Svante E. Cornell believes that the Turkish government has been right to roll back the influence of the Gulen movement. After all, says the political scientist, the Gulen movement is a "sect with a hidden agenda" that demands absolute loyalty from its supporters.

He goes on to say that the problem now is that the fraternities that are now manoeuvring themselves into the gap left by the ousted Gulen movement are even more conservative. If Erdogan wins through, warns Cornell, the mentality of Turkey's future leadership elite will be "absolutely Middle Eastern and anti-Western."

Members of the Ismailaga cemaat at prayer (source: Youtube)
In with the new: those Islamic orders now rushing to fill the gaps left by Gulen in Turkey’s social and civic fabric pose a potential threat to the future stability of the country. Even if Erdogan manages to maintain the balance of power, the mentality of Turkey's future leadership elite will be "absolutely Middle Eastern and anti-Western"

A coalition of cemaats

This is particular noticeable in terms of the Ismailaga cemaat, whose influence in the education system is currently growing. Its supporters seek to live their lives according to the example set by the Prophet, which is why the men have beards and wear turbans, cloaks and baggy pants, while the women cover themselves with black veils. In its heartland, the Istanbul district of Fatih, one can buy not only the religious writings of the order's founder, but also alcohol-free perfume and twigs of the kind the Prophet used to brush his teeth.

Today, the AKP is "a coalition of cemaats", says the Istanbul-based sociologist who wishes to remain anonymous. Erdogan acts as its senior manager, doling out jobs and resources and trying to maintain a balance of power that will ensure that no single fraternity ever becomes too powerful again. However, the problem is that since his split with the Gulen movement, he has entered into an alliance with the ultra-nationalist MHP in order to shore up his power.

As Caliskan explains, the ultra-nationalists are not at all happy about the way the orders are penetrating the education sector. Today, says the sociologist, some ministries are already controlled by brotherhoods; others by the nationalists. Dividing up the government between rival groups is not a "sustainable or consistent strategy," he says. What the outcome of this latest power struggle will be remains to be seen.

Ulrich von Schwerin

© 2017

Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan

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