In Part 2 we looked at the role of freemasonry, and the changes in the Ottoman Empire. Here we took a look at how freemasonry, humanism, and secularism laid claim to Turkey.
Under Mustafa Reshid Pasha who led the new class of bureaucrats at a time when the influence of the `Ulema was weakening, reformation of Turkey was pursued using Western materialism. Heavily influenced by close friend and confidante, August Comte, the systemic approach of Islam and its principle of universality was used as a vehicle towards 'Positivism' preventing a need for justification.
A freemason, and a philosopher of atheistic beliefs, Comte moved from the concept of the Creator towards the Masonic belief in humanism, i.e. people adopt one another as their life purpose. This was at a time, when religion was being rejected in the West with other atheists (Darwin, Marx, Freud, Durkheim etc) of the time at the forefront of Western thinking. He was to heavily influence the decision to disassociate from other Muslims in the Islamic world. In Comte’s letter to Mustafa Reshid Pasha, after he was temporarily dismissed as Chief Minister, due to his relationship with Comte, he wrote:
"Since you have been removed from the office you held so successfully, the free time you now have on hand gives rise to my hope that you will invest time into considering my positivist philosophy, which I present to you in general terms, and the universal positivist political system it will create…
“For many hundreds of years the West as well as the East have searched for a universal, unifying religion. Faith in one religion engages the human emotions and gets a hold on them, whereas experience and reason prove that such hope is unfounded. While progressing from Islam to Positivism, without any need for a metaphysical transformation period, Muslims will soon understand the real maintainers of such elevated thoughts as peculiar to their great Prophet who will systematize religious faith and humanitarian understanding with universal victory.
"If the Muslims could be distanced from such an unnecessary sense of political unity, they won't feel sad about the Ottoman Empire's inevitable collapse. On the contrary, they will see that their temporary rule actually limited their society's social development. As for the Ottoman chiefs still engaged with the occupation of their lands by lesser nations and the like-once the inevitable takes place, their imaginary fears will disappear and the people will be freed. The political implication of accepting humanitarianism instead of a universally believed God will bring a sense of unity among the people, which Islam's core philosophy so desires. Once the Ottomans replace their faith in God with Humanism, this goal will quickly be attained."
Such was the belief of Comte, and many European masons like him: replace Islam for "positivism" and God with "humanism".
Spread of the Idea
A follower of Comte, was Ahmet Riza, who demanded constitutional change, but on the basis of the old Islamic, and Turkish practice of consultation. His ideas were to spread through the bi-monthly Mechveret, which was published both in the Turkish of the time, as well as French. Riza was to go onto to lead one of the most influential Young Turks group, consisting of members in exile and at home. As for the ideologies espoused in the Mechveret, there were to gain great interest among the intellectual circles.
This was at a time when France occupied Tunis, and Britain occupied Egypt, and European media of the time, as well as European politicians were verging on a the return of the Crusades as they were up-in-arms over the death of Christians, while making trivial the massacre of Muslims in the Balkans, and Central Russia. Meanwhile the Turkish economy was being seriously undermined by the Capitulation (foreigners paid no taxes and other benefits – see Pt.2), ruining Turkish industries, along with high interest rates.
Through Namak Kamal, and other Young Ottomans in Turkey, Islamism had a growing following, which called for uniting with all oppressed Muslims of the world. Abdul Hamid III adopted Islamism, and rejected any foreign influences having inherited a crumbling Turkey, and reformed the judicial system, education, the military, established the Dar ul-Fanun which became the University of Istanbul, the railway system and laid the infrastructure for telegraphy.
Abdul Hamid III, who although a mason himself (initiated in London), laid his foundations for a modern Turkey on Islamic morality when the Ottoman Empire was on the verge of collapse. Meanwhile, Abdul Hamid was not fulfilling an obligation to a constitution that was enforced upon him by the constitutionalists – a constitution that brought him to power and aimed to limit his role as Sultan. A part of the new class was the Young Ottoman movement which initially saw no disparity between Islamic heritage and so-called scientific progress. However a serious split was to occur between the pro-Western Young Turks, and the pro-Islamic Young Turks.
Secularism via Positivism and humanism was in the air. The focus of unifying with other Muslim nations was severely undermined by freemasonry, and Young Turks activity; and so Abdul Hamid III’s efficient Administration, turned from running the Empire towards protecting his reign with the increased terrorist attacks meted out by the pro-Europe Young Turks.
A further threat was to come from the Damascus wing of the Turkish Army itself. Members of the Fifth Army met in secret as the Fatherland Society. With branches in Jerusalem and Jaffa, they drew up their own constitution, calling for Abdul Hamid III to obey the Turkish Constitution. One of the members of the Fifth Army was Lieutenant Mustafa Kamal (Ataturk), who with like-minds from the Third Army formed the Ottoman Liberty Society.
