Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has displayed remarkable boldness in using century-old yet still explosive conflicts as material for his everyday politics. His sectarian outbursts hit a new pitch in March as he branded Shiites “liars, slanderers and instigators.” Now he is out to classify Turkey’s Alevis into “Alevis with Ali” and “Alevis without Ali” — respectively, Alevis he sees as loyal to Islam and wants to lure from the "cemevi" (the Alevi house of worship) to the mosque, and those whom he considers atheists.
Veneration of "Ahl al-Bayt" (the family of the Prophet Muhammad), primarily his son-in-law Ali Ibn Abu Talib, is pivotal to Alevism. The narrative of “Alevism without Ali” stems from a theory floated in Marxist-socialist Alevi circles according to which Alevism is a body of pre-Islamic religious rites. Advocates of this theory are a very tiny minority.