Journalist warns of growing Islamic cult from Syria in Turkey

According to Turkish journalist Saygı Öztürk, there is a growing Shadhili cult of Syrian origin taking hold in Turkey.

Duvar English

Saygı Öztürk, who has long covered religious affairs in Turkey, wrote in his column in the daily Sözcü that there is a growing Islamic cult of Syrian origin in Turkey.

As a result of the Religious Affairs Directorate's (Diyanet) inability to effectively oversee religious affairs in the country, Öztürk argues, groups like the Sufi mystic Shadhili cult, led by Sheikh Ubeydullah El Kadiri, have been able to grow rapidly and attract many Turkish followers.

The Shadili cult arrived in Turkey with the nearly four million refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, says Öztürk. These Syrians, now living in Turkey, maintained ties with the Shadhili cult in their home country.

The Islamic group then began attracting Turkish support. Now, says Öztürk, it is rumored that the Sheikh has more than thirty caliphs - religious leaders - and a broad following, especially in the southeastern province of Gaziantep. 

This cult is particularly attracting young people. The Sheikh, Öztürk reports, gives icazet - permission to conduct religious duties - to people aged 30-33, who then preach the teachings of the cult in their hometowns. In turn, those young people attract more young people, who further preach the teachings of the cult, thereby quickening its spread. 

The rapid spread of this cult is a direct result of neglect of duty by Diyanet, says Öztürk. Diyanet should, he argues, warn people of the risks of joining such groups and conduct research on their practices. They should partner with the Turkish Intelligence Organization (MİT), he says, and investigate both leaders and members of such extremist cults. But Diyanet is not doing this - instead, Öztürk says, these cults and religious groups are able to spread with abandon, attracting increasing numbers of Turkish citizens.