Turkish seat of learning – the 21st century version

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
It would be unthinkable if the storms of the ruling ideology that is a bizarre blend of neo-Ottomanism, Islamism and nationalism should not conquer academia as it conquered other walks of life; political, cultural and social.

 

In 2011, president of the Turkish Police Academy, Professor Remzi Findikli, published a book, “The Bottom Line,” comprising of, in his words, “the most beautiful maxims belonging to Turkish culture.” The man was the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) choice to oversee how the Turkish police should be trained academically.

“The most beautiful maxims belonging to Turkish culture,” in Professor Findikli’s book, included:

- A girl of 15 must either be with a man or in the ground.

- The West is an untamed horse that only knows how to kick.

- A man without religion is a man without mental balance and tact.

- Poverty means having no ideas. A poor man would not be poor if he were smart.

(The last maxim above could have been interpreted as self-national-insult by a prosecutor: there is a lot of poverty in our country where per capita income is less than $10,000; therefore the author insults the noble Turkish nation by implying that Turks do not have ideas and are not smart. The lucky professor escaped that charge as he belonged to the “elite.”)

Most recently, Professor Bulent Ari, vice president of Sabahattin Zaim University, said in a television debate:
“I’d rather trust the understanding of the uneducated people. I trust the understanding of the ignorant people who even did not attend primary school or university.

“I see nightmares now that the literacy rate [in Turkey] is rising. Those who will keep the country up and running are the ignorant people.

“The most dangerous folks, starting with the professors, are the university graduates. Those who can best read [analyze Turkish] events are primary school graduates.

“Let’s [we should] go back to the days of the [Ottoman] Sultan Abdulhamid. The man who paved the way to the Ottoman enlightenment is [Abdul] Hamid.”

Professor Ari has a problem, among others, about tautology. He accuses folks with university degrees, most notably professors, for being the “most dangerous.” This professor’s Turkish command is problematic too. “I trust the understanding of the ignorant people who even did not attend primary school or university.” How can one have a university degree without attending primary school? And what a line for a professor!

When one reads Professor Ari (per se), it will be impossible to disagree with his words: “Those who can best read [analyze Turkish] events are primary school graduates.” His words are first-class proof that university professors like himself are unable to read (analyze Turkish) events.

Professor Ari does not need to urge a return to the days of Abdulhamid. His opportunist mind is already stuck in the days of Abdulhamid, when civil servants were programmed to do all sorts of imaginable or unimaginable things to play the lackeys of the sultan in order to get promotions and other finer things of life. Some were lucky, others were not.

Meanwhile, the academia gets its rankings, with or without any Turkish longing for the days of Sultan Abdulhamid. In the top 500 list of the prestigious QS worldwide university rankings 2015/16, there are only five Turkish universities, the best one ranked at 394th and the other four ranked between 431st and 500th.

Two universities from tiny Singapore, which has one fifteenth of Turkey’s population, ranked 12th and 13th.

There is, in this part of the world, probably just one thing that is uglier thing than sheer Islamism: Non-Islamist opportunism based on Islamism.

It is not a coincidence that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not regret that there are too few Turkish universities in the world’s top 500 list. Nor is it a coincidence that, instead, he prides himself that under his rule the number of imam school students rose from 60,000 to 1.2 million.

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