China’s military and a culture of corruption
The re-opening of the middle section of the imam hatip schools will not only erase a significant part of the legacy of the secularist military intervention in 1997, but will also re-introduce a rival to the schools of the Gülen movement; in fact, the primary beneficiary of the secularist intervention has been the private schools that are operated by the Gülenists. Even though these schools don’t provide any religious education – other than what is compulsory in all schools – they do provide a social environment that is predominantly religious and conservative, which has made them an extremely attractive alternative for the conservative constituency, not least since those who graduate fare very well in entrance exams to the universities. The imam hatip schools have been the breeding ground for a very significant portion of the cadres of the AKP – forty percent of the cabinet ministers are imam hatip graduates, as is Erdoğan himself; the implication of their loss of status as the privileged locus of education for the conservative constituency is that the balance among the Islamic brotherhoods shifts to the Gülenists.
Indeed, Erdoğan does not seem content with merely re-offering a traditional alternative for the conservative constituency; he also seems determined to take other measures to further check the influence of the Gülenists over the school system. Thus, Erdoğan has stated that the numerous private classes, where students are prepared for the entrance exams to higher studies after school hours, are going to be closed, ostensibly because they will no longer be needed when entrance exams to the university are replaced with another system of application. The majority of these private classes are operated by Gülenists, offering yet another venue for the socialization of young Islamic cadres within the movement.