Islamist Transnational Links Through the Union of the Muslim Communities Platform, A CALABRÒ

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Content: Islamist Transnational Links Through the "Union of the Muslim Communities" Platform ALESSIO CALABRТ PhD candidate in Political History Department of Political Science, LUISS "Guido Carli" University, Rome The Union of Muslim Communities (Mьslьman Topluluklar Birlii, MTB) is the annual congress that since 1992 brings to Istanbul representatives of Islamic associations, political movements and state officials from the entire Muslim world. This meeting is organized every year by the Economic and Social Researches Center (ESAM), an organization created within the framework of the Islamic "National Outlook Movement" (Milli Gцrь Hareketi, NOM), more specifically a cultural branch of the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, RP). Sometimes dubbed as the "International of the Just Order",1 the MTB is the non-governmental platform through which the NOM has been officially presented its stances to its foreign counterparts, and has maintained its links with those other Islamic groups around the world. MTB emerges as an interesting instrument for the so-called "private foreign policy"2 of the party, as it is a platform on which connections with the Islamist groups (most importantly the Muslim Brotherhood) were meant to be the basis for the construction of an intergovernmental organization successively founded on pan-Islamic ideals, i.e. the D-8. Most students of foreign policy under Erbakan have understandably neglected the private network created by the MTB. However, from the perspective of political history, more specifically the history of the NOM parties and of Turkish Pan-Islamism in the multi-party era, it is significant to study the annual MTB congress as a first concrete practice of Turkish Islamists' foreign relations. It precedes Erbakan government's foreign policy and has no relation with Turkey's state institutions, but at the same time 1. it reveals the regular encounters and links between Erbakan's National Outlook Movement and groups like Muslim Brothers or Jamaat-e Islami, thus being a proof of Turkey's Islamists' long-lasting 1 Perihan Зakirolu, "Refah'in yolu demokrasiden geзer", ("The Refah's way passes from democracy"), Milliyet, (31 May 1996). Just Order (Adil Dьzen) is the name given to its own ideology by NOM's Welfare Party starting from the 1980s. 2 Hill, Christopher. "Foreign Policy Analysis." International Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. Bertrand Badie, Dirk BergSchlosser, and Leonardo Morlino. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011. 917-29. 1
friendship with those groups; 2. It is in general an expression of the (renewed and updated) PanIslamist ideology in post-Cold War Turkey (the kind of pan-Islamism explained by Peter Mandaville3); 3. MTB represents, in the history and self-description of the party ­ including the Felicity Party today ­ the embryo for the creation of the D-8 during Erbakan's time as Prime Minister. For this last reason, it is an important structure, a first step within NOM's foreign relations plans, which one has to study in order to complete one's understanding of the foreign policy ambitions, the world order vision and the ideology of the main Turkish Islamist movement of the 20th century. This paper is going to explore the contents of the foreign policy discourse produced within the MTB, ESAM and party frameworks, as well as the reports about MTB on Turkey's (Islamist and nonIslamist) press. MTB's discourse (final reports, declarations etc.), though mainly reflecting the foreign policy visions of Erbakan's parties, is presented within an international convention context, in which it is necessary to share conclusions with several foreign groups. Although the MTB and ESAM remain creatures of the NOM, their existence presupposes the presence of a transnational Islamist network, including Muslim Brothers and other movements, whose stances are taken into account when MTB's final declarations are produced. Besides this, in the MTB discourse one finds a necessary attempt by the NOM to express certain methods and goals more clearly than, for instance, in the context of an electoral campaign, where foreign policy goals are usually only one point of the party program. By including here this analysis of the MTB discourse, I will then identify the main tenets of the NOM's foreign policy ambitions in the 1990s. Plus, I will demonstrate the abovementioned three points about the MTB being an expression of the general neo-pan-Islamist tendency (as much as NOM's foreign policy views generally are), its being a connecting point within the transnational network of Islamism, and finally its representing the ideal, and possibly actual, basis for the establishment of the D-8 in 1997. The MTB: transnational framework, non-Turkish members and goals Even if the first annual MTB meeting happened in 1992, it is known that the preconditions for the foundation of today's MTB were set up by Necmettin Erbakan himself, who personally cultivated fruitful international contacts throughout his political career since the late 1960s.4 The MTB name was 3 Mandaville, Transnational Muslim Politics, 78. 4 ESAM website, MTB section, 2
