The famous Turkish Islamist preacher known as “Cübbeli” or “cloaked” Ahmet Hoca warned his followers on Saturday that Turkey could be facing a new war of independence and they should prepare accordingly.
During his weekly speech broadcast to followers via YouTube, Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü said the people of Turkey should be prepared for momentous political events that could upend the country.
These, he said, could include the creation of a Kurdish state in Syria, a mobilisation of the Turkish Armed Forces, and even a repeat of the independence struggle that led to the Turkish Republic’s establishment in 1923.
The popular Naqshbandi Sufi preacher, whose YouTube account has some 1.3 million followers, added that it could be necessary to “clean up” people he described as “enemies of religion and the state”.
“The coming days are not looking good. The future is good, but there are too many traitors, too many enemies of religion and the state, too many. So, it may be necessary to clean them up,” Ünlü said.
And, with Turkey’s future remaining unclear, the preacher said people would be wise to make economic preparations for a difficult year ahead.
“You should keep a loaf of bread hidden away for a rainy day,” he said. “I don’t mean you need to store a whole year’s worth of supplies, you know, but like non-perishable goods and bread.”
The preacher’s speech addressed Turkey’s economic decline, which has seen the lira collapse from 3.65 to 18.20 per dollar in the last five years, while also playing off popular conspiracy theories about foreign attacks to the country’s territorial integrity.
In a notable line of his speech, Ünlü warned that Ankara’s maritime territorial disputes with its NATO ally Greece were a sign that “the cannons of the world’s infidels” were pointing at Turkey.
And, he said, the creation of a Kurdish state would amount to a “great Zionistan”, hinting at anti-Semitic tropes which say the creation of Israel was a Western conspiracy against the region’s Muslims.
The underlying message in the preacher’s words is one of support for Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is set to hold crucial elections next year during an ebb in its popularity.
The AKP’s rhetoric frequently blames the country’s economic travails on traitors and warns of foreign conspiracies targeting Turkey.
Ünlü is a leading member and public face of the İsmailağa religious community, which is one of the largest Islamic groups in Turkey.
Although the community says that it does not have any political affiliation, observers have noted close ties with the AKP, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has visited them many times.
For his part, Ünlü regularly praises the AKP during his televised sermons, and has said that his community votes for the ruling party. However, he said, this does not mean they are in full agreement on all matters.