Barış Terkoğlu

How political power shifts reshaped religious communities

08 Nisan 2024 Pazartesi

Is democracy a stupid regime?

Can it be drugged and put to sleep by adding medicine to its water?

Can its heart, brain, and liver be removed?

While waiting for the ballot boxes to close, I was flipping through the pages of the book I had in my hand. Young journalist İsmail Arı wrote "The Safe of Menzil" (The Menzil Community is a branch of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya Sufi order that originated in Adıyaman). He captured a photo of a community that has turned into a holding.

Arı provides information about the election boxes in Adıyaman Menzil. According to him, the official population of the community village was 3,000, but during the last elections on May 14th, the number of voters was 1,814. In the previous election, there were five separate ballot boxes in the village. Erdogan received almost all the votes, 1,769 to be exact. Kılıçdaroğlu received 4 votes, and Sinan Oğan got 1 vote.

Even more interesting...

In three of the five boxes, all the votes went to Erdogan. Clearly, the opposition was not present in the Menzil ballot boxes.

In the book, a Menzil follower describes how they voted:

"Normally, women do not vote in Menzil. Votes are cast collectively and thrown into the box. Usually, the opposition doesn't send a polling station officer either. The polling station officers appointed by the state are generally members of Menzil."


The iftar given by Necmettin Erbakan to community leaders at the Prime Minister's Office was talked about for years. However, Erbakan rarely felt the support of the communities in politics. How can one forget the words of Esad Coşan, the teacher of the İskenderpaşa group, which Erbakan was once a part of, during the 1991 elections: "You ride in Mercedes and live in luxury", "People who have become rich with money coming in suitcases from Germany", "People whose budgets have swollen with our brothers' money", "You know neither the verses nor Arabic"...

The reason is clear. The sects were always thirsty not for faith but for the state. Being close to the state, feeding from the state, organizing under the protection of the state became their true passion. Because their power source was not divine but worldly. Whoever had more money, more bureaucrats, and more judges, their sheikh flew higher. The reason they supported ANAP or DYP instead of Erbakan was this. Erdogan was the one who balanced ideals with realities. The reason for the communities' support for Erdogan was more about the power he held than religion. That's why they openly support Erdogan, even competing with each other.

Fast forward to today...


As we approached March 31, we faced a new situation. Both Menzil and İsmailağa split. The common point was the death of their sheikhs. İsmailağa Sheikh Mahmut Ustaosmanoğlu and Menzil Sheikh Abdulbaki Erol both passed away recently. Both communities plunged into civil war.

The Menzil sheikh had left behind nine caliphs. Six were alive. Three were the sheikh's children. A typical community scenario unfolded. The other caliphs were ignored. The sheikh's inheritance was divided among his three children. While old vows were annulled, every follower pledged allegiance to a chosen child anew. So much so that the community members, who claimed they would unite the entire Muslim ummah, prayed in three separate mosques for the three brothers in Menzil village. Institutions and buildings became divided. Finally, during the election week, groups fought in the streets. But for now, the winner of the process, with the support of Erdogan and the media, was the deceased sheikh's eldest son, Saki Erol.

The fight in İsmailağa was delayed after the death of the sheikh two years ago. Unable to produce a strong leader from within the community, the practice of rabıta (spiritual connection) to the deceased Mahmut Hoca continued. But different power centers were emerging. Cübbeli Ahmet was officially excommunicated. With AKP support, the sect transitioned to the leadership of Mahmut Hoca's son-in-law, Hasan Efendi.

As we headed to March 31, politics determined the winner of the fights in both Menzil and İsmailağa. Erdogan, the day before the election, visited Hasan Kılıç, clearly taking sides. Interestingly, those who were sidelined also took the "I am the most pro-Erdogan" stance to avoid being purged. So much so that Cübbeli Ahmet even issued a fatwa stating that those who do not vote for AKP-MHP would be sinners.


Now, Erdogan decides on the leaderships of the sects. Those whom Erdogan holds become leaders, while others continue to cling to Erdogan's coat to avoid being cursed.

Collecting property, positions, and followers "for the sake of Allah", these communities trade their power to the government every election. They undermine free will, force citizens to stamp the ballot under the guise of religion, and use elections as a means to destroy democracy. The deceived, the harmed, the divided democracy, and citizens are the outcomes.

March 31 also marked another fracture. In areas claimed to be influenced by communities, including Istanbul and Adıyaman, the opposition won by a clear margin. The defeat in the March 31 elections was a slap not only to the AKP but also to the sects that marketed their followers to politics!

The day democracy becomes wise, the merchants of religion will also disappear.

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