Intra-civilization clash in Türkiye after the earthquakes


Unlike other countries, whenever there is a disaster in Türkiye, the discussions become an intra-civilization clash within Turkish society. The conflict has two sides. One is the secular/leftist faction that has turned its face to the West since the early 20th century. It claims to be modernist, rejects local culture and sees it as backward. The other side tries to build the country’s present and future on its millennium-long culture – a mixture of Turkic and Islamic traditions. While the former wants (and tests) a top-down change in society, the latter tries to preserve the culture and prefers change only in technological development.

The intra-civilizational conflict continues relentlessly between these two factions. Since words do not always reflect reality, it will be more appropriate to see and compare what they do through a case study. For instance, the last quake in Kahramanmaraş city is an excellent example of how the factions clashed with their narratives. The first debate was over whether the earthquake was natural or an act of God. The secular section believes that earthquakes happen because fault lines break. There is nothing wrong with this argument. Yet, they also think that the other side, conservatives, give credit only to God, which they see as supernatural.

The fact is that conservative people do not deny the role of terrain, but they also claim that nothing happens without the permission of God. Plus, they know they must take precautions to be safe from earthquakes. The problem here is not who believes what but who is more superstitious. We have not witnessed any pious people ignoring precautions on earthquakes. Yet, the seculars think but do not prove that conservatives do the opposite. So, there is no experimental proof but belief, which is not scientific.

Also, according to the secular/leftist section, science is enough to solve every problem. If science is praised in a debate and seen as the solution, then religion is the root of the problem. Sanctifying science as a messiah is characteristic of the secular/leftist section. Regarding debates over science, they claimed that the cause of the destruction was because the government did not rely on science.

Urban renewal

However, there seems to be a remarkable contradiction in their discourse and actions concerning science. If we go over the destruction caused by the earthquake, in Hatay province, which was mostly destroyed by the quake, the municipality administration is under the control of the opposition. In this case, the municipal administration they supported was acting against science. On the other hand, past news revealed that opposition parties and their leaders opposed urban renewal throughout Türkiye. Many people would be alive today if they supported rather than opposed. In other words, the death toll would be less if they had relied on science.

On the other hand, the fact that not a single building constructed by the state housing agency, Housing Development Administration (TOKI), which they accused of unscientific actions, did not collapse strengthens the thesis that the conservative government acted and continues to act more scientifically. This situation also refutes the idea that the secular section is competent in science, and the traditional area is only interested in theology and believes in superstitions.

From a theoretical and theological point of view, those who prioritize science trust in science like a religion but do not worship it. Just as a person who says they are Muslim, Christian or Jewish does not perform his prayers, those who bless and believe in science remain weak in their worship. In other words, they see science as a guide to their lives but do not fulfill what science requests. In other words, they believe in God but do not go to a mosque, church or synagogue. This is what Turkish worshippers of science do.

On the other hand, the recent two decades have shown that conservative people contributed a lot to the country’s development. Interestingly, secular groups did not praise the other side’s successes but tried to impede or discredit them. One reason might be that some of those self-modernists are aware of their failure but want to keep their discursive superiority. This article does not claim their inferiority nor aims to discredit them, but practices and statistics show that they come from the back of “backward,” a term they use to label conservative people.

Source: Daily Sabah

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