How Atatürk Made Turkey Secular

The evolution of Turkey in the early 1900s is one of the most baffling cultural and social changes in Islamic history. In a few short years, the Ottoman Empire was brought down from within, stripped of its Islamic history, and devolved into a new secular nation known as Turkey. The consequences of this change are still being felt today throughout the Muslim world, and especially in a very polarized and ideologically segmented Turkey.

What caused this monumental change in Turkish government and society? At the center of it all is Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatürk. Through his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, modern secular Turkey was born, and Islam took a backseat in Turkish society.


The Rise of Atatürk

The decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter the First World War in 1914 turned out to be a horrible mistake. The empire was run by a dictatorship led by the “Three Pashas” who unilaterally entered the war on the German side, against the British, French, and Russians. The Ottoman Empire was invaded from the south by the British, from the East by the Russians, and by the Greeks in the West. By 1918 when the war ended, the empire was divided and occupied by the victorious allies, leaving only the central Anatolian highlands under native Turkish control.

Mustafa Kemal in 1918

Mustafa Kemal in 1918

It was in central Anatolia where Mustafa Kemal would rise to become a national hero for the Turks. As an Ottoman army officer, he displayed great leadership in battle, especially at Gallipoli, where the Ottomans managed to turn back a British invasion aimed at the capital, Istanbul. After the war, however, Kemal made clear what his priorities were. His main goal was the establishment of Turkish nationalism as the unifying force of the Turkish people. Unlike the multi-ethnic and diverse Ottoman Empire, Kemal aimed to create a monolithic state based on Turkish identity.

In Mustafa Kemal’s own words, he describes the importance of Turkish identity and the insignificance of Islam as he sees it:

“Even before accepting the religion of the Arabs [Islam], the Turks were a great nation. After accepting the religion of the Arabs, this religion, didn’t effect to combine the Arabs, the Persians and Egyptians with the Turks to constitute a nation. (This religion) rather, loosened the national nexus of Turkish nation, got national excitement numb. This was very natural. Because the purpose of the religion founded by Muhammad, over all nations, was to drag to an including Arab national politics.”

– Mustafa Kemal, Medenî Bilgiler

Mustafa Kemal’s skewed [and quite frankly, factually incorrect] views of Islamic history helped push his nationalist agenda. Using Turkish identity as a rallying point, he managed to unite former Ottoman officers under his command in the Turkish War of Independence in the early 1920s and expel the occupying forces of the Greeks, British, and French, who had encroached on Turkish land after WWI. By 1922, Kemal managed to completely free the Turks of foreign occupation and used the opportunity to establish the modern Republic of Turkey, led by the Grand National Assembly, the GNA, in Ankara. At the head of the new Turkish government was a president, elected by the GNA. The natural choice was Mustafa Kemal, the hero of the War of Independence, who now took on the title of “Atatürk”, meaning “Father of the Turks”.

Abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and the Caliphate

At first, the new Turkish government seemed to inherit the role of the Ottoman government as the upholder of Islam. A new constitution drawn up by the GNA declared that Islam was the official state religion of Turkey and that all laws had to be vetted by a panel of Islamic law experts, to make sure they do not contradict the Shari’ah.

This new system of government could not work, however, so long as there continued to be a rival government in Istanbul, led by the Ottoman sultan. The Ankara and Istanbul governments both claimed sovereignty over Turkey, and had frankly conflicting goals. Atatürk eliminated this problem on November 1, 1922, when he abolished the Ottoman sultanate, which had existed since 1299, and officially transferred its power to the GNA. He did not immediately abolish the caliphate, however. Although the sultanate was no more, he allowed the Ottoman caliphate to continue to exist, although with no official powers, only as a symbolic figurehead.

Abdülmecid II, the last caliph who held the office from 1922 to 1924.

Abdülmecid II, the last caliph who held the office from 1922 to 1924.

Knowing that this move would be very unpopular among the Turkish people, Atatürk justified it by claiming he was simply going back to a traditional Islamic form of government. From the 900s to the 1500s, the Abbasid caliphs were mostly figureheads, with real power being in the hands of viziers or warlords. Atatürk used this example to justify his creation of a powerless caliphate.

The caliphate had existed since the days following the death of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, when Abu Bakr was elected as the first leader of the Muslim world. For Muslims outside of Turkey, Atatürk’s actions clearly put the office of the caliphate itself in danger. In India especially, Muslims expressed outrage at Atatürk’s actions and organized the Khilafat Movement, which sought to protect the caliphate from danger, whether by foreign invaders or the Turkish government itself.