initially given to series of conferences held in 1990 in several Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan. Within the framework of a diplomatic attempt by pro-Islamic groups to help solving the Gulf crisis, delegations from thirteen Muslim countries ­ including Erbakan's NOM delegation ­ met in Amman under the MTB name.5 In 1992 the Union of Muslim Communities was set to be a annually meeting in Turkey as the principal activity of ESAM. As it is presented on the organization's website: "[MTB] is a program that has been officially organized since 1990, but its past is rooted in the 1960s with the participation of representatives of Muslim communities, such as men of knowledge, presidents of Civil Society bodies and political party leaders from various areas of the world".6 Erbakan's speech at the first MTB congress in Istanbul in 1992 defines the new born platform as a laboratory to develop and present to the world the Islamic alternative both to capitalism and the already failed communist model. The ideal expressed by the MTB's creation is the revival of the Muslim world as a united transnational body to act as one entity in the international arena on behalf of its Islamic values: "the Islamic Union that will save humanity is about to be born", says Erbakan in his 1992 inaugural speech.7 Since 1992, there have been twenty-five MTB congresses, which adopted a specific theme every year since the 15th edition. However, the main areas of the debates held at these congresses were clear in the early 1990s as well. The works were divided into commissions. For instance, in the case of the 4th MTB congress, seven specific commissions were set up to produce statements about the following themes: current situation and politics; economy and technology; planning and organization; education; information; strategies and activity; evaluation and redaction.8 It is by looking at these commissions that we can see many important foreign Islamists among their members ­ the Turkish participants to the congress unsurprisingly being members of the Welfare Party. Representatives of the Pakistani movement Jamaat-e Islami such as Liaqat Baloch,9 Palestinian Islamists like Raed Salah and Mustafa al-Natsha,10 Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood like Mohammed Mehdi Akef as well as the Yemeni Islamist leader Abdul Majid al-Zindani.11 5 Зakir, Ne eriat ne demokrasi, 179. 6 ESAM website, MTB section, 7 Ibid. 8 4th MTB Congress Report, 11. 9 Ibid., 32 10 Ibid. 11 5th MTB Congress Report, 4. 3
During the last 25 Muslim Communities congresses, many leaders of political Islam from all over the world have participated to these meetings, making the MTB a concrete networking platform for transnational Islamism in Turkey. Except those already mentioned, some of the most important guests were Mohammed Badie (Muslim Brotherhood, MB, Egypt), Saad el-Katatni (MB, Freedom and Justice Party, Egypt), Qazi Hussain Ahmad (Jamaat-e Islami, JI, Pakistan), Rachid al-Ghannouchi (Ennahda movement, Tunisia), Burhanuddin Rabbani (Jamiati Islami, Afghanistan), and many other Islamist politicians and religious scholars from all over the Muslim world, including Iranian clerics such as Mohammad Ali Tashkiri.12 Peter Mandaville recognizes several forms of contemporary Muslim transnationalism, among which the "broad-based Islamist ideologies" and the NGOs, among which the "scholarly networks".13 MTB relies on the existence of the former as it follows the pattern of the latter category. However, notwithstanding its international nature, the MTB congress is not per se a transnational phenomenon extending beyond Turkey's borders with any office abroad. It is rather an International Conference created through the work of a party-sponsored think tank (ESAM), and therefore by the party itself. Nevertheless, its aim is that of being an instrument for transnational Islamism ­ in particular to create a connection with those "broad-based ideologies" such as the MB and the JI. It represents then a Turkish platform for "pan-Islamic networking", as Mandaville would call it.14 The transnational dimension of world Islamism, within which the MTB has been created, is the precondition for its organizers' desire to bring Turkey inside that plan. The creation of this congress aims at showing to foreign members of the abovementioned transnational ideologies the existence and the vitality of a MB-like movement in Turkey. However, the sharing of ideas and creation of contacts with foreign Islamist groups are not the only goals of the MTB. In fact, this congress has maintained, since its very beginning, the aspiration to be the first step for the foundation of an intergovernmental body as it has proclaimed the utopian goal of a "new world" embracing Islamic morality after rejecting both communism "and its twin brother capitalism".15 Moreover, someone has noticed that this wide "global" discourse adopted by 12 ESAM website, MTB section, 13 Mandaville, Global Political Islam, 282-286. 14 Ibidem, 286. 15 Erbakan's first opening speech, ESAM website, MTB section, 15 Mandaville, Global Political Islam, 282-286. 4
Turkey's NOM is inspired by the approach of the Muslim Brothers to the same matter, as they transnationally claim their role as bringers of a "new world order" based on an anti-nationalist Islamic model to put an end to Western imperialism for the salvation of humanity as a whole.16 This project firstly presumes a solidarity and unity of all Muslims in the world, then utilizing Pan-Islamism as a model for the entire world. The other transnational "broad-based ideology" identified by Mandaville, Jamaat-e Islami, whose main tenets are those of the founder Abul-Ala Maududi. The ideas of Maududi about the Islamic State and an "Islamic Third Worldism" against both capitalism and communism had a worldwide reach whose reflections are evident in the Turkish NOM's ideology as well as in contemporary Islamist movements elsewhere. The JI, with its branches stretching far beyond South Asia and its strong ties with important organizations and forums of Muslim transnationalism such as the Muslim World League (MWL), has a transnational reach with which only the MB can compete.17 Both the JI and the MB, the two transnational guiding lights