Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party came to power in Ankara with promises of reversing the state-sponsored secularization Turkey underwent in the 20th century. But a recent report suggests that religious faith is in decline, as Mustafa Akyol writes:
[The] document shared surprising observations about the very young people that Turkish society often expects to be the most religious: the students of the state-sponsored religious imam hatip schools. The report says that because archaic interpretations of Islam cannot persuade the new generation on issues such as the “problem of evil” (why God allows evil to take place), some imam hatip students have begun questioning the faith. Instead of adopting atheism, the report added, these post-Islamic youths embrace the milder alternative: “deism,” or the belief in God but without religion. . . .
[Indeed], the erosion of Islam among young people has been an oft-repeated theme in the Turkish public sphere. . . . For [some] Turkish commentators, however, the real reason for the loss of faith in Islam is not the West but Turkey itself: it is a reaction to all the corruption, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, bigotry, cruelty, and crudeness displayed in the name of Islam. . . .
[One such] commentator, Akif Beki, . . . pointed to a more specific problem: the unabashed exploitation of Islam for political ends. A recent example, according to Beki, was a propaganda speech by Ali Murat Alatepe, a member of the ruling AKP and the mayor of Esenyurt, an Istanbul municipality. “If we lose here,” Alatepe told a large audience, referring to his municipality, “then we will lose Jerusalem, we will lose Mecca.” So, accordingly, the dominance of the AKP is indispensable to Islam. Or, in other words, Islam is indispensable to the AKP’s dominance.
I agree with Akif Beki and other like-minded Turkish commentators about why so many young Turks are losing faith in Islam. It is precisely because Islamists are empowered, and, by their own behavior, are pushing people away from the faith they claim to uphold.