For Atatürk, the expressions of support for the caliphate from Muslims outside Turkey were seen as interference in internal Turkish affairs. Citing this supposed international interference, on March 3rd, 1924, Atatürk and the Grand National Assembly abolished the caliphate itself and sent all remaining members of the Ottoman family into exile.

Attacks on Islam

With the caliphate out of the way, the Turkish government had more freedom to pursue policies that attacked Islamic institutions. Under the guise of “cleansing Islam of political interference”, the educational system was completely overhauled. Islamic education was banned in favor of secular, non-dogmatic schools. Other aspects of religious infrastructure were also torn down. The Shari’ah council to approve laws that the GNA had established just two years earlier was abolished. Religious endowments were seized and put under government control. Sufi lodges were forcefully shut down. All judges of Islamic law in the country were immediately fired, as all Shari’ah courts were closed.

Atatürk’s attacks on Islam were not limited to the government, however. Everyday life for Turks was also dictated by Atatürk’s secular ideas:

  • Traditional Islamic forms of headdress such as turbans and the fez were outlawed in favor of Western-style hats.
  • The hijaab for women was ridiculed as a “ridiculous object” and banned in public buildings.
  • The calendar was officially changed, from the traditional Islamic calendar, based on the hijrah – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ’s flight to Madinah – to the Gregorian calendar, based on the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • In 1932, the adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – was outlawed in Arabic. Instead, it was rewritten using Turkish words and forced upon the country’s thousands of mosques.
  • Friday was no longer considered part of the weekend. Instead, Turkey was forced to follow European norms of Saturday and Sunday being days off from work.

After all of these changes, the GNA gave up the charade in 1928 and deleted the clause in the constitution that declared Islam as the official state religion. Islam had been replaced with Atatürk’s secular ideologies.

Language Reform

Atatürk knew these secular reforms would be futile if the Turkish people could manage to rally together to oppose them. The biggest danger to this new order was the history of the Turks, which since the 900s had been intertwined with Islam. In order to distance the new generations of Turks from their past, Atatürk had to make the past unreadable to them.

Atatürk introducing the new Latin script in 1928.

Atatürk introducing the new Latin script in 1928.

With the excuse of increasing literacy among Turks (which was indeed very low in the 1920s), Atatürk advocated the replacement of Arabic letters with Latin letters. Much like Persian, Turkish was written in Arabic letters for hundreds of years after the conversion of the Turks to Islam in the 900s. Because Turkish was written in the Arabic script, Turks could read the Qur’an, and other Islamic texts with relative ease, connecting them to an Islamic identity – which Atatürk saw as a threat.

In addition to the introduction of the Latin letters, Atatürk created a commission charged with the replacement of Arabic and Persian loanwords in Turkish. In keeping with his nationalist agenda, Atatürk wanted a language that was purely Turkish, which meant old Turkish words, that had become obsolete during the Ottoman era, came back into use instead of Arabic words. For example, the Turkish War of Independence, formerly know as the Istiklal Harbi, is now known as Kurtuluş Savaşı, because “istiklal” and “harb” are Arabic loanwords in Turkish.

From Atatürk’s perspective, the language reform was wildly successful. Within a few decades, the old Ottoman Turkish was effectively extinct. The newer generations of Turks were completely cut off from the older generations, with whom simple conversations were difficult. With the Turkish people illiterate to their past, the Turkish government was able to feed them a version of history that they deemed acceptable, one that promoted the Turkish nationalistic ideas of Atatürk himself.

Secular Turkey

All of these reforms worked together to effectively erase Islam from the lives of the everyday Turks. Despite the best efforts of religious-minded Turks (such as Said Nursi) to preserve their heritage, language, and religion, the government’s pressure to adopt secular ideas was too much. For over 80 years, Turkish government remained vehemently secular. Attempts to bring back Islamic values into government have been met with resistance by the military, which views itself as the protector of Atatürk’s secularism.

In 1950, Adnan Menderes was democratically elected prime minister of Turkey on a platform of bringing back the Arabic adhan. Although he was successful, he was overthrown by a military coup in 1960 and executed after a hasty trial. More recently, in 1996, Necmettin Erbakan was elected prime minister, while remarkably openly declaring himself an “Islamist”. Once again, the military stepped in, and overthrew him from power after just one year in office.