of political Islam, have been regularly represented at the MTB congresses in Turkey since the early 1990s. Erbakan's relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots became clearer during his time as Prime Minister in 1996 when he officially visited Egypt and Tunisia and met with anti-regime Islamist leaders in both countries. These visits and contacts with pro-Islamic opposition groups abroad ­ with the aim of mediating between them and their governments ­ are considered one of the instruments of Erbakan's foreign policy when he became Turkey's Prime Minister.18 "Many (Muslim Brothers) friends of the Welfare Party are in prison in Egypt", said once Erbakan during an official meeting with the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, while also denying the MB's connections with terrorist attacks denounced by Cairo.19 If the MB-NOM friendship was put forward in the context of Turco-Egyptian diplomatic relations and can be defined a foreign policy tool for Erbakan, one can say that the annual MTB congresses since 1992 had represented the concrete manifestation and reinforcement of that liaison and another instrument of Erbakan's foreign policy. The MB-NOM connection being the most evident, the MTB functioned in the same way as NOM's tool for its 16 Gцkзen, "Mьslьman Kardeler ve Milli Gцrь Hareketi" 17 Nasr, Vali. "International Relations of an Islamist Movement" 18 Bakir, "Necmettin Erbakan", 365-366. 19 HDN, "Erbakan sent message to Mubarak on Muslim Brotherhood even before last week's visit", Hьrriyet Daily News (16 July 1996). 5
"private foreign policy" to keep alive its links with JI and other pro-Islamic groups everywhere. Erbakan's visits and meetings abroad prove these links serious enough to push the then Turkish PM to propose concretely his government as an interlocutor. Solidarity and links with Egypt's MB are also currently highlighted by the last final declarations of the MTB congresses in 2015 and 2016. In these documents, it is stated that the MB government in Cairo was the only legitimate rule for Egypt and that Morsi, Badie, Akef and the other MB leaders arrested during the 2013 military coup have been unlawfully convicted and "must be freed immediately".20 Moreover, the MTB has recently condemned the governmental crackdown on Jamaat-e Islami's Bangladeshi branch: "We unreservedly condemn the executions of: Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ghulam Azzam, Abdul Qadir Mullah, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid. We condemn the oppression and unjust treatment of members of Jamaat-e Islami in Bangladesh. The government, including Prime Minister Hasina, are urged to abandon the unjust activities against political opponents. We urge the return of fundamental rights and freedoms to the Muslim community in Bangladesh".21 At the last MTB congress (26-28 May 2016), both a representative of the MB (Mahmud Hussein) and one of Hamas (Nawaf Takruri), called for unity of the Muslim world and the hope for the establishment of an Islamic Union to be founded in order to gain strength against Islam's enemies. Nurul Islam, from Jamaat-e Islami, has thanked his "brothers in Turkey, as they do not forget their brothers living so far away".22 The links between the NOM and Palestinian Islamists also deserve to be highlighted. In Turkey like in other Muslim countries, the attention towards Palestine has been a constant feature of the Islamist movements. The general anti-Zionist stance of Erbakan and his movement has always been expressed in party publications and electoral campaigns. In a public speech during the 1991 campaign, for instance, Erbakan accuses those in favor of Turkey's membership in the European Community of wanting to "leave the millennial Islamic world" and merge into "one state with those Christians"23. In 20 ESAM website, 25th MTB Congress Final Declaration, 21 Ibid. 22 Article Kanal42 "25. Uluslararasi Mьslьman Topluluklar Birlii Kongresi", Kanal42, (25 May 2016): 23 Davut Gьleз, "Erbakan", Milliyet, (13 October 1991). 6
the framework of his usual anti-Zionist discourse, Erbakan warns his electors: "the other parties want to enter the Common Market and be one state with Israel", as part of the plan to pursue the "ideal of a Great Israel"24. These views are reflected also in the discourse elaborated in the context of the MTB congresses of the same years at the presence of representatives of the Palestinian cause. For example, at the first MT meetings like the fifth congress in 1996, the Palestine question is listed as the most important issue with which the Muslim world has to deal.25 The last MTB final declaration also condemns "the Illegal Occupation of Palestinian territories and the attacks on worshippers' rights to the sacred site of Masjid-i-Aqsa": "This Congress condemns in the strongest terms possible the autocratic, violence and the racist persecution of the Palestinian people in general and specifically against Jerusalem Guardian Raed Salah currency yet again in detention."26 However, it is necessary to notice how Erbakan's preferred Palestinian interlocutors were Hamas and other Islamist groups, rather than the PLO. Erbakan used to describe Hamas as real patriotic movement fighting for the independence of Palestine and, at the same time, criticized Arafat's PLO for being willing to negotiate with Israel.27 Conclusively, the intention of consolidating ties among Islamist parties and movements in the world is sometimes explicitly communicated in the MTB framework. For instance, one of the commission proposals in 1995 is: "Establishment of a strong solidarity and cooperation among the political parties, groups and organizations that accept Islamic principles. Promoting the activities aiming at the unity and cooperation in the Islamic world".28 MTB's links to Turkish Pan-Islamism and Welfare Party's foreign policy vision The concept of Pan-Islamism (or Pan-Islam) has been usefully defined by Sheikh as the following: "the ideational subscription to a unification, or integration, of Muslim peoples, regardless of divisive antecedents such as language, ethnicity, geography and polity".29 24 Cengiz Kuзuolu, Bьlent Hiзyilmaz and Bьlent Okutan, "Erbakan: '20 Ekim'de adil dьzeni kuracaiz'", [Erbakan: on November 20 we will establish the just order], Milliyet, (12 October 1991). 25 5th MTB Congress Report, 18. 26 ESAM website, 25th MTB Congress Final Declaration, 27 Bakir, "Necmettin Erbakan", 365-366. 28 4th MTB Congress Report, 18. 29 Sheikh, The New Politics of Islam, 16. 7
