Radical Turkish preacher is not ISIS emir - expert

A charismatic Turkish radical Islamist preacher, criticised by Islamic State (ISIS) activists for discouraging his followers from joining the extremist group in Syria, had nonetheless been one of its most effective local recruiters, according to an article by ISIS expert Doğu Eroğlu.

A Turkish court charged Halis Bayancuk, a.k.a. Abu Hanzala, on Friday with violating the constitution, running an armed terrorist group and making propaganda for ISIS, and faces life in prison if convicted.

Bayancuk has been jailed four times before in Turkey, twice on accusations of leading al Qaeda’s local section and twice in relation to ISIS, while the Turkish media regularly describes him in terms such as “the Turkish emir of the Islamic State”.

But according to Eroğlu, Bayancuk had not got on well with either al Qaeda, or ISIS, which had both accused him of being insufficiently interested in their global aims. So much so, Eroğlu wrote, that Turkey may have believed it could use him to discourage Salafis from joining them.

Instead, Eroğlu said, it was Bayancuk’s success in selling Salafist ideas to the Turkish public through videos on his website that had made ISIS’s job recruiting Turks easier.

“People who watched Bayancuk’s online talks or sermons would be able to get in touch with Bayancuk’s website team … who would find them the closest (Salafi) prayer room or congregation and add them into it,” he said.

Salafi Islam is a fundamentalist form of the religion that rejects parts of the way it has traditionally been practiced as heretical innovations that have emerged since the prophet’s death.

In Bayancuk’s interpretation, Muslims should refuse to send their children to Turkey’s schools, object to its military service and choose not to vote, as he sees these as conflicting with Sharia law.