Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | Islamism

Sep/12

29

Turkey & the EU

Cross-posted on the Corner

Andrew McCarthy has a piece on possible Turkish membership of the EU up on the home page, very well worth reading in many respects, but not least for this observation:

In Turkey, the administrators of the Kemalist governmental model — comprising Muslims who understood Islam intimately — suppressed Islam not to deny freedom of conscience but to enable it. They were trying to forge exactly the sort of secular civil society Europeans revere. They knew it could not coexist with sharia. Thus, the government assumed supervision of the country’s 80,000 mosques, vetted the imams, controlled the content of sermons and literature, and aggressively monitored the Islamic charities. The Muslims running the state realized that Islam would inevitably work against secular civil society if left to its own devices.

If you want to understand why Mubarak’s approach in Egypt (political repression combined with the cession of large amounts of religio-social space to the imams) was, in the end, doomed to failure, that’s not a bad place to start.

Andy explains how the incentive of eventual EU membership (forever being proffered, just out of reach, to the Turks) is being used to take distort the (admittedly very far from perfect) Kemalist model in ways that could have very dangerous consequences.

But at least we can for be sure (at least for now) that the French and German political elites are enough in tune with their electorates (for now) to stop—as they should— Turkish accession.

With others the case is not so clear.

Here’s what Britain’s David Cameron had to say two years ago:

ANKARA – Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday he was angered by the slow pace of Turkey’s European Union accession talks and warned against shutting Ankara out because of anti-Muslim prejudice.

Cameron’s strong support for Turkey’s limping EU bid puts him in stark contrast to fellow EU heavyweights France and Germany who argue against letting the mainly-Muslim country of over 70 million people to become a full member.

Here’s part of what I wrote back at the time:

That Cameron blames the Franco-German stance on “anti-Muslim prejudice” is an argument of the intellectually desperate. Then again, what else does Cameron have? As so often, he has failed to grasp just how deep the EU’s federalizing project has already gone. Even if we ignore the phenomenal cost (of which cash-strapped British taxpayers would pay a disproportionate share) of such a scheme, admitting Turkey to the EU would give a country now led by genuinely popular Islamist thug a real say in the everyday lives of the British people. And then there are all those other things that would go with Turkish membership in the EU, such as, oh, the ability of a Turkish court to order the arrest and extradition of a British citizen from the UK to a Turkish jail with little or no judicial review. So much for Cameron, protector of civil liberties.

Oh, there’s also this (reported by the BBC in 2009):

Mr Obama also said Washington supported Turkey’s efforts to join the EU.

Smart diplomacy!

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Apr/12

14

Under Cover of Revolution

Cross-posted on the Corner:

This article in the London Spectator on the plight of the Arab world’s embattled Christian minorities is worth reading in full, but this particular detail (and, no, that’s not really the word) was, to say the least, worth noting:

[A] war-within-a-war is raging in Syria. While Homs has been besieged by the army of Bashar al-Assad over the past two months, Islamist fanatics from the ranks of the rebels found time to root out the city’s 50,000 Christians and force them to flee. The Christians of Homs, having abandoned their homes and their belongings, are now sheltering in mountain villages about 30 miles from the city. They are unlikely to return.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Syria’s Christian community has suffered terrorist attacks in other cities, too. Last month, a car bomb exploded in the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St Bonaventure. ‘The people we are helping are very afraid,’ said Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is overseeing a Catholic aid programme. ‘The Christians don’t know what their future will hold.’

Sadly, I suspect that they do. All too well.

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Jan/12

22

Re: 72% of Egypt’s parliament is Islamist

Inspired by Razib’s earlier post, I put this up on the Corner:

Via the New York Times:

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent.

The tally, with the two groups of Islamists together winning about 70 percent of the seats, indicates the deep cultural conservatism of the Egyptian public, which is expressing its will through free and fair elections for the first time in more than six decades.

This result only goes to underline the mistake made by Mubarak (an American ally now on trial for his life, a fate that must send an interesting message to other leaders in the region still prepared to work alongside the US) in ceding so much of Egypt’s cultural space to the men in the mosque. Turkey’s Ataturk knew better.

Over at Secular Right Razib Khan has an acid response to this news:

Nevertheless I do recall back in the heady days of the Arab Spring some commenters infected by revolutionary fervor would scoff that the purported Islamist sympathies of the people. What this goes to show is that enthusiasm and hope does not translate into reality. If secular liberals in Egypt bow before the principle of popularity, then they accept that it is right and proper that their present their throats to their new overlords. I don’t view this as an apocalypse. It is what it is. But it was predictable.

The Times notes:

A coalition of parties founded by the young leaders of the revolt that unseated Mr. Mubarak won only a few percent of the seats…

Predictable indeed: revolutions have been devouring their children for a long time.

If there is any glimmer of hope, however faint, it lies in the divisions between Muslim Brotherhood and the ultras.

The two groups have described very different visions and appear to be rivals rather than collaborators. The Brotherhood has said it intends to respect personal liberties and will focus on economic and social issues, gradually nudging the culture toward its conservative values. By contrast, the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, put a higher priority on legislation on Islamic moral issues, like the consumption of alcohol, women’s dress and the contents of popular culture.

Even if we accept the Muslim Brotherhood’s reassurances at face value (a stretch, to put it mildly), something (not least their own history) tells me that it will see the greater threat to its position as coming from the Salafists, and will thus tack strongly in their direction.

I hope I’m wrong.

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Dec/11

4

Reality Bites

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Via the Wall Street Journal:

CAIRO—Egypt’s secular-minded politicians, facing a greater-than-anticipated drubbing by Islamist parties in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, began Friday to assess their dwindling prospects for the poll’s final two rounds.

“Greater-than-anticipated”? Really?

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Jun/11

11

Annals of the Arab Spring (ctd.)

Cross-posted over at the Corner:

Via the Wall Street Journal:

QENA, Egypt—Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri’s apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists. Mr. Mitri is a member of the Christian Coptic minority that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s 83 million people. The Islamists accused him of having rented the apartment—by then unoccupied—to loose Muslim women. Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri’s right ear. When they were beating me, they kept saying: ‘We won’t leave any Christians in this country,’” Mr. Mitri recalled in a recent interview, two months after the March attack. Blood dripped through a plastic tube from his unhealed wound to a plastic container. “Here, there is a war against the Copts,” he said.

His attackers, who were never arrested or prosecuted, follow the ultrafundamentalist Salafi strain of Islam that promotes an austere, Saudi-inspired worldview. Before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, the Salafis mostly confined themselves to preaching. Since then, they’ve entered the political arena, drawing crowds and swaying government decisions. Salafi militants also have blocked roads, burned churches and killed Copts.

Read the whole thing….

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Mar/11

26

Long Spoon Needed

Crossposted in the Corner:

This report from yesterday’s New York Times does not bode well. Here’s a key extract:

Cairo: In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

It is possible to understand the interim government’s motives, but Egypt’s military is playing a dangerous game. One of the characteristics of the Mubarak regime was the amount of space he ceded to religious hardliners in the religious and cultural spheres, a terrible mistake that did nothing other than store up trouble for the future. Now it seems that the retreat will begin from the political arena as well.

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