For Landau,30 the need for a central authority ­ possibly the Caliph ­ and the obedience to it have historically been among the crucial elements of the Pan-Islamist doctrine. Accordingly, Pan-Islamism has been considered a fundament of the Ottoman Sultan ­ and Caliph ­ Abdulhamid II's policies31 in the late 19th century. To be sure, the idea of the umma, born at the beginning of Islam's history, returns to be key to Muslim political discourse during the colonial era of the nineteenth century, "in the face of the challenge posed to Islam by the West".32 Describing disunity as the main weakness of the Muslim world,33 the Pan-Islamism emerging during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire generally promoted mobilization of a unified Muslim world and loyalty to the Caliph with the perspective of a final political integration to face the Western powers as one entity. After the abolition of the Caliphate, any idea of a political integration or a unified Muslim state ­ the latter being already considered unrealistic by influential Ottoman Pan-Islamists34 ­ was abandoned, though remaining as a remote utopia and not officially rejected by Islamist thinkers.35 The first Caliphatecentered Pan-Islamism lost strength and Islamist writers started giving more emphasis to religious solidarity among Muslim communities, both before and after WWII. However, within the framework of the Cold War, that call for solidarity started growing into a call for "an alternative form of nonalignment",36 as Mandaville notices in the 1960s works of the internationally known Pakistani Islamist Abul A'la Maududi. This adaptation of Pan-Islamism to the Cold-War context, though maintaining or reinforcing its previous anti-Western features, endowed it with new political meaning and more feasible goals such as the formation of Muslim international organizations, aiming not at an old-styled Caliphate, but an "Islamic bloc" in the international arena. A corresponding evolution towards this kind of Islamic "third-worldism" was visible also in the Turkish context, in which the Islamists started to reemerge as a political force during the 1960s and established the first NO party in 1970 among changing social and political circumstances.37 In the writings of Turkish Islamists, it is possible to notice the new features of this Cold War PanIslamism, or "Neo-Pan-Islamism". Whereas the key element of Muslim solidarity and unity in spite of 30 Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, 5-6. 31 Karpat, The Politicization of Islam, 176-178. 32 Mandaville, Transnational Muslim Politics, 74. 33 Karpat, The Politicization of Islam, 188. 34 Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia, 97-98. 35 Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, 219. 36 Mandaville, Transnational Muslim Politics, 78. 37 Deliba, The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey, 76. 8
Western-made state borders or linguistic/ethnic differences was maintained, the priority was no longer striving to liberate itself from colonialism or to keep a Caliphate alive, but encouraging the alliance of all independent Muslim states as a homogenous bloc to oppose equally Western-made capitalism and communism. It is in this phase that anti-communism and anti-Zionism became important components of the envisioned Muslim union and of the consequent foreign policy imagined by these thinkers. Also from the international economic viewpoint, as Atasoy explains, in those years Turkish Islamists' "national view is reminiscent of the dependency theory of the 1970s, which imagined that national development requires de-linking from the world capitalist system", the difference being their belief in a Muslim common market.38 Moreover, as the Caliphate remained a remote utopia or a mere memory, the multi-party era Turkish Pan-Islamism emerges by insisting on the responsibility of Turkey as the natural leader of the Muslim world. The National Outlook's parties, at least until the closure of the WP in 1998, have always maintained the Maududi-like Third Worldist Pan-Islamism that originates in the Cold War context and survives in the 1990s as the project for a "new world order" based on Islamic values of solidarity and Muslim unity to fight a "world of oppression". The contemporary Post-Cold War Pan-Islamism kept surviving by elaborating the idea that, even without communism, Islam was still under threat from the West that after the USSR's collapse has found in the Muslim word the major enemy it always needs. The NOM's recurrent call ­from 1970s to 1990s ­ for the creation of Islamic international organizations is an example of this longing for a powerful "Muslim Bloc" to contrapose to superpowers. One can argue that within that wide, mostly utopian, vision of Erbakan and his parties, the MTB represents a very first step. In 1993, the still new-born Union of Muslim Communities is presented at the 4th general congress of the Welfare Party in Ankara by Erbakan himself as the instrument by which the foreign policy goals of the party will be reached. It is described as the connection between the Muslim countries and communities through "international seminars, meetings, contacts between delegations of parliamentarians from different Muslim countries".39 Already within the framework of the National Salvation Party (MSP), founded in 1972, Erbakan's vision of an "Islamic Union" (slam Birlii) had taken a definite shape, including projects of Pan-Islamic international organizations (Islamic NATO, IslamiC Common Market, Islamic UNESCO, Islamic common 38 Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and Democracy, 128-129. 39 Report of the 4th General Congress of the Welfare Party, Ankara, 10 October 1993. 9
