For the Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a pious Sunni man is, by definition, a more decent man than any other. Therefore, he reasons, a pious Sunni youth is better than any other youth.
In 2012, (then prime minister) Erdogan openly declared that his political ambition was “to raise devout generations.” The opposition protested that it was not a government’s mission to raise devout or non-devout generations; that in a secular country this choice belonged to parents, not to the government. In response, Erdogan said: “Should we, then, raise atheist generations?” He does not understand. He evidently will not.
At an inauguration ceremony in March 2015, Erdogan proudly said that the number of “imam school” students had risen from a mere 60,000 to 1 million. That is wonderful news for Erdogan, himself a graduate of an “imam school.”
Erdogan does not hide his divisive and discriminatory thinking on Turkey’s “two youths.” In a recent public speech to supporters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), including big groups of “pious youths,” Erdogan labeled as “vandals” millions of young Turks, who in the summer of 2013 protested against his government in countrywide mass demonstrations. Then he addressed the “good” boys and girls: “It is you who, with your hard work, moral values, knowledge and energy, represent this country’s future.”
Education, Erdogan seems to calculate, is one of the most strategic tools to achieve his ambitions about raising “devout generations.” It is for this reason that his government has the habit of resorting to every possible tactic to force children into piety and keep them away from whomever he considers a bad influence — the “bad ones,” whom he calls vandals…