Modern Turkey’s relations with Islam and its own history are complicated. Portions of the society strongly support Atatürk’s ideology and believe Islam should have no role in public life. Other segments of society envision a return to a more Islam-oriented society and government, and closer relations with the rest of the Muslim world. Most troubling, however, is that the ideological conflict between these two opposing sides shows no signs of subsiding anytime soon.

(Source / 11.06.2013)

Palestine Youth Ambassadors


Palestine Youth Ambassadors (Palestina Jeugd Ambassadeurs (PYA)) is een jonge jeugd organisatie met als doel om bewustzijn te kweken voor de Palestijnse zaak, zowel lokaal, nationaal als internationaal. PYA wil dit bereiken door uitwisseling van kennis en cultuur, door inventieve jeugd initiatieven, programma’s en projecten te adopteren en de Palestijnse jeugd hierbij te ondersteunen. De organisatie zal de jeugd de mogelijkheid en gelegenheid  geven om zichzelf voor te stellen en een boodschap van liefde en dankbaarheid te sturen aan alle Palestijnse vrienden en mensen die pro-Palestina zijn.

De doelstellingen van Palestina Youth Ambassadors zijn o.a. :

  • Alle pro-Palestijnse gekwalificeerde jongeren te verzamelen in een netwerk om samen te werken om de Palestijnse zaak te definiëren
  • De Palestijnse jeugdsectoren te activeren om de vaardigheden te ontwikkelen om het thuisland, Palestina, te dienen
  • Recente platformen te zoeken die de Palestijnse zaak ondersteunen
  • Het principe van de dialoog en het wederzijds begrip  te promoten tussen jongeren van verschillende landen om zo de waarden van deugdzaamheid en beschaafdheid te verspreiden
  • Bijdragen aan het oplossen van intellectuele en sociale problemen waar speciaal de jeugd mee geconfronteerd worden en de Palestijnse gemeenschap in het algemeen
  • Versterken van culturele en artistieke initiatieven die sterk de Palestijnse zaak ondersteunen

Het initiatief is ontstaan als een reactie op het lijden van de jongeren in de Palestijnse samenleving sinds 2006 en is gebaseerd op de verbinding  met andere lokale en internationale organisaties voor de heropleving van de Palestijnse zaak op de vele terreinen van de cultuur en de kunst. De initiatiefnemers verzoeken daarom het Palestijnse volk en al de mensen die Palestina een warm hart toedragen, de organisatie te ondersteunen.

De Palestijnse werkelijkheid is moeilijk en tragisch, Palestina heeft een gebrek aan vele basisbehoeften. Ook het economische leven van de Gazastrook is slecht te noemen: de armoede overschrijft de 70% met een werkeloosheid die reikt tot 56%

Organisaties als Palestine Youth Ambassadors hebben hulp nodig, onze hulp.  Binnenkort zal er meer informatie komen vanuit Palestina van deze organisatie. Indien u de pdf wilt lezen, klik hier.

(Dit is een globale vertaling van de informatie van de pdf).

IOA transfers 12-year-old detainee to hospital

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) transferred a 12-year-old Palestinian child to Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem only few hours after his arrest.

The director of the Palestinian prisoner’s society in Bethlehem, Abdulfattah Khalil, told Quds Press on Tuesday that medical sources informed the family of the child Husam Khalifa, of his transfer to hospital late last night.

Khalil said that the child’s father, from Bethlehem, was with him until 02:00 am (local time) Tuesday after Israeli occupation forces summoned him to a roadblock where his son Husam was being held.

He said that Husam was in good health and did not suffer any health problems before his detention.

Khalil expressed concern that the child might have been beaten and tortured after his father left him, holding the IOA fully responsible for his life.

(Facebook / 11.06.2013)

Health condition of detainee Thaer Halahle

A Palestinian human rights group has warned of the rapid deterioration of the health condition of detainee Thaer Halahle who suffered from a liver infection few weeks after his detention.

The Palestinian prisoner’s society said in a statement on Tuesday that Halahle was not treated for his disease, which worsened his condition.

Halahle charged the Israeli prison administration with attempting to kill him, explaining that he underwent dental treatment during his interrogation in Askalan jail during which “contaminated” tools were used.

He said that his health condition was worsening and his abdomen was swelling because of the infection.

(Facebook / 11.06.2013)

Twee zaadjes

By Marianna Laarif

Twee zaadjes liggen naast elkaar op een vruchtbare grond.
Zegt het ene zaadje tegen het andere: Ik wil groeien! Ik wil mijn wortels diep in de grond voelen en door de aardkorst heen naar boven uitbreken … Ik wil mijn tere knoppen uitvouwen om de komst van de lente aan te kondigen. Ik wil de warmte van de zon op mijn gezicht voelen en de zegeningen van de morgendauw op mijn blaadjes!

