In June of 2018, Turkey held its first elections since enacting its shift to an “executive form” of presidency (similar to the US style, as opposed to Canada and Europe which follow the Parliamentary style). The result was a resounding victory for sitting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had called the elections 6 months earlier in order to retain his popular appeal and solidify the new-found powers his executive presidency gave to him. The results were less impressive for his party, the AKP, who was unable to achieve their majority, only securing 43% of the vote and were forced to ally with the MHP – a Kemalist nationalist party.
The AKP in general – and Erdogan specifically – have been credited with maintaining a strong Turkish economy and infusing Islamic sentiments into their political rhetoric. Erdogan is described by many in the Ummah as a politically and economically savvy leader who defends the Ummah against its enemies. Many academics have gone as far as urging Muslims to adopt the “Turkish model” as a means of applying Islamic values into society. But what is the reality of the so called Turkish model, what are its real impacts on the economic, domestic and foreign affairs of Turkey? Most importantly, who does it ultimately benefit?
Turkey’s Economic turmoil
Erdogan’s Turkey, after 15 years of reign, has been incapable of escaping the uncertainty and volatility that is endemic within Capitalist economics. Turkey has enormous corporate debt with the corporate sector’s foreign-exchange liabilities climbing to a record $328 billion by the end of 2017. The problem of corporate debt is only intensified due to a weakening Turkish Lira – as many of these debts are borrowed in foreign currency, making them increasingly costly to pay the interest on them due to a Turkish Lira that is losing its value.
The Turkish economy is also vulnerable to risk, with its risk premium (the amount of interest it has to pay to attract debt over the standard amount) is 320 points, which is even higher than that of a failed economy such as Greece. This increasingly compounds the problem of corporate financing coming from short term “hot money,” which is very sensitive to risk, and can quickly dry up if investors lose confidence.
While Turkey still has relatively lower government-held debt and strong government spending, it is vulnerable to a market crash. Many analysts – including the former Central Bank Governor, Durmus Yilmaz – believe that Turkey will have to either reach out to the IMF, which will impose austerity measures, or Turkey will need to impose austerity measures of its own.
What this means, in short, is that the Turkish private sector is built on shaky ground due to ballooning foreign debt whose interest is becoming increasingly difficult to pay back, which is very susceptible to risk. Erdogan’s options are to either put his government in debt by taking a loan from the IMF, or to impose harsh conditions on his population by taking away social investments and programs that they now rely upon.
Erdogan is aware of these threats and how damaging they are to his popular appeal. In fact, this is likely why he called the elections 6 months earlier, to avoid facing the increasing political consequences of a weakened economy. After his victory, he was quick to appoint his own son-in-law as the Minister of the Treasury.
It should be clear that neither Erdogan nor his son-in-law have the power to save the Turkish economy. And Turkey’s real economic problem is not its risk premium or its weakening currency. Turkey’s real economic problem is the Capitalist economic system embraced by Erdogan, which employs Riba (interest) as its economic engine, and adopts floating paper currency (fiat) as its primary means of exchange – divorcing both economic growth and value exchange from the real production of goods and provision of services that create a healthy economy.
Turkey’s economic solution is a return to the economic system ordained by the Allah (swt) – the Creator of the systems of the universe. This system removes the flow of wealth in society from the abstract formulas that only benefit the economic elite who design them, and distribute the wealth to society at large by the means of common ownership of energy and mineral resources, partnerships, government spending in industry, Zakat, and other economic rules prescribed by Allah (swt).
Erdogan’s biting domestic rule
Erdogan has grown increasingly aggressive in silencing any criticism of his policies, no matter how sincere. Since the enactment of emergency laws after the failed coup in 2016, over 50,000 people have been arrested on charges of terrorism, many simply for being in some way associated with the Gulen Movement, which Erdogan has labeled a terrorist organization. While the politics of Fethullah Gulen do not emanate from Islam, it is not acceptable to arrest thousands of innocent Muslims who have committed no crime other than volunteering at a Hizmet school or hospital. This violates the presumption of innocence integral to the Islamic judicial system, based on the Hadith: “…the burden of proof (Bayyinah) is upon the claimant, and the giving of oath (Qasam) is upon the one who denies (the allegation).” [Al-Bayhaqi]
Furthermore, Erdogan has used the cover of combating Gulen to silence critics that are in no way associated with him, including arresting members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir who are engaged in the political work to resume the Islamic way of life in the Muslim lands via the re-establishment of the Khilafah. The Prophet (saw) reminds us of the immense reward of such work: “The best of Jihad is a word of truth in the face of a tyrant ruler.” [Ibn Majah]
Many of those arrested under terror laws have reported being beaten, tortured, and threatened with rape in Erdogan’s dungeons, in violation of the Hadith: “Verily, Allah will torture those who torture people in this world.” [Muslim]
Erdogan’s betrayal of the Ummah
Perhaps what is most famous about Erdogan is his vocal defense of Muslims being oppressed around the world – from taking in the people of Syria, to sending his wife to the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, to being a vocal critic of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. But what is the reality of his actions, beyond his lofty words? Having one of the strongest armies in the region, what material support did he commit to the people of Rohingya? And being verbally critical of the Zionist occupiers has not prevented Turkey from having some of the warmest military, economic, and tourism relations with them – even warmer than the relations the Zionists share with Egypt, Jordan, or the UAE. For example, up to 77% of the Zionist entity’s oil supply is shipped out from the Ceyhan port in Turkey.
