Jihadist Turkish imam promotes Erdoğan’s militarised foreign policy agenda

İhsan Şenocak

Nordic Monitor


İhsan Şenocak, a leading jihadist Turkish imam, is promoting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aggressive foreign policy agenda and urging that Turkey occupy the southern part of Cyprus where the Prophet Muhammad’s aunt Umm Haram is buried.

“The Ottoman navy saluted Prophet Muhammad’s aunt, Umm Haram [known as Hala Sultan], with cannon fire when they passed near Cyprus. The tomb of Hala Sultan, who participated in the first-ever Muslim expedition on the sea, is under Greek occupation. Let’s salute Hala Sultan again and tell her that we are coming soon,” Şenocak tweeted, sharing a video of Turkish sailors forming the words “Mavi Vatan” (Blue Homeland) on a Turkish frigate.

Umm Haram’s tomb is located in Larnaca.

Şenocak, a radical pro-Erdoğan and anti-Semitic imam, is the founder of the Center for Scientific and Intellectual Research (İlmi ve Fikri Araştırmalar Merkezi, or İFAM) and is close to prominent Turkish jihadist figures and groups. In recent years he has become a passionate speaker at conferences and lectures sponsored by pro-government groups and foundations.

İFAM organized a conference series titled “Diriliş” (Resurrection) across the country in cooperation with the controversial Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) and the Sosyal Doku Foundation, which is led by preacher Nurettin Yıldız, who has repeatedly called for armed jihad. In his speech at one of the Diriliş conferences held in November 2016, Şenocak said a Muslim army would be dispatched from Istanbul to conquer Jerusalem and that the Jews would not be able to prevent it.


Tweet by İhsan Şenocak.


The IHH is a front charity known as a tool of Turkish intelligence agency MİT and has been under investigation by the Turkish police. It was accused of smuggling arms to al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria. The IHH was also utilized in the transport of wounded Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda fighters by ambulance from Syria to Turkey.

The Turkish police investigated IHH’s links to Qatar Charity, but President Erdoğan halted the case in 2014. The investigation had exposed Qatar Charity’s links to IHH offices in Turkish provinces bordering Syria and Iran. A recent lawsuit filed in the US alleges that the IHH and Qatar Charity created a partnership to support jihadist groups in Syria and provide non-medical services to wounded fighters. In 2012 a German federal court had banned the IHH since the Turkish charity was contributing funds to Hamas.

Yıldız openly advocates armed jihad, describes democracy as a system for infidels and says it can only be used as a means of deception to rise to power. He is the man who radicalized the young al-Nusra-affiliated police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey in December 2016.

Yıldız is an important anti-Semitic preacher among conservative and pro-government groups. “Prefer the protection of God rather than human protection, the Jews will be disappeared and Jerusalem be ready for a new [Islamic] conquest,” Yıldız said during a conference held by the IHH on February 20.


İhsan Şenocak (first from right), Nurettin Yıldız (second from right), IHH head Bülent Yıldırım (fourth from right) and Metin Balkanlıoğlu (fifth from right) seen at a Diriliş conference.


Şenocak, who served as an imam at Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), had to resign in 2017 after saying that women who wear trousers and go to university are destined for hell.

“Does your heart break when your daughter walks down the street to school in pants? … What have you done to what was entrusted to you from Allah? You were happy when she got into a university. … She will be a doctor, she will be an engineer. … OK, so you are happy about that. When your daughters walks in pants among the gazes of men, when young bucks are going after her, you’ve thrown your little one into hell,” he said in a sermon.


Şenocak speaks at an Adalet-Der meeting.


Şenocak was also among the regular guest speakers invited by the Justice and Civilization Association (Adalet ve Medeniyet), known as Adalet-Der, to indoctrinate law faculty students. The association was tapped by the government as a sort of human resource management company to recruit new candidates to become judges and prosecutors.

The association has links to the Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), which is led by Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who endorsed suicide bombings and armed rebellion in Syria. IUMS, listed in November 2017 as terrorist group by a Saudi-led bloc of Arab states, has been expanding its branches in various Turkish provinces with the generous support and backing from the Erdoğan government over the last couple of years.


Şenocak (L) and Metin Balkanlıoğlu.


Şenocak is among the radical Turkish clerics who endorse Erdoğan’s fueling of hostility in Turkey against the president’s critics and opponents. They justified asset seizures and the torture and ill treatment of innocent people who were merely exercising their right to dissent in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. At a rally held in front of Erdoğan’s house in Istanbul after the attempt, Balkanlıoğlu publicly said that the assets seized from the Gülen movement, a civic group that has been active in education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and charity work in many countries, were the spoils of war for Muslims to enjoy. Balkanlıoğlu, who died in 2018, had links to jihadist groups in Syria and advocated the view that Muslims in Syria were battling the US, Russia and China and urged them to martyr themselves as part of the jihad.


Metin Balkanlıoğlu (L) and Nurettin Yıldız.


Similarly, Şenocak issued a “fatwa” on July 21, four days after the coup attempt, on Twitter and urged security authorities to “behead traitors.” Then he tweeted the next day: “According to Islam, there is one leader in a state, and traitors should be beheaded. Scholars educate statesmen, but syndicates infiltrate [institutions].”

Due to the fatwas, the Turkish regime’s Islamist police did not hesitate to torture tens of thousands of people in detention centers, while Islamist judges ruled for the plunder of assets belonging to Erdoğan critics. After the coup attempt, assets of the Gülen movement such as schools, universities, media outlets, companies and apartment buildings, were confiscated or stolen by state institutions and other foundations controlled by Erdoğan.


Şenocak tweeted about a Sıla Foundation meeting held in Yamanlar College’s sports hall.


Yamanlar College, a private school established by educators affiliated with the Gülen movement in the western province of İzmir, was turned into a religious vocational high school (imam-hatip in Turkish) after the failed coup. The library of the school was converted into a giant mosque and renamed the July 15 Martyrs Mosque.

In January the Sıla Foundation organized a conference on Shariah law on the premises of Yamanlar used in the past as a sports hall and theater. Şenocak, one of the speakers at the meeting, wanted a declaration of war against Israel and told government officials, “You walk towards Tel Aviv, we’ll follow you.” These words received great support from the audience.

Yamanlar College was best known for its success in the international science Olympics, and its students had received a total of 146 medals in the international math olympics.

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