Turkey’s AKP Islamists would like to bring back the Ottoman Empire. The trouble is that they want to bring back an imaginary version of that empire which is purely Islamic and hews to Islamic morality, and there is a reason why Westerners associate the Ottoman Empire with decadence.
The AKP Islamists have crushed the military, but they haven’t quite crushed the culture yet.
Critics “ask why are we dealing with the affairs of Iraq, Syria and Gaza,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech Sunday at the opening of an airport in western Turkey, according to Reuters. “They know our fathers and ancestors through ‘Magnificent Century,’ but we don’t know such a Suleiman. He spent 30 years on horseback, not in the palace, not what you see in that series.”
He said that the director of the series and owner of the channel that broadcasts it had been warned, that judicial authorities had been alerted and that a judicial decision was expected. “Those who toy with these values should be taught a lesson within the premises of law,” he said, according to The Hurriyet Daily News.
Cultural critics and political rivals railed against Mr. Erdogan, accusing him of cultural authoritarianism and censorship. Muharrem Ince, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, accused Mr. Erdogan of behaving like a sultan, saying that he was jealous of the series’ popularity and determined to be the only sultan in the country. Mr. Erdogan, whose governing party has Islamic roots, has sought to embrace and rehabilitate the Ottoman Empire, a period of grandeur when the sultans claimed the spiritual leadership of the Muslim world before the empire’s ignominious decline by World War I.
Mr. Erdogan at the time called the program disrespectful and “an effort to show our history in a negative light to the younger generations.” Dozens of egg-throwing protesters chanted “Allah Akbar” outside the Show TV studios.
Some viewers were irate because the series showed the Sultan drinking alcohol — banned in Islam — and womanizing with concubines in the harem.
Muslims can hardly complain about that. Mohammed had quite a harem as well. But the real problem for Erdogan is that he would like to see a militaristic Ottoman Empire depicted on television, but there wouldn’t be much interest in watching constant beheadings, especially when Erdogan’s fellow Jihadists offer the real thing on the internet.