currency).40 Throughout congresses and electoral campaign, Erbakan expresses several times his idea of Turkey as a "Leader Country" in the Muslim world,41 this becoming one of the main foreign policy slogans of the NOM's parties until the 1990s.42 The idea was that the Turks, notwithstanding the secular reforms that had changed their country, had to regain their leading position in the umma (the community of all the Muslim believers) as it happened to be at the time of the now abolished caliphate. The MTB was thus born as not only an annual moment of networking with foreign Islamists, but also as another way to show to the external world of political Islam that Turkey had its own proactive Islamist movement. The intention was also to show that the NOM, with its parties, deserved to be regarded as equal to similar political groups or even a potential leader for transnational Islamism. The use of history in the NOM's discourse is important to understand its aspiration for a Turkey leading the Muslim World. Differently from what happens in the Kemalist discourse, the Ottoman past is glorified as much as, or even more than, the Republican era. References to the Ottoman conquests are frequent. For instance, two weeks before the 1977 elections, the NOM's mouthpiece Milli Gazete (National Daily) publishes a subdivision of Turkish history since the War of Independence. The first era of Republican Turkish history starts with the War of Independence. The second era begins with the transition to the multi-party regime. The third era is that of the expansion of the National Outlook, starting in 1969 and lasting 26 years until 1995.43 One can as well understand that the MTB congress's being organized every year around the 29th of May, anniversary of Sultan Mehmet II's conquest of Constantinople, is not a coincidence. The "Conquest day" was then utilized as the symbol of Turkish leadership in the Muslim world, the example through which it would be possible to remind the glorious triumphs the Turks achieved in the name of Islam and its worldwide umma. The MTB congresses catalyze this longstanding Pan-Islamic discourse developed by the NOM since its beginning: the critical condition and oppression suffered by Muslim peoples around the world; the necessity of creating a stable cooperation among Islamic groups and Muslim countries to stop this situation; the proposal of an alternative to both capitalism and communism according to Islamic 40 Bakir, "Necmettin Erbakan", 365-366. 41 Milli Gazete, 11 May 1977. 42 Report of the 4th General Congress of the Welfare Party, Ankara, 10 October 1993. 43 "Yakin Tarihimizde Milli Gцrь ahlanilari", [The surges of National Outlook in our recent history], Milli Gazete, (9 December 1995). 10
values. These can be considered the main tenets on which the MTB congress has been founded and keeps on building its rhetoric and its networking activities. Moreover, proposals for the establishment of Pan-Islamic international organizations like "Islamic UN" or "Islam's Defense Pact" are consistently put forward at MTB congresses throughout its history as one can see by looking at sources from distant editions such as the 4th (1995) and the 21st (2012).44 Important members of the Welfare Party ­ not only Erbakan ­ participate to the congress and hold speeches about the importance of this network and this cooperation among Muslim to change the world order. The then mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, delivers one of these opening speeches at the 1995 MTB congress. In that occasion, he clearly speaks of the necessity to "immediately realize" an international "Islamic Union" and links this project to the WP's foreign policy goals: "our real aim is to undertake the central administration and political power so that the Muslim World would be in a better position". The party's world order vision in that historical framework are also synthesized within Erdoan's very brief introduction to the congress: "The Muslims are under pressure and persecution in several parts of the world. The 21th century will be a time when religiously oriented systems would dominate the world. As Muslims, we should be in a struggle at least like the Christians. Therefore it is vital for us to immediately realize the Islamic Union."45 This discourse seems to confirm that the necessary presumption for the elaboration of Pan-Islamic projects is the confrontation with the Western world, the ideal of Islamic revival and rescue from the oppression exerted by Christian and Zionist forces in a world order vision divided along religious and civilizational lines. A part from the speeches of key WP officials like Erbakan and Erdoan, the relevance of the MTB as a fundamental expression of the NOM's Pan-Islamic foreign policy views is attested by articles appeared on Turkish Islamist publications. For instance, an article by the academic and Islamist Arif Ersoy about the first MTB, appeared in June 1992 on the NOM-related magazine Yцrьnge, praises the congress as an "important first step to increase solidarity in the Muslim world" and expounds the main reasons for such a union. An Islamic Union, says Ersoy, "will make it easy to solve the internal and external problems faced nowadays by Muslims". Talking about Islamic values, 44 4th MTB Congress Report, 15-17. Ouzhan Asiltьrk's speech at the 25th MTB Congress: 45 4th MTB Congress Report, 6. 11
