Turkish parliamentary speaker, Ismail Kahraman, named Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria’s Afrin as “jihad.”
Kahraman’s use of the Islamic definition of “holy war” came as no surprise.
For many decades Turkey, a Muslim but pro-Western and secular state, was considered by many politicians and researchers to be a “model” or “inspiration” for other Muslim countries. In recent years, that “model” function has been challenged by the ruling AKP government’s new and pro-active foreign policy, which stokes fear of a “turning away” of Turkey from the “West”.
The Islamic rhetoric employed by the government circles in the last 13 years shows that the shifts in discourse were to manage the support it received by conservative Turks, rather than as upfront to the secular establishment.
The same religious rhetoric targets Kurdish movement and leftists in Turkey and Syria as well.
“Look, we are now in Afrin. We are a big state. Without jihad, there can be no progress, one cannot stand on their feet,” Kahraman said, praising the campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is the presider force of the war against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Kahraman had created a heated debate in 2016 when he told a convention of Muslim scholars that secularism would have no place in a new constitution for the country.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, later in the day, said the YPG, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as IS have no “religion, faith, or God.”
During Friday prayers this week, speeches held across some 90,000 mosques in the country. Imams prayed for the Turkish army's victory in Afrin.
Last week, when Ankara launched its “Operation Olive Branch” to capture Afrin from the YPG, Turkey’s top Islamic body, Diyanet, ordered clerics across the county to read aloud the 48th chapter of the Quran, Surah al-Fath (the chapter of Islamic Conquest).
Himself a scholar of Islam, HDP lawmaker Nimetullah Erdogmus accused Diyanet of turning Quranic verses into “a motto of invasion and wars,” stating that the chapter in question was in fact related to a peace agreement—the seventh-century Treaty of Hudaybiyyah—between Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and his pagan Arab opponents.