Believed to have met frequently in Masonic lodges, they received financial support from Donmes (Jews who had converted to Islam). Joining forces with the Ahmet Riza group of Young Turks in Paris (1907), they formed the Committee of Union and Progress with the goal of restoring the Constitution. However, it was the Armenian influence within the movement that was to lead to more violent means towards Abdul Hamid III’s removal. Through publications they spread the idea of Turkish nationalism moving away from an Islamic identity hence identity with Muslims further afield. Abdullah Cevdet, a founder of the Union and Progress Party believed that modern society should be founded on anti-religious culture.
Since Islam was preventing progress it should be excluded from social life. Cevdet published anti-Islamic articles in his publication 'Ictihat' magazine and was financed by the masonry to establish the publishing house Ictihat Eri. This raised public hostility to the extent he was imprisoned, but he continued publishing and wrote 70 books even after his release. Fleeing Turkey due to the public hostility that was aroused by his defamation of Prophet Muhammad, and Islam, when he finally returned he was appointed to the Office of General Health. This did not last long as a result of his legalizing prostitution.
Grand Master Haydar `Ali Kerman espoused the Masonic viewpoint: "For as long as the Madresahs (religious schools) and the Minarets are not destroyed and the scholastic ideas and dogmatic beliefs not eliminated the captivity of thought and suffering in the conscience will continue." The Muslim clergy felt powerless in the changing tides out of the tradition of subservience to the state, yet caught in the acknowledgement that progress was necessary.
The members of the Union and Progress Party in Thessalonica, Italy, plotted their revolution in Italian, French and Spanish lodges in Turkey that belonged to foreigners, which fell under the 'Capitulation'. High ranking officers-freemasons and members of the Union and Progress Party invaded Istanbul with armies stationed in Thrace in 1909 taking control of Istanbul.
The French historian Thierry Zarcones wrote of the Union and Progress Party's use of freemasonry in its foreign relations with deputations to Italy, France, Hungary and Germany. They claimed that the establishment of 'democracy' under the banner of the French liberty, equality and fraternity in Turkey and called on European assistance. In 1911, the same scenario was repeated in Lybia.
With the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the 1st Grand Master from the Ministry of the Interior was Mehmet Talat S. Pasha who later became the Prime Minister of Turkey. The Grand Lodge established 66 lodges mainly in Turkey and also in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Greece, Lebanon and Palestine. In 1935, Minister of the Interior, Sukru Kaya (a mason of the Scottish Rite) passed a law closing all clubs and societies with the Nazi spread propaganda on the Judeo-Masonic link.
President Kemal Ataturk found the lodges to be a destructive element under foreign influence, however, activity continued via the Halkevi Community Centers, which provided social, educational, and entertaining activities whereby the ethos was that everyone taught what they knew and learns what he does not. This served as a medium to propagate Masonic beliefs. This activity became public dismay when young female students were found to be sexually harassed. Ministry of Education chief investigator Fethi Isfendiyaroglu stated:
"Village Institutes were built in remote areas, away from towns and villages. This separated students and their parents created an environment well suited for the unethical suggestions and practices of teachers devoid of morals and patriotism. More than 40,000 villagers were being conditioned and exposed to left-wing propaganda and suggestions of sexual freedom. Consequently, some of the weaker students were poisoned with this filth. Fortunately, most village students were of solid character and thus endured the Village Institute practices without coming to harm, left with their decency and morality intact, and developed hostility towards the these institutions' practices and propaganda".
On the impact of the Halkevi (People’s House), author W. Weiker described them as follows:
“Perhaps the most concerted energies devote to any single enterprise in the 1930’s were expended in an activity which up to then had been performed haphazardly, if at all, by the Republicans, namely mass political education and indoctrination. The need to establish far greater contact with the urban lower and middle classes as well as with the residents of towns and villages, contact in both depth and volume, was one of the clearest lessons… The institutions through which the RPP directly took over these functions were a network of Halkevieri (People’s Houses) in the cities, and after 1940 Halkodalari (People’s Rooms) in towns villages. Their activities ranged from practical education in homemaking, farming techniques, and secretarial skills, service as community centres, with sports facilities, libraries, and cinemas, to direct political indoctrination by means of lectures, propaganda films, ceremonies etc. When the Democratic Party government closed the Houses in 1951 on charges of partisan activity with public funds, they numbered 479 Houses, and 4,322 Rooms”
In 1948, Turkey wanted acceptance in the U.N., which was rejected as Turkey was deemed to be a totalitarian state that even forbade freemasonry. The President then through his personal doctor and Supreme Grand Commander (of the Scottish Rite), Mohammed Kemal Oke, gave the go ahead for the official resumption of freemasonry (Layiktez). Freemasonry activity intensified, but in two branches only, that of the French Rites and the Scottish Rites up to this day.
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