A prominent professor of Islamic studies was indicted for his criticism of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), the proselytizing arm of the political Islamist government led by authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to official documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, Suat Yıldırım, who has authored numerous books on Islam, wrote a damning rebuttal to a politically charged Diyanet report that smeared Erdoğan’s most outspoken critic, Fethullah Gülen, and his movement. The retired professor’s article prompted an Erdoğan fan to file a complaint against him with the office of the mufti, a district level Diyanet organization, in the city of Bergama in Turkey’s western Izmir province on September 5, 2017.
The complaint was sent to the prosecutor’s office by the mufti, resulting in a criminal investigation into Yıldırım. The public prosecutor in the district sent the file to Ankara, where another public prosecutor identified as Veysel Kamaz officially prepared an indictment of the professor on November 24, 2017, asking the court to convict him on multiple terrorism charges. The indictment was later merged with another case in which the academic was listed as a defendant on dubious terrorism charges. He faces a sentence of aggravated life if he stands trial.
Yıldırım, affiliated with the Gülen movement, is a retired professor of Islamic jurisprudence and is considered one of the leading theologians in Turkey. When he refused to endorse the corrupt regime of President Erdoğan, he became the target of a vicious campaign and faced numerous charges in politically motivated criminal proceedings. He had to flee Turkey to escape persecution by the Erdoğan regime and currently lives in exile.
The Diyanet report for which he wrote a strong rebuttal tried to portray Gülen as a person who is not Islamic as part of the Erdoğan government’s efforts to discredit Muslim scholars who refrained from supporting Erdoğan’s divisive political Islamist ideology. The report was released on July 26, 2017, after Erdoğan issued an order for the preparation of such a report, according to former head of the Diyanet Mehmet Görmez, who revealed the order during an interview on July 14, 2017 on Diyanet TV. The report is full of contradictions, slanders and lies, according to a panel of Islamic scholars who collectively issued a response. The rebuttal, which was issued by Wisdom Islamic Studies and Education (WISE) on January 15, 2018, exposed how the Diyanet misquoted Gülen’s writings and speeches in a bid to flesh out what Erdoğan had been saying in public rallies against Gülen.
Based on historical references, case law, principles in the Quran and the words of the Prophet Muhammad, Yıldırım, one of the authors of the WISE report, exposed the fallacies in the Diyanet report. The report accused the Diyanet of adopting the takfiri discourse used by radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which employs takfiri ideology in labelling Muslims as unbelievers in an accusation of apostasy. It slammed the Diyanet for criticizing Gülen’s meetings with Christian and Jewish clergy as part of interfaith dialogue and outreach activities.
Under Erdoğan’s long-running rule of Turkey, the Diyanet has been transformed into a partisan tool at the hands of Islamist rulers who dispatched imams overseas to spy on Erdoğan critics, placed jihadist figures on the payroll of the government agency and used some 80,000 mosques under Diyanet control as platforms for political propaganda.
The Diyanet also removed Yıldırım’s contributions to the 44-volume Islamic Encyclopedia, of which he had authored some 20 sections. All the sections he wrote were removed from the online version of the encyclopedia.