING SECULAR TURKISH 
REPUBLIC IN 1925. SHAYKH SAID HAS BECOME SOMETHING OF 
A CULT HERO, PARTICULARLY AMONG ISLAM-ORIENTED KURDISH NATIONALISTS IN TURKEY. END NOTE) 
 
4. (C) THE KURDS, FIRAT ASSERTED, WERE "LOYAL TO THE 
SHARIA."  THIS WAS THE DIRECT RESULT OF THE TEACHINGS 
OF THE NAKSHIBENDI TARIKAT (TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL 
ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD), TO WHICH FIRAT HAS FAMILY TIES. 
MOST NAKSHIBENDI MURIDS (ADHERENTS) IN TURKEY WERE 
KURDS, HE NOTED.  FIRAT OBSERVED THAT NAKSHIBENDI 
KURDS WERE NOT FANATICS, HOWEVER; AS EVIDENCE, HE 
CONTRASTED THE RELATIVELY AUSTERE, RESTRAINED 
NAKSHIBENDI RITUALS WITH THOSE OF THE MORE ECSTATIC 
KADIRI TARIKAT. IN FIRAT'S VIEW, THE KURDS OF TURKEY 
SIMPLY WANTED THE KIND OF JUSTICE THAT OBTAINED IN THE 
UNITED STATES -- INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO USE THEIR OWN 
LANGUAGE AND DEVELOP THEIR OWN CULTURE.  ACCORDING TO FIRAT, THESE FREEDOMS WOULD BE PERMITTED UNDER THE SHARIA. 
 
5. (C) FIRAT EXPRESSED DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE ATTITUDE 
OF MANY NAKSHIBENDI SHAYKHS, WHOM HE ACCUSED OF 
PURSUING THEIR OWN INTERESTS AND ALLIANCES WITH "THE 
STATE" AT THE EXPENSE OF THEIR MURIDS.  "ALL THEY WANT 
TO DO IS GET RICH," HE LAMENTED.  WITH EVIDENT PRIDE, 
FIRAT STATED THAT IN CONTRAST, SHAYKH SAID HAD USED HIS WEALTH TO RAISE AN ARMY; "HE SPENT HIS MONEY ON 
SOLDIERS." 
 
6. (C) FIRAT RELATED HOW AS A YOUNG MAN HE HAD MET 
SAID NURSI (AKA SAID KURDI), THE ISLAMIC SCHOLAR WHOSE 
WRITINGS BECAME THE BASIS FOR THE MYSTICAL NURCU 
MOVEMENT.  ACCORDING TO FIRAT, NURSI WAS IMPRISONED 
FOR HIS ACTIVITIES ON BEHALF OF ISLAM AND KURDISH 
CULTURAL AUTONOMY BY MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK.  BEFORE HIS DEATH IN 1960, NURSI VOWED TO A GROUP OF KURDISH NOTABLES INCLUDING FIRAT THAT THE KURDS WOULD "GET THEIR REVENGE AGAINST THE KEMALISTS." 
 
------------------ 
...BUT WHAT IS IT? 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) REFAH DEPUTY FROM BITLIS ABDULHALUK MUTLU, LIKE 
FIRAT ANOTHER NAKSHIBENDI KURD, OBSERVED TO POLOFF AND VISITING INR OFFICERS ON NOVEMBER 14 THAT THE KURDS WERE "BOUND" BY THE PRINCIPLES OF ISLAM.  HE LAUGHED AS HE RELATED HOW HIS NEPHEW, A STUDENT IN THE UNITED STATES, WAS FOND OF TELLING PEOPLE THAT THE U.S. WAS THE MOST "ISLAMIC" STATE IN THE WORLD, BECAUSE IT EMBODIED THE SHARIA'S PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE TO A HIGHER DECREE THAN ANY OTHER REGIME. 
 
8. (C) IN THE KURDISH MIND, THE SHARIA NOW WAS 
ASSOCIATED WITH FREEDOM AND "DEMOCRACY," MUTLU SAID. 
LIKE "DEMOCRACY," HOWEVER, "NO ONE WAS SURE WHAT IT 
(SHARIA) MEANS."  MUTLU ARGUED THAT DESPITE THE 
TRAPPINGS OF DEMOCRACY IN TURKEY, HE, LIKE THE REST OF TURKEY'S KURDS, HAD NEVER LIVED UNDER A TRULY 
DEMOCRATIC REGIME; THUS, HE HAD TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HE KNEW LITTLE ABOUT HOW A REAL DEMOCRACY WORKED. 
ILLUSTRATING HIS POINT, MUTLU PREDICTED THAT REFAH 
WOULD NOT TRY TO RESTORE RELIGIOUS RULE IN TURKEY. 
INSTEAD, IF REFAH EVENTUALLY WON A PARLIAMENTARY 
MAJORITY, IT WOULD THEN "ASK THE NATIONAL SECURITY 
COUNCIL FOR ITS RECOMMENDATIONS" ON THE SUBJECT, HE 
LAUGHED. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TURKEY AND THE TALEBAN 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) LATER ON NOVEMBER 14, POLOFF AND INR OFFICERS 
CALLED ON NIYAZI KAHVECI, THE HEAD OF THE RESEARCH 
DEPARTMENT AT THE GOT'S RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE (THE "DIYANET," AS IT IS KNOWN IN TURKISH).  AN ISLAMIC SCHOLAR, KAHVECI ASSERTED THAT LITTLE HAD 
CHANGED IN ISLAMIC DOCTRINE SINCE THE MIDDLE AGES. 
CONSEQUENTLY, SUNNI ISLAM IN TURKEY AND AS PRACTICED 
BY THE TALEBAN IN AFGHANISTAN WAS BASICALLY THE SAME. 
MUSLIMS BELIEVED THAT THEY WERE BOUND BY THE WORD OF THE QURAN.  ALTHOUGH KAHVECI AND A FEW COLLEAGUES IN ACADEMIA WERE TRYING TO "REFORM" ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES TO FIT THE MODERN DEMOCRATIC WORLD, MOST TURKISH SCHOLARS HAD LEARNED THEIR TRADE IN "ALGERIA AND EGYPT" (READ: WHERE RADICAL "FUNDAMENTALIST" OR TRADITIONAL VIEWS OF 
THE SHARIA PREVAIL).  THEOLOGY PROFESSORS IN TURKEY'S 
UNIVERSITIES GENERALLY SUPPORTED REFAH, KAHVECI ADDED, 
AS DID THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE STAFF AT THE 
DIYANET. 
 
