Several years ago, I began publicly stating that the world will witness the rise of a Neo-Ottoman Caliphate. With the Islamist party in Turkey poised to win yet another sweeping election victory next week, now is another appropriate moment to revisit the subject.
The first thing that the West must understand concerning the concept of the caliphate is that it is somewhat of a blank canvas for Muslims. To the Muslim socialist, it is through the concept of the caliphate that a socialist utopia will become a reality. For the moderate Muslim, it is in the idea of the caliphate that a tolerant Muslim empire will arise. For the radical Muslim, the caliphate is the means by which Islam will arise to supremacy in the earth. The point is that the dream of reviving a caliphate is a wide-ranging vision and is certainly not restricted to the radicals.
Second, the West must come to terms with the tectonic shift that has only recently taken place in the Middle East, beginning in 2003 in Turkey.
But first, let’s define the old order of the region. This old order saw the Middle East divided up primarily between the Arab block and the Iranian block.
Imagine a random Arab Sunni Muslim (Sunnis comprise 85-90 percent of Muslims) who has long desired to see the unification of the Islamic world under a caliphate. In yearning for someone to rise up and lead the Islamic world, this Sunni Muslim first turns his eyes toward the leaders of the Arab block (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt). On one hand, he identifies with the fact that they are both Sunni and Arab. But they are also either corrupt monarchies or dictatorial autocrats and hopelessly compromised through their relationship with Israel and/or the United States. To the average Muslim, these nations are led by MINOs (Muslims in name only). Frustrated, this Muslim shifts his attention to Iran. On one hand, the Iranians are seen as courageous, bold and assertive. They thumb their noses at Israel, the United States and any who would defy them. This is admired, but there is still the gaping sectarian divide. In other words, being Shia, they are essentially heretical. Without hope, this Sunni Muslim lets out a long sigh and prays that Allah will soon raise up a genuine Muslim leader capable of reviving Islam’s former glory.
This was the old order of the Middle East for the past 30 years.
But suddenly, this has all begun to change. Through the rise of the Turkish AK party over the past several years, the Middle East has experienced a political shift of tectonic proportions.
Let’s briefly summarize what Prime Minister Erdogan’s Islamist party has achieved in just the past few years. First, they were able to gain control of both the presidency and the seat of prime minister. They also gained a large majority in the parliament. After they win the elections on June 12, they are set to pass a bill authorizing them to literally rewrite the Turkish Constitution. This will give them far greater control over both the judiciary and the military, the two entities that have historically served as the greatest check against an Islamist takeover of government. Not surprisingly then, through two manufactured conspiracies, the ruling AK party has effectively decapitated the secularist leadership of the Turkish military, arresting nearly 200 top military officials. Instead of a military coup to remove the Islamist party, the Islamist AK party has successfully taken over the military. And they were masterfully successful.
Erdogan has also filled the courts with his own judges. Over 70 percent of the police are also Islamists. And finally, the Islamists have gone after the media. Erdogan’s son now runs one outlet, while a second company was hit with a $2.3 billion fine. There are more Turkish journalists in prison than any other nation in the world.
We are now nearing the conclusion of a perfectly executed plan to purge Turkey of its secular Kemalist system and ensconce the Islamists in power indefinitely. In the name of democracy, the Islamists have toppled what was once a shining beacon of hope for the Middle East. And behind it all is the architect, Prime Minister Erdogan, who once projected, “Democracy is like a streetcar. You use it to get you where you wish to go, and then you get off.”
Today, Turkey has a thriving economy as well as the largest army in the region. And of course, only Turkey has a proven track record of ruling the Middle East. Now place yourself back in the shoes of the Sunni Muslim. None of these facts are missed by those who have been looking for a viable Islamist strong horse to get behind. And it is precisely for this reason that Erdogan is now the single most popular leader in the region. The starry-eyed Islamists of the Muslim world have solidly fixed their hopes on Turkey.
Finally, it is absolutely essential to understand Turkish Islamist methodology. Since 9/11, Ankara has been all too willing to portray themselves as the most natural counterbalance and answer to al-Qaida and radical Islamism globally. For the past decade, the Turks have pursued the methodology of the world’s most powerful Islamist group, the Fethullah Gulen Movement, of which Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul are both students. The goal of the Gulen movement is quite simple really. They want to be endorsed. Through the use of outreach, they have successfully branded themselves as paragons of religious tolerance. While radical groups such as al-Qaida have utilized terror to achieve their goal of a caliphate, Turkish Islam has championed the approach of presenting itself in a form specifically custom-tailored to win the hearty approval of the West. But their ultimate goal is the same: the unification of the Islamic world, the revival of the caliphate. And to date, we have fully fallen for their ploy.
The Turkish goal of regional influence has progressed steadily and deliberately. Seven years ago, only myself and a few others were warning of these realities. And when we suggested such, we were mocked. Seven years from now, we’ll all be looking back, asking ourselves how we could have been so blind not to have seen it sooner.