Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Tapping on huge financial and human resources available for the use of the Turkish government’s religious arm, Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is aiming to gain a foothold in countries that have Muslim minorities in order to promote his hardline Islamist ideology and project his image of Caliph to the world.
In scandalous remarks delivered in a keynote address during the inauguration of the four-day Muslim Minorities Summit, held in İstanbul and organized by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Erdoğan urged the foreign guests in attendance to organize themselves and start dominating and ruling the larger non-Muslim populations in their respective countries.
“That you are a minority in a country is never a disadvantage,” he emphasized, recalling verse 2:249 from the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran, which states: “How often, with Allah’s permission, have small groups defeated the large ones? Allah is with those who exercise patience.”
Stressing that Allah’s judgment is already given in such cases, Erdoğan said: “Therefore we, as communities of faith, can overcome whatever others have, including bombs and other things, with Allah’s permission. In history, many small, well-organized groups dominated and ruled groups that had many more people.”
In other words, the Turkish president was urging Muslim community representatives from some 100 countries including South Africa, America, Mexico, India and Argentina as well as countries in Europe to organize themselves with a view toward conquering and governing the countries in which they live.
This is yet another instance of how Erdoğan’s Caliphate ambitions to command the allegiance of all Muslims in the world were manifested, this time at a meeting in lavish Dolmabahçe Palace, which served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.
The Diyanet has organized similar events in the past for President Erdoğan and provided a platform for him to reach out to Muslim leaders in other countries. To name a few, the African Muslim Leaders Summit, the Latin America and Caribbean Islands Muslim Leaders Summit and the Eurasian Islamic Consultancy meetings were all put on by the Diyanet in recent years to promote Erdoğan’s vision for the world.
The Diyanet, once touted as a neutral and non-political body, has unfortunately been turned into a partisan tool in the hands of the Erdoğan government that even ordered imams abroad to spy on critics and opponents, sparking international scandals in countries that are home to large Turkish diaspora groups.
The Diyanet enjoys a nearly $2 billion annual budget from government coffers and controls some 90,000 mosques in Turkey and overseas, with some 120,000 imams and other religious staff (not including people on temporary contracts). It maintains 106 religious attachés in 57 countries and employs some 2,000 imams to manage mosques in other countries.
According to the Erdoğan-appointed Ali Erbaş, head of the Diyanet, some 25 million people in Turkey and abroad listen to sermons every Friday prepared centrally by the agency.
Erbaş who said he approves suicide bombings in armed conflict, parrots Erdoğan’s narrative and puts what his boss is preaching into a religious package to make his arguments appear more convincing, especially for the practicing and pious segments of Muslim communities.
Just last week, the Diyanet brought some 400 imams from Syria to train them in the Turkish resort city of Antalya. They will later be dispatched to areas under Turkish military control such as Jarablus and Afrin to disseminate Erdogan’s Islamist vision for Syria.