While many in Turkey tend to see the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan as a US defeat and are concerned about an influx of refugees rather than what’s going on in the distant country, clerics supported by the Islamist government who are influential over the ruling party’s grass roots do not hesitate to express their support for the brutal Taliban, another example of Turkey’s increasing radicalization.
Undoubtedly, a statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a few weeks earlier that Turkey had nothing against the beliefs of the Taliban, encouraged the expression of this support.
Nureddin Yıldız, a radical cleric close to President Erdoğan who openly advocates armed jihad, posted a video on his Facebook page, which has close to 700,000 followers, on the day the Taliban took over Afghanistan, praising sharia (the religious law of Islam) and explained that the duty of all Muslims was to implement sharia law. Even though there is no mention of Afghanistan or the Taliban in the video, the comments under the video revealed that its purpose was to support the Taliban. According to Yıldız, Muslims have been waiting for sharia law for almost for a century. Explaining that trying to please the infidels was pointless, Yıldız also stated that Israel is a religious state so there is no need to be ashamed of seeking religious rule for Muslims.
As a side note, describing democracy as a system for infidels, Yıldız is the man who radicalized the young al Nusra-affiliated police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey in December 2016.
Faruk Beşer, a theologian and columnist in the Yeni Şafak daily, which is published by the pro-Erdoğan Albayrak Group, wrote on Twitter that “we follow the Taliban with attention and excitement. We rejoice in their victory. We are also afraid that they will make mistakes. May Allah not make them wrong and complete their victories.”
In his Sunday column Beşer likened the Taliban’s recapture of Kabul to the Prophet’s entry into the holy city of Mecca. The peaceful return of the Prophet Muhammad to his home town of Mecca, which he had to leave, is seen as a very symbolic and significant event in Islamic history. Comparing the Prophet’s return and the entry of the hard-line Taliban into Kabul drew ire on social media.
“We should help our Afghan brothers and sisters in every way, regardless of the visionless people who ask what Turkey is doing there, as Britain is not leaving [Afghanistan]. If they [the Taliban] are to establish a new state, they should establish an encompassing Islamic state, not a Hanafi state. May Allah help them,” Beşer wrote.
İhsan Şenocak, another jihadist imam and the founder of the Center for Scientific and Intellectual Research (İlmi ve Fikri Araştırmalar Merkezi, or İFAM), reacted to people who protested that the obligatory niqab would make a reappearance in Afghanistan. Şenocak tweeted that “Turbans and beards are coded as ‘signs of the enemy’ in their minds. This mob speaks through their ideologies, not the practices [of the Taliban] in Afghanistan. This is why there is news that shows night as day and day as night. Don’t believe the wicked, wait patiently for the verdict, pray for the salvation of the believers.”
Şenocak also wrote that “The end of those who were clinging to the American plane at the Kabul airport has shown once again that those who trust people [not Allah] is a disappointment. Every ideology has an end. The fate of those who rely on China, Russia, and Israel will be similar. Blessed are those who put their trust in Allah Azza wa Jalla, the owner of the heavens and earth!”
Professor Mehmet Boynukalın, the former chief imam of the Hagia Sophia mosque who had to resign following controversial remarks on such topics as secularism, femicide and history tweeted that “… if the Taliban or anyone else declares their loyalty to Islam, we consider them brothers and pray that they do not go wrong. If they do anything against Islam regarding human rights, we will oppose that as well. But the unfortunate people who attack us with lies and slander and the bigoted media rats who try to mislead the public will not benefit at all. This country has been harmonized with Islam. The azan [call to prayer] and the Qur’an and will remain so; let the one who is unhappy with this go wherever she/he wants.”
Mehmet Akif Can, a theologian and lawyer who frequently participates in live broadcasts on TV stations close to the Erdoğan government, responded with harsh words against social media users who downplayed the Taliban’s success. “Those who say that the Taliban could not take control of Afghanistan if the US did not allow it to should reconsider their faith in the Qur’an! ‘Those who knew that they would meet Allah said, ‘There are many small groups that, by Allah’s leave, have overcome a large group. Allah is with those who are patient’.”
Imams supported by the Erdoğan government frequently address audiences at government-sponsored foundations and youth organizations as well as on social media. It is no secret that Erdoğan is in pursuit of increasing his loyal followers through these clerics. It would not be wrong to say that there are overwhelmingly more Taliban sympathizers in Turkey today than in 1996 when the Taliban first came to power in Afghanistan.