Turkey rejects calls to re-establish Caliphate

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AKP party has said the nation will remain a secular republic after a pro-government magazine issued a call to resurrect the Caliphate.

“The Turkish Republic is a democratic and secular state based on the rule of law,” Omer Celik said in a tweet. “Our republic is an umbrella for us all based on these qualities.”

He added: “It is wrong to trigger polarisation about Turkey’s political system… The unhealthy debate and polarisation that emerged on social media yesterday about our political system is not on Turkey’s agenda.

“The Turkish Republic will stand forever. With the prayer and support of our nation, and under the leadership of our president, we are walking towards so-called unattainable goals for our country and humanity. Our republic will continue to shine.”

The AKP official’s tweets came after Gercek Hayat, the weekly magazine of government-linked Yeni Safak newspaper, called on Ankara to re-launch the Caliphate, which was abolished shortly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

“Now the Hagia Sophia and Turkey are free, get ready for the caliphate,” the cover of Gercek Hayat’s 27 July issue reads. “If not now, then when? If not you, then who?” the cover asks, seemingly referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gercek Hayat and Yeni Safak are owned by the Albayrak Media Group, which has close ties to the Turkish government and President Erdogan.

The call for a Caliphate came days after Turkey re-opened the Hagia Sophia as a mosque more than 80 years after its conversion into a museum by the Turkish Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Built as a cathedral under the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the 1453 conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans.

Ataturk abolished the Caliphate as part of a raft of secularist reforms. For centuries, the Ottoman emperor had held the mantle of caliph, leader of the Muslim world and a title claimed by rulers since the birth of Islam in the 7th century.

Meanwhile, the Ankara bar has filed a criminal complaint against Gercek Hayat, saying the publication violated the law that bans armed rebellion against the Republic of Turkey and incited the people.

But Kemal Ozer, the editor of Gercek Hayat, said in a series of tweets that the Caliphate was the union of Muslims and not an opponent of the Republic of Turkey.

“On the contrary, it is a ground that would strengthen Turkey,” he said. “Why do those who object the Union of Islam struggle to make Turkey part of the European Union?”

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