Het zaadje groeide …

Het tweede zaadje zei: Ik ben bang. Als ik mijn wortels naar beneden laat groeien, weet ik niet wat ik in het donker tegen zal komen. Als ik door de aardkorst heen breek, beschadig ik misschien mijn tere knoppen. En stel je voor dat ik mijn blaadjes uitrol en ze worden opgegeten door een slak. En als ik mijn bloesems open, komt er misschien een klein kind dat ze afplukt. Nee, ik kan maar beter wachten tot de kust veilig is.

Het zaadje wachtte …

Toen kwam er een scharrelkip de hoek om, op zoek naar voedsel, vond het wachtende zaadje en peuzelde het op.

Wie weigert risico’s te nemen en te groeien, wordt opgeslokt door het leven.

Photo essay: Gaza joins the Global March to Jerusalem


Thousands of Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip rallied by the closed Erez checkpoint on Friday, marking al-Naksa (the setback), Israel’s 1967 seizure of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, Syria’s Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula, ceded to Egypt in 1982.

Israel’s capture of the territories included the ethnic cleansing of over 400,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, following al-Nakba (the catastrophe), Zionist militias the and Israeli army’s 1948 expulsion of over 750,000 from lands now claimed by Israel.

The effort was part of the second annual Global March to Jerusalem, an international mobilization protesting Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and promising the return of refugees ethnically cleansed by its military forces.

According to a statement released today by the Global March to Jerusalem, “marches and sit-ins were held on Friday in more than 40 countries around the world, in addition to Palestine. They included a march to the northern border of the Gaza Strip and demonstrations in Jerusalem at the entrance to the Old City where Occupation Forces suppressed and arrested participants.

“Mass demonstrations took place in Gaza, Jordan, Egypt, Tunis, Mauritania, and Morocco, as well as in Yemen, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey. Likewise, there were large demonstrations in capitals and cities across Europe and North America, including gatherings in front of Israeli embassies.”

(Source / 11.06.2013)


Comedian Bill Cosby is no stranger to the culture wars.

The iconic stand-up and star of the beloved sitcom The Cosby Show routinely weighs in on cultural matters.

This past weekend, Cosby penned an op-ed for The New York Post in which he detailed some of the flaws in modern society. He also suggested we should take a page out of the Koran if we want to have healthier families, less crime and more productive people.

I’m a Christian. But Muslims are misunderstood. Intentionally misunderstood. We should all be more like them. They make sense, especially with their children. There is no other group like the Black Muslims, who put so much effort into teaching children the right things, they don’t smoke, they don’t drink or overindulge in alcohol, they protect their women, they command respect. And what do these other people do?

They complain about them, they criticize them. We’d be a better world if we emulated them. We don’t have to become black Muslims, but we can embrace the things that work.

(Source / 11.06.2013)

Saudi Arabia, France agree Qusayr scenario can’t be repeated in Aleppo

Syrian residents collect their belongings in Qusayr June 8, 2013.

France and Saudi Arabia agreed during a meeting in Paris that the Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops, which defeated the rebels in the strategic town of Qusayr, should not be allowed to repeat the same scenario in province of Aleppo, Al Arabiya correspondent reported Tuesday.

The two countries expressed their stance after Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and the kingdom’s intelligence head, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, met with French officials.

While both countries established the need for international measures to help stave off a repeat of the Qusayr battle, France said an international consensus is required before any military operation can take place.

After their talks, France noted that the Syrian conflict reached a “turning point” after the Syrian regime declared victory against opposition fighters in Qusayr.

France’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot said weakening the rebels will make it more difficult to bring them to the negotiating table with representatives from Assad’s government, according to Reuters.

Russia and the United States plan to hold the ‘Geneva 2’ conference, which could take place from June 15-16. It will bring Syrian regime and opposition officials together for dialogue.

“With the fall of Qusayr, we are seeing a dramatic development,” Reuters reported him as saying.

“It’s even more worrying given that Aleppo is being announced as the next target of the regime and its allies … We are at a turning point in the Syrian war.”

Opposition media on Tuesday reported clashes between the Free Syrian Army and Syrian regime troops backed by Hezbollah in Aleppo. Fighters from Hezbollah — supported by Iran — publicly led a 17-day assault on Qusayr.

