IHSAN – On corruption: Do religious ethics exist?

On corruption: Do religious ethics exist? For the last a few years, I have been observing in agony the corruption of some practicing Muslims who are now in power. Their raison d’etat mentality, Hobbessian-Machiavellian approach to politics, the law, ethics, morality and even religion, have made me question if religion, in fact, has any influence at all on these practicing Muslims. I have voiced these questions on several occasions. When I think about this ugly phenomenon, one of the sayings of the prophet of Islam always comes to my mind. In a hadith related by Bukhari, he (PBUH) states: “People are like gold, silver, copper, iron If you are precious, good, benevolent and righteous before accepting Islam, you will continue to be like this after accepting Islam.” When I look at these corrupt practicing Muslims, I tend to think that reverse logic may suggest that if someone has a low standard of ethics and morality, religion will not be very influential in changing this. I am, of course, not sure about the validity of this thinking and very sophisticated and long-term research of the psychology of religion may be needed to test it, but the actions of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its voters seem to suggest that in their Hobbessian-Machiavellian, raison d’etat mindset, religion and ethics operate in parallel to each other. But their religiosity does not directly translate into ethics, morality, good manners, trustworthiness, etc. Today, I read a piece (in Turkish) written by a columnist who was once affiliated with the AKP. I fully agree with Levent Gultekin of Internet Haber and that is why I have decided to share his column with you. “The developments that occurred after Dec. 17 [when the government graft and bribery investigation became public], especially what happened in the wake of [the local polls on] March 30, inflicted a serious trauma on me. I had suffered from similar trauma during the time I worked as an executive at the Cine5 TV channel. Friends of 15 to 20 years had come up with inconceivable demands of me and when I rejected them, they launched a defamation campaign against me and hurled threats at me. At that time, I watched how the neighborhood I lived in turned into something different. I went through a profound psychological trauma. Then, I experienced an intellectual breaking point.“Now, in the wake of March 30, I am living through another fit of disappointment. I see a picture that has come into being since Dec. 17. I witness how this picture was translated into the outcome of the March 30 elections. On the morning of March 31, I could still figure out some explanations for this outcome. I told myself: ‘People are afraid of the parallel structure, so they couldn’t show their true reaction. Reasoning that the parallel structure may win, they turned a blind eye to the corruption allegations.’ Yet, I was also hoping that in the post-March 30 period, someone from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would come out and say: ‘I cannot accept these developments. I cannot pursue my political career in this party under these circumstances,’ thereby showing us all that there are still good, honest people. Some 40 days have passed. Not a single person voiced any objection or reaction to so many corruption claims and voice recordings. Not one of the ministers, deputies, heads of the AK Party’s local organizations, the intellectuals who openly support the AK Party, journalists, opinion leaders, columnists or many other people came forward and said: ‘I have worked for and backed the AK Party so far in good faith. But I cannot accept or endorse these voice recordings. Under these circumstances, I cannot continue to pursue my political career in this party or ignore this picture.’ “Is it possible that no one is disturbed to hear the prime minister say, referring to a businessman, ‘Son, the money he is offering is lower than what we expect do not accept it as he will eventually be forced to accept our terms’? Isn’t there anyone who is unable to reconcile these claims with hisher values? I really cannot understand it. The guy took a watch worth TL 700,000 as a bribe. This is so obvious. But no one has said, ‘We have been trying to spread Islamic values and honesty in this country for several decades and you have dealt a blow to our efforts. How could you do it?’ I am really puzzled and very, very perplexed. Why isn’t there a single person who sees this incident — the abuse, betrayal, corruption and irreverence to hisher beliefs — as an attack on hisher honor, dignity and the values she has been defending for decades? How can it be that no one is hurt by the way hisher values are so ruthlessly used? Isn’t there anyone in the AK Party who can say, ‘Why should we bear this?’ I am not looking for the majority to take a stand. I don’t even expect a minority. But isn’t there a single person? “In Germany, [then-] President Christian Wulff had to resign from office due to mounting public pressure regarding charges of making a film director pay a bill of 700 euros. In Australia, Barry O’Farrell, who was the premier of the state of New South Wales, had to resign from office because of $3,000 bottle of wine given to him as a gift. There are countless examples. And all of these examples are from the West. There is virtually no similar case of resignation from Muslim countries. “This indicates that secular morality has won over religious morality. The post-March 30 process is a portent of a serious bankruptcy in those who argue that the source of morality is religion. Here is the lesson from this process: Islamists who defended values of honesty, morality, good manners, compassion and justice have fully submitted to capitalism, pragmatism and social Darwinism that values power and money and sees everything as permissible in order to safeguard that power and money. “How can we promote a religion to other societies and to our own children if it cannot rectify even its own practitioners?”

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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