TAG | Turkey
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.
Turkey’s thuggish (“mildly Islamist”, if you are The Economist) prime minister Erdogan is doing his bit to restrict free speech. The Seattle Times reports:
Prompted by the anti-Muslim video produced in California that has stirred deadly riots around the world, delegations from major Muslim nations have arrived at the United Nations prepared to demand international curbs on speech or media that they believe defame their religion or the Prophet Muhammad…. The demand for limits on anti-Islamic expression is coming from leading Islamic groups such as the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and leaders as diverse as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Erdogan, who Obama views as a key ally, has declared that all 57 Islamic nations “should speak forcefully with one voice,” and has called for “international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred.”
These leaders consider anti-Islamic material a kind of “hate speech” that should be banned around the world. They are expected to demand those regulations when debate begins Tuesday in the General Assembly.
“This has exposed a huge fault line in political philosophies,” said Stewart Patrick, of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. “It may be irreconcilable.”
May be irreconcilable. Good grief. Suggesting that it is not — maybe with some “dialog” here, or a bit of “inter-faith” there — will only encourage those who believe that there does indeed exist some middle ground where debate can be politely and oh so sensitively stifled. Just look at the U.K. if you want to see how that works.
To quote yet again what was written in Jyllands-Posten at the time of the Mohammed cartoons:
“Ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed. Der er intet men.” The translation? “Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.”
Mr. Osman’s send-off was just the latest manifestation of what sociologists call “Ottomania,” a harking back to an era marked by conquest and cultural splendor during which sultans ruled an empire stretching from the Balkans to the Indian Ocean and claimed the spiritual leadership of the Muslim world.
Ataturk’s assertion by fiat that Turks were “European” is bound to fail, because a flower can not blossom without its roots. If the Turks had accepted more aspects of European civilization, such as Christianity, then a civilizational shift might have been viable. But for nearly 1,000 years the Turks were the rulers of Islam. In 1600 all three great Islamic powers, the Ottomans, the Safavids of Persia, and the Mughals of India, were of Turkic provenance. Though Turkish potentates accepted the supremacy of the Arab religion and cultivated Persian poetry, their identity was fused with their role as the ruling race of the Muslim world. The iron hand of Kemalism kept this past from intruding upon the present for nearly a century, but I suspect that that time of ham-handed exclusion of what came before is coming to an end. Of course not all that Ataturk achieved can be reversed, his Romanization of Turkish and purging of Arabic and Persian loanwords, means that Ottoman literature is closed off to all except specialists in modern Turkey. The future will be based more on half-remembered glimpses and recreated myth than the flesh and substance of the past.
I just finished Vali Nasr’s Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World. Very much in the mold of Fareed Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Nasr is the author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future, and the son of the prominent Islamic philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr (of the Traditionalist School). The prose is engaging, and Nasr is both erudite and analytically focused. As an ethnic Persian the depth of his knowledge definitely exhibits particular biases, Asian Islam beyond Pakistan hovers on the margins of his narrative, less out of intent and more out of limitations of the author’s own knowledge base I suspect. Nevertheless, the focus on Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan is certainly not hobbling in any way, as these are very important Muslim nations.
Forces of Fortune is very much about the social implications of material conditions. In other words, the relative economic stagnation of the core Muslim world in relation to the developed world or the BRIC nations. Nasr’s argument is that in the 20th century Muslim elites saw in the West an object of emulation, and fixated on the exoteric aspects without comprehending the deeper structural preconditions of prosperity. Kemal Ataturk exemplified this, he forced Turks to re-conceptualize themselves as Europeans by battering them, both psychologically and literally. He demanded that Turks look the part of Europeans, that they change their dress and switch to a Roman alphabet from an Arabic script. In addition to the cultural shifts Ataturk also set the tone through an emphasis on top-down institutional development, in particular state control and guidance of the economy. In Nasr’s telling Islamic revivalism was a natural and reflexive reaction by the lower middle class and petite bourgeoisie to this assault from on high. They were culturally and economically marginalized by Kemalism, Nasserism and the Shah’s White Revolution, and the present is their revenge. Though we are aware of the international scope of Islamic revivalism, the tendrils of Kemalism, and the example of Turkey as an Islamic nation who beat back European colonialism on the fields of battle, also extend across the world. Not only did Ataturk influence Reza Pahlavi, but his model was influential in the thinking of autocrats such as Pervez Musharraf.