Why Erdogan Can’t Declare the Caliphate even he Wanted to

Many Muslims think that there is some secret move afoot , that slowly but surely Turkey is heading to restore the caliphate and unify the ummah under its leadership. Of course we would all love for this to be true. A cold sober look at some of the ground realities to me suggests otherwise. Here are some points that might help inform our understandings.

  1. Turkey is far from being a society that is united on single viewpoint on life( i.e all issues are seen from the Islamic prism), there are still a significant portion of the population that are hard core kemalists, as well as people that describe them selves as pious Muslims, conservatives and nationalists. At this point in time the societal viewpoint is still not clear. So in my view a nucleus for strong state based on Islam still eludes us.
  2. Turkish republicanism has left a very strong stain on Turkish society. We have to remember that Mustafa Kemal was seen as a hero by many Turks. In their eyes he saved the Turkish nation from oblivion. They were, after all defeated in the 1st world war , their lands ( current day Turkey) were about to be dismembered. The humiliation of the occupation by the Greeks still sends a chill down the spines of some Turks. Kemal was seen as a hero and thus he demolished the institution of khilafah and established the Turkish republic. Once in power he started strip Turkey of its Islamic heritage and promote his republican ideas.
  3. Mustafa Kemal’s republican party ( today’s CHP) has a symbol of 6 arrows . Each of these arrows represent the philosophy of the Turkish Republic . Each arrow represents the concepts of republicanism, populism, nationalism, Laicism, Statism and reformist. It is for this reason that you will never hear any state official including Erdogan ( I haven’t anyway) encouraging or prohibiting any actions on the basis of Islam.
  4. The state is secular Laïcité ( i,e the complete detachment of religion from state) this is different from secularism in the UK ( with the lords spiritual in the house lords ) or in the US. No religion is allowed to be expressed. This is still the basis of the society and to declare the caliphate this will need to be overturned. Any shift in the basis would not go unopposed in Turkey at this juncture.
  5. As the basis of politics in the country is not Islam. Even the so called Islamic infiltrators in the institutions like the Gulenists are clearly in the hands of the USA. Although Erdogan has attempted to clean up the institutions, he has filled up the positions with those that will not oppose him, it is not from any ideological affiliation. We can see that old allies of Erdogan like Ali Babacan, Abdullah Gul and Ahmet Davutoglu are talking about setting up some opposition to Erdogan. The point being that political unity on an ideological basis is not there, rather it is built on personality and interests and as a result can easily become corrupted.
  6. Ottomanism or neo-ottomanism. This is often used in Turkey to rouse nostalgia of Turkeys great past. Ottomanism it self is not a new concept . It was in fact used by the ottomans in their later stages based upon ideas of Montesquieu and Rousseau. It was a perversion of the concept of Millets ( i.e if you were a christian and jew you would be judged according to your own law in personal matters you were another millet ). It was an attempt from what I understand to create an ottoman identity ( with no reference to Islam) . It of course failed and was far away from the Islamic concept of citizenship. The term neo-ottomanism was coined by in Chatham House paper by David Barchard in 1985, where it was suggested that this might be a future course for the Turkish republic
  7. Turkeys relationships with the Muslim world and lands that were under the Ottoman states needs to be assessed. Turkey sees it self as a regional player and as such wants to reassert its influence with states that it had control over in the ottoman era and those Muslim states. This is not so as to unify on the basis of shariah rather this is a commercial necessity. It is of course convenient in establishing relationships with other Muslim countries but when one scratches beneath the surface it is commercial relationship that is sacrosanct, look at the incident with China and Uighur. Although Turkey has sided with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue , this is not necessarily borne out of brotherhood. This could also be due to Turkeys strategic vision of becoming the leading Muslim state and it having a greater interest in Pakistan than in India.
  8. Overall, it seems that the trajectory where Turkey is headed is one of regional player perhaps even a world player, that wants to be independent in its policies. An economically and militarily strong state that has deep relationships with its former territories, the Turkic people and Muslims at large. The shape I see Turkey taking is more imperial than that of a caliphate but Allah (swt) knows best how society will change in the future. On the plus side the khilafah will be more viable in a strong state than one that has been bombed back the stone age.

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