A certain level of separation between politics and the religious ulema is necessary in the Muslim world, Ahmet Kuru, a political science professor at San Diego State University, told Ahval.
“I am optimistic about the future. I see a secularist generation coming,” Kuru said in an interview with Nervana Mahmoud for the Ahval podcast series Turkish Trends.
In the short-run, removing political control of religious groups may lead to more radicalism, Kuru said.
“In the Muslim world, the democratisation of a religious state is a challenging thing in the short-run,” he said.
However, he said this is necessary if the Muslim world wants an enlightened future with more productivity and Nobel Prize winners.
“If we want a more rationalist and open-minded interpretation of Islam, we should have self-confidence and let the discussion take place in public and minimalise the control,” he said.
Even if the politicians try to use the ulema, in the end, the ulema gained authority from this relationship, Kuru said, giving the example of Diyanet, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs.
Turkey’s secularist Kemalists’ built Diyanet to control mosques, as they were inspired by a French understanding of secularism controlling religion. In the end, Diyanet became a huge institution, controlling about 100,000 mosques.
“Today, Diyanet talks about everything in Turkey,” Kuru said. “Therefore, a certain level of separation is necessary.”
In Turkey, Islamists kept blaming secularists for many problems, but now they have been in power for almost two decades, and they’ve made the problems even worse, according to Kuru.
Furthermore, people have begun to realise how bad Islamist governance is for the country.
According to the public polls in Turkey and some Arab countries, a secularist generation is emerging, he said.
“Even in Turkey’s public Islamic schools, young people are becoming deists, and the major reason for this is a reaction to the Islamist rule, seeing how corrupt it can be,” Kuru said. “Not only the ruling party but many ‘tarikats’, Islamist ‘cemaats’ and communities.”
“They really failed them, and they feel disappointed, especially the young generation.”