ISTANBUL—“A leading Turkish national security analyst” told US diplomats that seven percent of Turkish citizens support “radical forms of Islam,” adding that “in a country of 70 million [people], even if half a percent of the population supports al-Qaeda-type terrorism, this would mean 350,000 potential terrorists,” according to US State Department cables released by Wikileaks, reported Hurriyet Daily News, quoting the whistleblower Web site’s Turkish partner Taraf newspaper.
The Sunni Islamic doctrine has changed so little since the Middle Ages that there is not much difference between the Taliban in Afghanistan and Turkey, the Religious Affairs Directorate’s research office director, Niyazi Kahveci, told U.S. officials during a visit on Nov. 14, 1996, according to another recently leaked cable, reported Hurriyet.
Later, as more cables revealed, US diplomats have observed that Islam in Turkey is not “monolithic” and is politically divided, with both secularists and conservative Islamists trying to manipulate religion’s role in public affairs to their own ends.
A June 27, 2003, diplomatic cable, released Wednesday by WikiLeaks’ Turkish partner, daily Taraf, also claimed the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate is suppressing Islamic beliefs that do not fit the official version.
The Turkish version of secularism is “180 degrees opposite” of the U.S. version as it is not one embraced by the people and protected by the Constitution but “divinized” by the Constitution and forced on the people, the cable also said.
According to the cable, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate and the institutions within its scope are not separated from the state but are to the contrary, an indivisible part of it.
It noted that the directorate was among the biggest official institutions in Turkey, with 90,000 personnel as of 2003, and that it employs all the imams in Turkey and controls the contents of their preaching.
The directorate produces a “Kemalist Islam” that has little to do with the beliefs held in the “less elite” corners of Anatolia, the cable said, adding that the directorate is oppressing forms of Islam, including the pro-secular faction of Alevism, that do not fit the official version, according to Hurriyet.