Political Islam & Growing Influence of Tayyab Erdogan

By Mansoor Ali Khan.

Islam has been the central point of debates in post 9/11 world. Many Scholars adopted the term ‘Political Islam’ to explain the influence of Islam and religious parties in mainstream politics of Muslim countries. However, the concept of Political Islam was first coined by Maulana Maududi, the founding father of Jamat-e-Islami which is the most popular and most influential Islamic revivalist movements in 20th century. Maulana Maududi strongly challenged contemporary ideas of Secularism, Socialism and Capitalism. He supported what he called “Islamization from above”, through an Islamic state in which sovereignty would be exercised in the name of Allah and Islamic law (sharia) would be implemented.

Maududi’s ideas influenced the worldwide Islamist movements. Nadeem F.Paracha, a prominent cultural critic associated with Dawn Newspaper had stated that Abul Ala Maududi is to ‘Political Islam’ what Karl Marx was to Communism. He also quoted British Journal stating that the impact of Maududi’s ideas can be found in modern Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood (first formed in Egypt) and similar outfits across the Muslim realms, all the way to the more aggressive postures of men like Osama Bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda and once the most wanted terrorist in the world.

Jamat’s political rhetoric could not be successful in Pakistan & Egyptian politics. Muslim Brotherhood was badly crushed by Jamal Abdul Nasser and Hosni Mubarak. It won 2011 elections in aftermath of Arab Spring and Muhammad Morsi became president to challenge the Secular constitutional structure of Egypt. But this victory couldn’t last for long and within a year his government was overthrown by Gen Al-sisi, Morsi’s own appointed Chief of Army Staff.  In Pakistan, JI too have failed to turn its ideological supporters into Voters.

However, Maudaudi’s idea of Political Islam was successfully adopted by Turkey’s Rajab Tayyab Erdogan, who started his political journey as ‘Mayor of Istanbul’ in 1994. He was able to enter in mainstream politics in Turkey through his performance as Mayor.  Later, he strongly challenged the Secular Philosophy of Mustafa Kamal and Westernized model of modern day Turkey by founding his own right wing political party “Justice & Development Party” in 2001.

Unlike other right wing Turk politicians like “Adnan Menderes” and “Najam ud din Erbakan”, Erdogan’s led Justice and Development party not only won pluralities in the five most recent legislative elections of 2002, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2015, but were also able to avoid quos and military takeovers.

Erdogan, despite of being a popular figure in Middle East, Malaysia and Pakistan couldn’t stop Turkey from being polarized. He is loved by his die hard supporters, but equally hated by the secularists. They see him as a staunch dictator who will crush his opponents at every cost. It was witnessed in ‘Ergenekon trials’, a series of high-profile trials which took place in Turkey in 2007, where 275 people, including military officers, journalists and opposition lawmakers, all alleged members of  Ergenekon (secularist ultra-nationalist organization) were accused of plotting against his government. The trials resulted in lengthy prison sentences for the majority of the accused. He has also been alleged for his dual policies on organizations like ISIS.

Erdogan however, has been successful in projecting himself as leader of what we call ‘Muslim Ummah’. His party has not faced any major corruption allegations and he has been praised for his good governance. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Turkey relied heavily on foreign investment for economic growth and Turkish government and banking systems lacked the financial means to support meaningful economic growth. Turkey’s Economic Crisis in 2001 had affected common man and people were looking for someone who may resolve their issues. Erdogan was able to bring a quick economic stability and ultra conservative reforms in Turkey.

Erdogan’s Radical anti-Western antagonism, based on an extremist melange of Turkish nationalism and Islamism, has increasingly infused his speeches, such as:

 “Don’t even think that the struggle that began 1,400 years ago between the truth [Islam] and fallacy [other beliefs] is over. Don’t even think that those who set an eye on these lands 1,000 years ago have given up their ambitions. Don’t even think that those who turned up at the Dardanelles, and then across Anatolia 100 years ago, coming with the most powerful armies, weapons and technology of the time, have repented. No, they never did so. This long-standing struggle is going on and will go on,”

He has also challenged Israel and Zionists on a number of occasions; His efforts to lift Gaza blockade and sending food and aid through ships like Freedom Flotilla have been widely praised in the Muslim world. His recent unexpected move was also hailed in Pakistan when he announced that Turkey had withdrawn its ambassador to Bangladesh, following the execution of a JI leader Motiur Rahman Nizami, who was alleged for so called war crimes in 1971. Erdogan also lashed out at Europe for not speaking out against the execution.

Today, Tayyab Erdogan looks like an influential and powerful figure in the Muslim world. Despite of all criticism and sarcasm on his radical decisions, he knows what he is doing. Erdogan and his Party enjoy a fierce and loyal support among Turkey and world’s conservative Muslim base. His critics believe that Erdogan is on his way to revive the glory of Ottoman Empire. His role in Syrian civil war is also very crucial, where he is alleged for supporting Anti-Assad forces including ISIS to counter Iranian influence and put a dent on Russian block in the region. He is not willing to make any compromise on his policies. Recently, he refused to change Anti-terror laws in response to EU proposal for Visa-free-travel across Europe. It seems as if Turkey’s role and Middle Eastern politics would depend on the decisions which Tayyab Erdogan may take in near future.

Mansoor Ali Khan

Writer is a Current Affairs Producer with a News Channel based in Islamabad.  He can be reached at;

Twitter  @HappyMansoor 


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