he says that "jihad means the elimination of oppression and cruelty and the establishment of freedom of speech and freedom of belief", therefore a transnational solidarity among Muslims is necessary to revive these Islamic values in order to save Muslim people from injustice everywhere.46 The MTB is narrated here as an example of Islamic fight against "exploitation" and the "New World Order" elaborated by the West to colonize the world by the means of capitalism. The degree of consistency between the first declarations issued at MTB congresses ­ or the discourse initially surrounding it in the early 1990s ­ and the last ones is evidently considerable and, in spite of differences related to the changed historical contexts, substantial proposals and argumentations do not vary much. The conclusive declaration of the last MTB congress in 2016 warns about violence and exploitation suffered by Muslims everywhere because of imperialism and capitalism. It urges to reinforce the consciousness of brotherhood among Muslim countries, to establish a specific mediation circuit among Muslim countries in order to counterbalance the interventions of the West or the UN in affairs involving the Muslim world.47 More specifically, the 24th MTB congress in 2015 calls for the creation of the following international organizations and agreements: "United Nations of Muslim countries, Economic cooperation organization of Muslim countries, Common currency of Muslim countries e.g. Islamic Dinar, Muslim defense pact of Muslim countries, Cultural cooperation organization of Muslim countries has to be established. The 24th International congress of the Muslim communities" invites to `'Build a New World Order based on the truth (Haq) and Justice (Adalet), against "oppression, imposition, inequality and exploitation. The new world that will be built on this principle will ensure the prosperity and peace for the humanity."48 The same proposals that we could find in the early MTB editions, for instance in 1995.49 The same proposals are included in the programs of NOM's parties since 1970s as well as in the discourse of the Felicity Party, the current National Outlook's incarnation.50 46 Arif Ersoy, "slam Birliine Doru", [Towards the Islamic Union], Yцrьnge (21 June 1992). 47 ESAM website, 25th MTB Congress Final Declaration, 48 ESAM website, 25th MTB Congress Final Declaration, 49 4th MTB Congress Report, 34. 50 "Ouzhan Asiltьrk: 'slam birlii, Huzurlu Bir Dьnya Demektir'", [Ouzhan Asiltьrk: `Islamic Union means a peaceful world'], TV5 Haber (9 May 2013):,-Huzurlu-Bir-DunyaDemektir-.html 12
The MTB and the D-8 Within the framework of the abovementioned Pan-Islamist project, the second stage towards the victory of political Islam as a model for a new world order is represented by the creation of the D-8 (Developing-8). As MTB was the initial non-governmental step towards political and economic integration with the ideal Islamic umma, the D-8 was created as the intergovernmental body bound to implement directly such an integration. This international organization, a brainchild of Necmettin Erbakan himself, was announced in October 1996 at a meeting with foreign state officials organized the Erbakan government in Istanbul and called "Cooperation in development".51 After the first official meeting in June 1997, a final "Istanbul declaration" was issued, calling for improvements of member states' political and trade relations. The establishment of the D-8 has been favored by Erbakan's personally making contacts with foreign Muslim politician, as they were consolidated throughout decades and emerged visibly during his official visits to Muslim countries after he became Prime Minister.52 The member states of the D-8 being Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, the organization has only one clear binding factor: religion. It was then harder for the D-8 to follow the paths of similar organizations possibly having geographic, political or economic connections and commonalities. It is mainly for this lack of consistency between these countries in terms of political regimes, economic systems and social structures that the D-8, though still existing today, has never managed to reach the importance and the influence hoped by Erbakan and his party. Moreover, after Erbakan's government ended in 1997, the following Turkish governments had not the same neo-Pan-Islamist foreign policy vision implying new world projects based on the enterprise of a revived and reunited umma. D-8 summits are still organized today, but, in spite of declarations and agreements, the theoretical integration among member states is still far. From the organizational point of view, the D-8 has a well-articulated structure. The principal organs are the Summit, the Council, and the Commission. "The Summit, which is the supreme organ of D-8 is composed of the Heads of State/Government of member states. It is convened once every two years. The Council is composed of the Ministers in charge 51 D-8 Official Website: 52 Bakir, "Necmettin Erbakan", 365-366. 13
