I objected to his argument and the issue grew into a debate. Etyen Mahçupyan wrote two articles that composed a very serious part of this debate. On the other side of the topic, in this very same paper, is Bülent Keneş. He wrote an analysis that drew the borders of the debate. Yesterday’s Islamists are an important part of the AK Party’s capabilities. If 30 years ago you had asked about the political identity of symbolic positions like the president, prime minister and foreign minister, you probably would have received the reply, “Islamist.” Today, none of them are Islamists. It is not only them; there is almost no movement left in Turkey which describes itself as Islamist and has somewhat of a tradition rooted in the past.
The “anti-capitalist Islamists,” which appeals to the void in the left and is represented by İhsan Eliaçık, constitutes an exception as it is an ideological tradition that recently started to form.
Where have the Islamists of the past gone? How has Islamism as a mainstream ideology evaporated and disappeared? For the future fortunes of countries like Egypt, Tunisia and the Islamist Arab Spring, a true answer to this question is very important.
Yes, where have they gone? In Turkey there is a very clear, speculated response to this question: They became the leading powers. Yesterday’s Islamists are today’s powerbrokers. When Islamism, whose oppositional stance weighed heavy, came to power, it naturally lost its oppositional characteristics. When nothing survived, its essence was no more.
Yesterday’s radical opposition captured the state which they used to oppose. Now they are directing the state and speaking in its name. There are two important results of being in possession of the state. The first is the boon of power that they won along with the government. And the second is the feeling of responsibility that came with confronting realpolitik.
Wealth distribution accomplished by the economic power of a state like Turkey, a country with many rich tools at its disposal, is the first result. This explains an important part of the radical change of the Islamists.
In the criticism coming “from inside” the AK Party against its power, a four-worded process can be summarized with ironic language. The four words all begin with an “M” in Turkish: mujahid (mücahit), observer (müşahit), opportune (müsait) and entrepreneur (müteahhit). Yesterday’s Islamists are not only in politics but are Turkey’s economic elite as well. Those who were identified as Islamists 30 years ago are controlling full-scale capital.
Secondly, it explains the change in the political elite. To be in power means to take responsibility for directing the country peacefully. This responsibility rubs away all radical qualities. Just as the naughtiest children are chosen as class representatives in schools, the sharpest opponents are given the responsibility to direct the country.
There is an important consequence stemming from the Islamists in the political system; by owning their responsibilities and making use of the benefits from being in power, the party came to be in this moderate state, and this consequence exceeds the Islamists. The political system that experienced a crisis of legality was able to re-establish its legality in a powerful way by bringing Islamists into the system. Today, there is a state with increased legitimacy before Kurds. The AK Party has paid for the power it took from the state by way of consolidating the state.
Bulaç is one of Turkey’s leading Islamist ideologues. He sees the period in which Islam lost its influence as a period of degeneration. But in his hands he holds no tools to resurrect Islamism. The AK Party presented the government with all such tools in exchange for the power which it took over. Mahçupyan, on the other hand, describes this process as the AK Party’s new agreement with the state by way of new alliances and deals. In any case, will this speedy transformation undergone by the Islamists in Turkey not give clear advice for the near future of the Islamists coming to power in Egypt and Tunisia?