And what about Syria? Although he helped with the refugees, his assisting the Syrian fighters was actually used to betray the rebellion. In the last critical days during the battle of Aleppo, Erdogan pulled the Syrian fighters out to fight against ISIS, which caused Aleppo to fall to Bashar’s forces. Consequently, we must also blame Erdogan for this treacherous act! And we see him shaking the blood-soaked hands of both the Russians and Iran to create “de-escalation zones” in Syria, where he can divide and contain the resistance, and attack any group that opposes his cursed truce with the bloodthirsty Kremlin.
Erdogan’s disservice to Islam
It should be clear that Erdogan, while catering to the Islamic sentiment that will never weaken in this Ummah, is not implementing Islam in any capacity. Yet, it is natural for many Muslims to take him as someone who is serving Islam; after all, does he not speak in favour of the Muslims? And has he not eased restrictions against the wearing of the Hijab and the promotion of an Islamic culture in Turkey? While this is true, it is important to note that this should not be sufficient for us as Muslims. Even Justin Trudeau allows for the wearing of Hijab and the promotion of Islam. That does not make Canada an Islamic state. Rather, the implementation of the social, economic, judicial, and political systems of Islam is what makes a state Islamic.
And after 15 years in power, how much closer is Erdogan to implementing those Islamic laws he claims to be working towards? How much closer is he to banning alcohol, outlawing prostitution, and eliminating Riba? As Muslims, we need to look beyond empty rhetoric and partial improvements, and demand fundamental change in the Muslim lands. We must recognize that anyone who invokes our Deen. but doesn’t act upon it, is a liar who is wasting our time and efforts with his deception. Trickery, compromise, and betrayal are not what our Messenger (saw) taught us. Rather steadfastness on our Aqeedah, and the courage to clearly convey this Deen to the weak, the powerful, the oppressor, and the oppressed are the footsteps of our Beloved Messenger (saw).
Who does the “Turkish model” serve?
It should also be clear that a model that encourages the adoption of an interest based economic system, criminalizes the act of calling to Islam, tortures Muslims, and welcomes the brutalization of the Muslim lands, is not one that serves the Ummah; rather, that is a model that serves the Capitalist nations, who will exploit out lands through leaders who use the Islamic sentiments of this Ummah to maintain control of our lands.
Is it any surprise that Turkey is an integral part of NATO, and hosts 26 US military bases? Is it any wonder that the Americans gave Erdogan the F-35 fighter jet (a plane they have only previously sold to the Zionist occupiers) days before Turkey’s general election, thus increasing Erdogan’s popularity? In fact, putting a Muslim face on Capitalist rule has been a well-known strategy of the colonialists, as explained by former CIA officer Graham Fuller, who encouraged inviting “Islamist parties” into secular elections and parliaments in the hope that“they will start to resemble other political parties with their same strengths, weaknesses, mistakes, foibles, and even corruption… This strategy [is] designed to change, compromise, and educate the Islamist” [A Sense of Siege]
Instead of being “educated” by the dirty politics of the Capitalist elite, would we rather not be educated by the guidance of Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw), which ensures the prosperity, justice, and tranquility of the Islamic Khilafah State? What other state had ensured the safety, unity, and progress of this Ummah for the past 1400 years?
A Muslim can never achieve success if one is disobedient to Allah (swt). The rules are no different at a societal level. This is why Erdogan will inevitably fail: You cannot achieve victory through Haram means. The Messenger of Allah (saw) was given many opportunities to compromise with Quraysh, including their offer to make him their king for a year, but he refused these offers. So we must be patient and remain steadfast to the Halal alone to achieve victory. We must reconnect ourselves with our Aqeedah, and familiarize ourselves with the economic, social, and political systems that emanate from it; and we must hold our rulers accountable if they accept, promote, or implement anything else.