of Foreign Affairs of member states. It is the political decision making organ of D-8, and acts as a forum for thorough and comprehensive consideration of the issues. The Commission is the executive organ of D-8. It is composed of senior officials appointed by their respective governments. Each Commissioner is responsible for national coordination in his/her respective country."53 The D-8 works are divided among ten main sectors within which tackling the goal of development and cooperation. These sectors are: trade; industry; telecommunications and information; finance, banking and privatization; rural development; science and technology; poverty alleviation and Human Resources development; agriculture; energy; environment; and health. Because of the division of labor for the coordination of D-8 activities, each sector is assigned to a member country.54 ESAM includes the D-8 as one of its main works besides the MTB, and explains the D-8's functions on its website. Besides this, the ESAM's website also gives us more information and details about the original ideal goals of the D-8. It is the ideological interpretation of the D-8 and its functions that allows to demonstrate the link between the D-8 project and the vision behind the MTB congress, which can be seen historically as its preparatory stage. ESAM describes the D-8 itself as the potential "seed" for a more comprehensive change in the international arena. As much as the MTB, the D-8 has the goal of fighting imperialism and oppression supported by wrong models that dominate the world without applying any of the implicitly religious moral values of truth (hak) and justice (adalet). Although D-8 means "Developing 8" and such name presupposes the common economic status of the member states, the most relevant common bond was religion55 and therefore such values on which the D-8 was ideally founded. There were of course crucial material reasons for adhesion to the D-8, but they were different for each member.56 Like the MTB, the D-8 depicts the Muslim world as victim of the oppression generated by Western imperialism and, as the only towards salvation, it proposes an alternative model based on the cultural (i.e. religious) values of its members. Moreover, the D-8 is conceived as an open organization, accepting accession of new members and aiming at extending its width to at least sixty members in a first phase (D-60) and finally reaching a much higher number of states successively changing name in D-160. Therefore, the D-8, though evidently starting as a panIslamic project, presents itself with a universal vision in the long term. Consistently with this universal 53 Website of the Turkish Foreign Ministry: 54 Ibid. 55 Aral, "An inquiry into the D-8 experiment" 56 Ibid. 14
approach, explicit reference to religion does not appear as the six principles are expounded: 1) Peace instead of war; 2) Dialogue instead of conflict; 3) Justice instead of double standard; 4) Equality instead of arrogance; 5) Cooperation instead of exploitation; 6) Human rights, freedom and democracy instead of oppression and tyranny.57 If one deepens the research of the ideological roots and the guiding principles of the MTB and the D-8, one necessarily encounters the ideal ­ and slogan ­ of the Just Order (Adil Dьzen), the name used by the NOM leadership to synthesize its whole ideology since the foundation of the Welfare Party in the 1980s. The section about the Just Order is not by coincidence one of the three core sections of ESAM's website ­ the other two being about MTB and D-8. It is by explaining the Just Order that the connection between this ideology and international relations becomes clearer: "a new world based on the Just Order must be founded with the Muslim countries and the oppressed countries. [...] This is possible with the revival of the D-8 and with a more active support of its member states and all exploited countries in the world".58 What is crucial here is the discourse about the core values in question, the central one being the concept of hak, meaning truth, righteousness, divine justice. The analysis of this concept is also the foundation for the world order vision of Erbakan and his movement. According to National Outlook's view, there are two divergent interpretations of hak at the basis of Western culture and Islamic culture. These two different interpretations of what is true and right are the origin of the crucial differences between the West and the Muslim world. According to this conception, the Western understanding of hak is then based on 1) strength; 2) [tyranny of the] majority; 3) privilege and partiality; 4) gain, profit. However, the real hak, i.e. the hak of Islam, in the NOM's discourse, is built around the following: 1) Human rights from birth, namely the right to life, the right to protect one's descendants, to protect honor and chastity, the right to property, the right to protect one's own opinions, the right to protect one's belief; 2) Rights originating from labor; 3) Rights originating from agreements based on mutual consent; 4) Rights originating from the necessity of justice.59 When he considers essential cultural differences between Eastern and western civilizations, in a dualist good/evil split, it is originally Erbakan himself that relates those differences to these two conflicting conceptions of hak in one of his writings. In Erbakan's view, Westerners base their concept of "right" 57 ESAM website, D-8 section, 58 ESAM website, Just Order section, 59 Ibid. 15
