How did Mevlut Mert Altintas, the Turkish police officer who assassinated Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov, become a jihad murderer? He went to Turkish schools and underwent Turkish police training, both of which manifest a sensibility decidedly different from what one might expect in a supposedly secular republic.
“We have nothing to do with salaries, money or worldly things,” said one police officer. “Our path is the path of Allah. And our army is the army of the Prophet [Muhammed]. As long as we have this faith and determination, nobody — no state, no organization, no terror group — can destroy us. They can’t even dare do that.” And “on December 11, the pro-government newspaper Yeni Akit covered the statements of the police officer, calling it ‘a speech by a special forces police officer that articulated the feelings of millions of people.’”
Indeed. And Mevlut Mert Altintas was one of them.
“Turkey: How a Police Officer Turns Into a Jihadi Murderer,” by Uzay Bulut, PJ Media, December 23, 2016:
Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey G. Karlov, was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on December 19 by a Turkish gunman shouting “Allahu akbar” [Allah is the greatest!].
The assassin, who was a special forces police officer, quoted the Hadith, a record of the words of Islam’s founder Muhammad: “We are those who have given a pledge of allegiance to Muhammad that we will carry on jihad.”
One of the first bits of information that came out following the assassination was that the murderer had worked as one of the top security guards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on at least eight occasions.
But how did a police officer and former security guard of the president of Turkey, which is a NATO member, end up being the jihadi murderer of a diplomat whose protection was the responsibility of Turkey?
A few days before the assassination, a video of another Turkish police officer, who completed a special forces class in August, was widely posted on social media.
“We have nothing to do with salaries, money or worldly things,” said the police officer. “Our path is the path of Allah. And our army is the army of the Prophet [Muhammed]. As long as we have this faith and determination, nobody — no state, no organization, no terror group — can destroy us. They can’t even dare do that.”
Other members of the special forces were heard repeatedly chanting “Allahu akbar” during their training.
On December 11, the pro-government newspaper Yeni Akit covered the statements of the police officer, calling it “a speech by a special forces police officer that articulated the feelings of millions of people.”
Another video of Turkish schoolchildren chanting an Islamic song at a hight school that offers an Islamic curriculum to pupils in the Bagcilar neighborhood of Istanbul was also posted on social media recently.
The children chanted: “The Koran is in our hands, the faith is in our hearts, we are Muslims, Muslims. Long live Islam! Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar!”
Yeni Akit included a link to the video on its website, under the headline: “A video of Imam Hatip students that makes one proud: Long live Islam.”
The children had their index fingers on their right hands pointing skywards, which represents their affirmation of Islam recited before every prayer: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.”
The salute is also used by members of the Islamic State (IS) and was even used by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during his first speech at Friday prayers after the takeover of Mosul. Moreover, it is not only used by fighters and supporters of IS but by those celebrating weddings in IS-held areas.
The salute “has a solid jihadi pedigree,” said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group. “The gesture has been used by jihadis for years, including high-profile ones like Osama bin Laden. Within the jihadi context, the raised index finger takes on political meaning as well, widely rejecting any form of government not under Shariah law.”
Mustafa Yilmaz, the head of the directorate of national education of Bagcilar, however, told the newspaper Hurriyet: “There is no abnormality in the video. The children did such a thing on their own in the break. This is an Imam Hatip school. There is nothing wrong with what the children said. It is a melody sung by Muslims. And the children sing that melody. It is nothing ideological; the children are just reading a poem.”
Meanwhile, a Turkish elementary school teacher, Aydin Erekmen, working in Istanbul’s Basaksehir district, posed with his students holding nooses. He shared the picture on his social media account, saying they “want justice,” shortly after the December 10 terror attack in Istanbul.
The teacher and his students were asking for the death penalty to be reinstated. In another photo the teacher posted, the students are also seen making the “Islamic index finger salute.”
Erdogan, then the prime minister, made headlines in 2012 when he said he aimed to raise “a pious generation.” But raising “pious” (or, in other words, Islamic) generations already began a long time ago with the founding of the officially “secular” Turkish republic in 1923. This process was facilitated and escalated by exterminating more than 3.5 million Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians during the genocide between 1913 and 1922.
First Imam Hatip schools founded in 1924
The first Imam Hatip schools in Turkey were opened in 1924 during the rule of the country’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The word hatip comes from the Arabic khatib, meaning the one who delivers the khutba, the Friday sermon in the mosque. As the name suggests, the schools were founded as vocational schools to train government-employed imams and Islamic scholars.
Under Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the number of Imam Hatip schools has ballooned from 493 in 2010 to 3,500 today, with enrollment surging from 63,000 to 1,500,000 since the AKP first came to power. The number of Islamic theology departments (Ilahiyat Fakultesi) at universities, moreover, now stands at 14,100, according to Turkey’s state-funded Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet).
Mandatory Islamic education in Turkish schools
Islamic courses are compulsory in Turkish schools despite the country’s so-called legal commitment to secularism. The “Religious Culture and Moral Knowledge” classes are predominantly based on Sunni Islam, and all school children in primary and secondary schools across Turkey including Alevis, an oppressed religious minority, must attend them.
Representation of the Alevi faith in textbooks
There are serious problems in the textbooks of these classes .
When the Alevi faith is mentioned in any textbook, it is often in very negative terms. For example, a book sent to all teachers across Turkey in June upon the recommendation of the Ministry of National Education (MEB) to be studied and discussed at year-end seminary teacher training refers to the Alevi faith as “tainted” and “rotten.”
“The evil force that has gnawed at tariqas [Islamic paths or doctrines] right at their hearts for centuries is Alevism,” the book states. It adds: “The Islamic world has been the wreckage of those rotten mindsets.”…