The PJ Tatler

Sultan Erdogan Wants to Give Turkey's Head Imam a Private Jet

Turkey’s President Erdogan is up to his usual Islamist antics. He said yesterday that he will ask the Turkish government to give the head of the country’s religious directorate, the Diyanet, a private jet.

The reason?

The pope has one, so Turkey’s religious leader deserves one too. After all, he’s just as important as the pope, isn’t he?

“[Religious Affairs Directorate President] Mr. Mehmet Görmez is not only the religious leader of Turkey. In fact, he is the respected religious leader of this geographical area in the Islamic world,” Erdoğan said.

The president also stressed that Görmez is a respected Islamic religious leader who deserved the same conveniences as the pope. Slamming critics while comparing the situation to that in Christian parts of the world, Erdoğan claimed the pope “has a private jet, private cars and armored vehicles.” “That’s the situation at the Vatican and our religious leader will take scheduled [commercial] flights?” he asked.

Of course there’s one minor difference. The head of the Diyanet is not supposed to be the official leader of Sunni Islam. In fact, the religious directorate was created by Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to make sure that there would never be a new caliph. He wanted to separate religion from politics and push it back to where it belongs; in people’s private lives, not in public life.

Erdogan has dedicated his life to undoing everything Atatürk has done – he created the Republic of Turkey out of the ashes of the Islamist Ottoman Empire – so it’s no surprise that he wants to build up the position of Mr. Görmez, but the timing is shocking nonetheless. He’s taking quite a risk: the elections for parliament are coming up in Turkey and if the polls are to be believed, Erdogan’s Islamist AK Parti is set to lose a significant amount of seats. Some experts even suggest a coalition government may have to be formed; quite a change from the current situation in which the AKP controls two-thirds of parliament.

Although this possibility scares the living daylights out of the AKP, everybody else can only hope (and, ironically, pray) that this is exactly what happens. If the AKP can go on governing Turkey by itself, next month’s elections may very well be the last free elections in Turkey, because Erdogan is determined to change the secular republic into an Islamic sultanate.