on pillars such as strength, majority, privilege and material interest. Conversely, the Islamic civilization builds its hak on equality of rights, fraternity, justice and agreement.60 In the book Milli Gцrь (National Outlook) of 1975, Erbakan introduces the question of foreign policy by implicitly referring to that deep-rooted incompatibility related to values of hak and justice (adalet) that are an expression of "our historical character and honor".61 The idea of a Just Order is then justified by these principles and built around this idea of hak. The MTB and the D-8 are presented as the products of the Just Order, which is itself a product of this conception of fundamental split between Islam and the West revolving around irreparably clashing identifications of right and wrong. Islam and the Western civilization are then incompatible and it is on this idea of incompatibility that Pan-Islamic enterprises, such as the MTB and its intergovernmental outcome the D-8, are brought to life. In conclusion, the MTB and the D-8 are bound to each other not only in terms of organization ­ the common party sponsorship and organizational work by ESAM ­, but crucially in terms of ideology and discourse as well. Conclusions Throughout this paper the MTB's role and discourse has been explored, leading to three initial conclusions about this international Islamist platform. First of all, the MTB emerges as a crossroad of Islamist thinkers, politicians and activists from many different areas of the Muslim world. As such, the international MTB congresses, though being based in Turkey only, represent a connecting point for the transnational framework of political Islam. This can be demonstrated by the participation of important Islamist figures as reported in final declarations as well as on ESAM's official website. This active participation emerges also from final declarations issued by the MTB, within unanimous statements of solidarity with Islamists around the world. Moreover, these links are also showed by the meetings of NOM's ­ and WP's ­ leader Necmettin Erbakan with foreign anti-regime Islamists during the 1990s as well as by his previous personal contacts with such figures. Such personal contacts, and Erbakan himself as the annual convention's instigator, facilitated the creation of the Union of Muslim Communities. 60 Erbakan, Tьrkiye'nin Temel Meseleleri, 90-92. 61 Erbakan, Milli Gцrь, 229. 16
Secondly, the paper has considered the commonalities of the MTB discourse with the discourse of contemporary Pan-Islamism as Erbakan's National Outlook movement ­ and political parties related to it ­ has embraced it. By exploring the MTB's discourse produced in distant moments, with the intention to highlight the high degree of consistency between the earliest and the latest congresses, the same Pan-Islamist pattern presented by NOM's parties has emerged: a) a world in which Muslims are oppressed; b) the necessity of a revival of Islamic values and a union of all Muslim countries in international organizations, alliances, pacts; c) the idea of an Islamic model (once "Islamic Third Worldism") for the establishment of a "just" (adil) world order for Muslims and the whole humanity. Conclusively, this paper has stressed the importance of the MTB as the first step for the creation of the D-8. It is not only the common organizational base (the ESAM) and party-sponsorship (WP, and WP's Prime Ministry during the Erbakan government) to connect these two international platforms, but also a common discourse based on the "Just Order" ideal elaborated by the NOM and its leadership in the 1980s. Even though the D-8 presents itself as an inclusive organization, open to accept every country embracing its values, it starts from the conception of an Islamic civilization that is completely distinct and separated from Western values. This idea of incompatibility and intrinsically separate civilizations, complementary to the (neo) Pan-Islamist ­ and MTB ­ idea of the Muslim world as the main victim of Western oppression, has led to found the D-8 principally on the basis of religious commonalities among member states. Bibliography Aral, Berdal. "An Inquiry into the D-8 Experiment: An Incipient Model of an Islamic Common Market." Alternative: Turkish Journal of International Relations 4.1 (2005): 2. Atasoy, Yildiz. Turkey, Islamists and Democracy: Transition and Globalization in a Muslim State. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. Aydin, Cemil. The politics of anti-Westernism in Asia: visions of world order in pan-Islamic and panAsian thought. Columbia University Press, 2007. Bakir, Bahar. "Necmettin Erbakan". In Tьrk Di Politikasinda Liderler. Sьreklilik Ve Deiim, Sцylem Ve Eylem. [Leaders in Turkish Foreign Policy. Continuity and Change, Discourse and Practice]. Ed. Ali Faik Demir. Ankara: Balam, 2007. 343-438. Зakir, Ruen. Ne eriat ne demokrasi: Refah Partisini anlamak. Istanbul: Siyahbeyaz Metis Guncel, 1994. 17
Deliba, Kayhan. The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey: Urban Poverty, Grassroots Activism and Islamic Fundamentalism. London: I.B. Tauris, 2015. Erbakan, Necmettin. Milli Gцrь. [National Outlook]. Istanbul: Dergah Yayinlari, 1975. Erbakan, Necmettin. Tьrkiye'nin Temel Meseleleri. [Turkey's Fundamental Questions]. Ankara: Rehber Yayinlari, 1991. Gцkзen, Ahmet. "Mьslьman Kardeler ve Milli Gцrь Hareketi". Misir Bьlteni (6 October 2015): Hill, Christopher. "Foreign Policy Analysis." International Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. Bertrand Badie, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, and Leonardo Morlino. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011. 917-29. Karpat, Kemal H. The politicization of Islam: reconstructing identity, state, faith, and community in the late Ottoman state. Oxford University Press, 2001. Landau, Jacob M. The Politics of Pan-Islam, Ideology and Organization. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Mandaville, Peter. Global political islam. London: Routledge, 2010. Mandaville, Peter. Transnational Muslim politics: Reimagining the umma. London: Routledge, 2003. Nasr, Vali. "International Relations of an Islamist Movement: The Case of the Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan." Council of Foreign Relations, New York, Occasional Papers Series (2000). Sheikh, Naveed S. The new politics of Islam: pan-Islamic foreign policy in a world of states. Routledge, 2003. 18


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