10. (C) KAHVECI NOTED THAT REFAH HAD BEEN VERY CLEVER 
IN GETTING ITS MESSAGE ACROSS TO THE PUBLIC AND IN 
FACT HAD POSITIONED ITSELF AS THE PRIMARY SPOKESMAN 
FOR RELIGIOUS TURKS.  IN KAHVECI'S VIEW, THE SECULAR 
PARTIES PLAYED INTO REFAH'S HANDS BY GANGING UP ON THE ISLAMISTS.  FOR EXAMPLE, POLITICALLY-ORIENTED TV 
DEBATES ROUTINELY DEVOLVED INTO A SHOWDOWN BETWEEN REFAH ON ONE SIDE AND EVERYONE ELSE ON THE OTHER. THIS LEGITIMIZED REFAH'S RELIGIOUS CREDENTIALS IN THE MINDS OF THE TV VIEWING AUDIENCE.  MOREOVER, THE SECULAR PARTIES HAD LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT THIS. "WHY NOT?" KAHVECI SAID. "THEY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ISLAM." 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
COMMENT: DEFINING SHARIA -- AND WINNING VOTES 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
11. (C) "'IJMA" -- CONSENSUS -- TRADITIONALLY WAS ONE 
OF THE CARDINAL SOURCES OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE ALONG WITH THE QURAN, THE SUNNA AND HADITH (TRADITIONS AND SAYINGS ATTRIBUTED TO THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD), AND QIYAS (ANALOGICAL REASONING). TODAY, 'IJMA IS THE FOCUS OF SOME SCHOLARLY ATTEMPTS TO DISCERN COMMON POINTS BETWEEN DEMOCRATIC AND ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES. 
 
12. (C)  IN CLASSICAL JURISPRUDENCE, HOWEVER, 'IJMA 
MEANT CONSENSUS OF THE LEARNED; THE OPINIONS OF THOSE NOT SCHOOLED IN THE FINE POINTS OF ISLAMIC DOCTRINE CARRIED NO WEIGHT. IN KEEPING WITH THIS TRDITIONAL ATTITUDE, TURKEY'S MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN MORE THAN WILLING LET THE SCHOLARS INTERPRET THE SHARIA AND ENLIGHTEN THE FAITHFUL. IN POLITICAL TERMS, NOW THAT AN ISLAMIST ALTERNATIVE TO THE SECULAR REGIME IS AVAILABLE IN THE FORM OF REFAH, MANY RELIGIOUS "CONSERVATIVE" VOTERS WHO BY DINT OF HISTORICAL CIRCUMSTANCE HAD SUPPORTED SECULAR PARTIES ARE RIPE FOR THE PICKING BY REFAH PRIME MINISTER ERBAKAN -- THE "HOCA" (TEACHER) AS HE IS KNOWN AMONG HIS FOLLOWERS. 
 
13. (C) FOR KAHVECI, THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE 
"MEDIEVAL" REFAH UNDERSTANDING OF THE SHARIA LARGELY HAS BEEN PROTECTED FROM SCHOLARLY EXAMINATION AND COMPETITION BY THE KEMALISTS' HOSTILITY TO ISLAMIC POLITICAL INFLUENCE, WHICH HAS HAMPERED FREE, INFORMED DEBATE ON THE SUBJECT.  WITH NO POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE OF THEIR OWN, TURKEY'S RELIGIOUS KURDS HAVE BEGUN TO FLOCK TO REFAH, HELPING TO TURN ERBAKAN'S PARTY INTO THE COUNTRY'S LARGEST. KAHVECI'S FEAR IS THAT MUCH OF THE REST OF TURKEY WILL FOLLOW. 
 
14. (C) OUR SENSE IS THAT SUPPORT FOR RESTORING THE 
SHARIA IS STILL CONFINED TO A MINORITY -- ALBEIT A 
SIGNIFICANT AND GROWING ONE (SEE REF A FOR SOME RECENT PUBLIC OPINION POLLING ON ATTITUDES TOWARD ISLAMISM AND THE SHARIA).  MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE DIVIDING LINES BETWEEN AVOWEDLY SECULAR (EVEN IF, IN RARE CASES, PERSONALLY OBSERVANT) AND SELF-CONSCIOUSLY RELIGIOUS/ISLAMIST CITIZENS ARE BECOMING MORE PRONOUNCED.  VIOLENT INCIDENTS, PARTICULARLY ON 
UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES, COULD WELL ENSUE. 
 
GROSSMAN

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