Soon after the fall of Qusayr, George Sabra acting head of the opposition main group, Syrian National Council, sounded the alarm over what he described as the “Iranian invasion” on Syria.

Sabra urged the Arab League and West to act and get rid Syria of the “invaders.” The Syrian regime has received backing from Hezbollah as well as Iran.

“There are consequences to be drawn from what happened in Qusayr and what’s happening in Aleppo. The first consequence is to strengthen the ties with the coalition, and the question we’re asked is whether to go one step further and deliver weapons,” Lalliot said.

The lifting of a European Union embargo on arms deliveries to Syria, and rapid changes on the battlefield, meant that “talks and thinking” were now needed on the issue, he added.

“We cannot leave the opposition in the situation in which it finds itself.”

Having an international consensus to agree on a military solution has long been hard with some observers calling it almost “impossible.” Both China and Russia have vetoed off UN Security Council resolutions deemed as against the Syrian government.

While President Vladimir Putin signaled some change on Tuesday regarding Russia stance on Syria, he also expressed suspicion of Western countries trying to promote democracy in the region.

Putin said that Assad could have avoided the conflict in Syria by implementing reforms demanded by his people. “The country was ripe for serious changes, and the leadership should’ve felt that in time and started making changes. Then what’s happening wouldn’t have happened,” Putin told English-language state TV Russia Today.

However, he also blamed “certain people from outside” – in reference to the Western countries –who “think that if you shape the whole region under the same style, which some people like and some call democracy, then there will be peace and order. That isn’t so at all.”

Russia was not acting as an advocate for Assad, he added.

Moscow has constantly criticized the West for showing support to the opposition and fears it will start aiding the Syrian rebels with lethal weapons.

On Monday, a US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the White House is considering arming the Syrian rebels and a decision will materialize this week.

(Source / 11.06.2013)

Rechter verbiedt deportatie van Abdellah


Zojuist heefstop_deportatiest de advocaat van Abdellah ons bericht dat de rechter in zijn voordeel heeft beslist: de uitzetting van Abdellah mag morgen niet doorgaan!

Abdellah’s familie is overgelukkig met het goeie nieuws; de afgelopen tijd is zenuwslopend geweest. We hopen dat Abdellah vanuit detentiecentrum Schiphol snel contact kan opnemen met zijn familie en ons – waarschijnlijk weet hij het zelf nog niet.

Nu de rechter de uitzetting van Abdellah verboden heeft, heeft de advocaat – nu één die wél in het belang van Abdellah handelt – de ruimte om hem uit detentie en deze rotsituatie te krijgen.

De strijd is nog niet voorbij: naast de procedures voor Abdellah zelf, zullen er ook stappen komen tegen zijn vorige advocaat, die herhaaldelijk met opzet de procedures heeft gesaboteerd.

“Meester” Kleijweg, u hoort nog van ons!!

(Source / 11.06.2013)

Turkish police fire teargas, drive thousands from Taksim Square

Protesters stand further away as riot police and water cannons returned to Istanbul’s Taksim square June 11, 2013.

Turkish riot police fired volleys of teargas canisters into Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday, which is the centre of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, driving thousands into narrow side streets, witnesses told Reuters.

Police and water cannon vehicles advanced across the square, entirely clearing the north side after a day of skirmishes that had defied the authorities’ efforts to restore full control, Reuters reported.

In a live broadcast of the square on Al Arabiya TV, police surrounded protesters and amassed in nearby areas.

The square has been the scene of violent clashes between police and protesters.

As violence raged in Taksim Square, Istanbul’s mayor said riot police would continue to battle protestors until the square is cleared.

“We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” Mayor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said in a brief television announcement, reported Reuters.

This comes after Erdogan called on protesters to withdraw from central Istanbul’s Gezi Park and added the wave of anti-government demonstrations were an attempt to damage Turkey’s economy and international image.

“I invite them to withdraw from the park and I ask this as prime minister,” Erdogan told a parliamentary group meeting of his AK Party, according to Reuters.

“The Turkish economy has been targeted through these events… Efforts to distort Turkey’s image have been put in place as part of a systematic plan.

Amid the events Erdogan said three protesters and one police officer had been killed in nearly two weeks of nationwide unrest against his Islamic-rooted government.

“Three youngsters and one policeman have lost their lives in the events,” the premier told lawmakers in televised remarks. Turkey’s national doctors’ union has so far put the toll at three dead.

Turkish riot police fired tear gas in the center of Ankara on Monday night to disperse hundreds against Islamic-rooted government, AFP news agency reported.

(Source / 11.06.2013)