TAG | Turkey
With Islamist Turkish president Erdoğan continuing to take advantage of the failed coup that he has described as a “gift from God”, here’s another quote from an infinitely greater Turk, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk:
Religion is an important institution. A nation without religion cannot survive. Yet it is also very important to note that religion is a link between Allah and the individual believer. The brokerage of the pious cannot be permitted. Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable. We are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just such people that we have fought and will continue to fight…
Given the news from Turkey, a quote or two from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk seemed appropriate:
I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go….
We do not consider our principles as dogmas contained in books that are said to come from heaven. We derive our inspiration, not from heaven, or from an unseen world, but directly from life.
Cross-posted on Ricochet.
The art of writing a first paragraph is said to lie in the ability to draw the reader in.
I would say that Lily Lynch’s remarkable new piece in The Balkanist passes that test very well indeed:
Harun Yahya is said to be the messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult. He’s also the owner of a Turkish television station called A9, and the host of his own religious talk show, which just might make your eyeballs pop out of your skull. The entire set and everyone on it glow like irradiated ultraviolet rays. Five amazing looking women usually co-host the show, wearing things like false rainbow eyelashes, wigs, and diamond-studded Versace bondage gear. The backdrop is a blinding fake lavender cityscape. Conversations often focus on how materialism and Darwinism are dead, how to recognize the face of a real Muslim, and how Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with whom the host is rumored to enjoy friendly relations — is “one of the important figures for the End Times”.
This is a story with everything: murky political connections, the Huffington Post, creationism, “a pair of hunky twins named Onder and Ender”, a harem, Madonna, aliens (maybe), conspiracy theories, abandoned conspiracy theories, litigation and a zoo.
Wait, there’s more…
But you will have to read it for yourselves.
One of Saudi Arabia’s leading conservative clerics has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom’s male-only driving rules.
A campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on 26 October has spread rapidly online over the past week and gained support from prominent women activists. On Sunday, the campaign’s website was blocked inside the kingdom.
As one of the 21 members of the senior council of scholars, Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan can write fatwas, or religious edicts, advise the government and has a large following among other influential conservatives.
His comments have in the past played into debates in Saudi society and he has been a vocal opponent of tentative reforms to increase freedoms for women by King Abdullah, who sacked him as head of a top judiciary council in 2009.
In an interview published on Friday on the website sabq.org, he said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions”.
Meanwhile, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s prime minister and a figure that The Economist persists in describing as “mildly Islamist”, reminds an audience that Turkish women are not, in his view, having nearly enough children (the birth rate in Turkey is a little over 2, a tally that has, mercifully, fallen by more than a half since the late 1970s);
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged a group of women in Mediterranean Turkish province of Denizli to have at least four children rather than his previously advised three…Erdoğan has noted in the past that Turkey’s annual population growth rate should be at least 2.5 percent and if Turkey continued with its existing trend, its population would rapidly become an aging one after the 2030s. Erdoğan has also linked aging populations and low birth rates in European countries to economic recession.
And that last sentence tells you all that you need to know about Erdoğan’s grasp of economics. The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them.
Cross-posted on the Corner:
The Economist reports:
On July 5 the mufti of Trabzon gathered with other citizens for the first Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, not at a mosque but at an ancient Byzantine church. The gathering was a symbolic re-enactment of the conquest in 1462 of this ancient Greek Black Sea port by Mehmet II, the Ottoman sultan who had wrested Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453. He marked his victory by converting the Haghia Sophia cathedral of today’s Istanbul into a mosque.
Haghia Sophia’s sister of the same name in Trabzon is less grand. Yet with its dazzling frescoes and magnificent setting overlooking the sea, the 13th-century building is regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. As with other Christian monuments, the Haghia Sophia in Trabzon has become a symbol in the battle between secularists and Islamists. It was converted into a mosque around the 16th century and, after other incarnations, became a museum in 1964. But the Islamists won the last round in 2012 when a local court accepted the claim by the General Directorate of the Pious Foundations, the government body responsible for Turkey’s historic mosques, that the Haghia Sophia belonged to the foundation of Mehmet II and was being “illegally occupied” by the culture ministry.
The decision provoked surprising anger in a city notorious for its ultra-nationalist views. “It’s about erasing the Christian past, reviving Ottomanism,” says a local historian. “There are enough mosques in Trabzon, half of them empty, what was the need?” chimes in Zeki Bakar, a neighbourhood councillor. A lawsuit has been brought to undo the conversion.
Even so, the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) government carried out the conversion in time for Ramadan. A red carpet now obscures exquisite floor mosaics. Shutters and tents beneath the central dome shield Muslim worshippers from “sinful” paintings of the Holy Trinity. Shiny steel taps with plastic stools for ablutions clutter a once-verdant garden filled with ancient sculptures….
Cross-posted on the Corner:
So what have those scamps from Turkey’s “mildly Islamist” AK (the Economist) been talking about lately?
Here (reported in Hurriyet) is President Abdullah Gül, an individual generally seen as more emollient than thuggish Prime Minister Erdogan:
Islam and migrants have been a reality in Europe for centuries. As long as the continent of Europe doesn’t approach segments which are different from the majority with tolerance, particularly in regards to religion, an occurrence of new inquisitions and Holocausts, as well as incidents evoking Srebrenica, are probable.
Perfection it’s not, but Europe has, of course, handled its growing Muslim minority with a great deal of tolerance. Talk of new Holocausts is ludicrous. What Gül wants is deference, something else altogether.
And then there’s this (via Bloomberg):
The head of Turkey’s Capital Markets Board confirmed June 26 that his staff had begun an investigation into stock-market volatility during the protests. According to traders in Istanbul, the demands to hand over all e-mail traffic with foreigners, among other records, are unprecedented.
The board’s assurances that such investigations are routine might be easier to accept if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hadn’t promised to “choke” those he believes to have engineered the protests in order to cause a stock-market collapse. He has accused some companies of abetting “terrorism” and claimed that an ill-defined “interest-rate lobby,” committed to raising Turkish borrowing costs for profit, is part of the conspiracy.
Ah, “the interest-rate lobby”…
In recent days, Erdogan has threatened retribution against some of the country’s biggest banks and industrial conglomerates, leading to a steep fall in their share prices. He repeatedly said that Koc Holding AS, an industrial empire owned by a secularist family against which Erdogan bears deep grudges, “cooperated with terror” and “will have to account for it.” The alleged crime was opening the doors of one of the company’s hotels to protesters as they fled police.
Ugly though all this is, the fact remains that, despite a dip from previous highs, Erdogan is enjoying approval ratings of over 50 percent and his AK party is still the country’s most popular. That’s a matter for Turks to decide for themselves, of course, but, if, as Barack Obama, David Cameron and others would like, Turkey is admitted to the EU, the same electorate that so appreciates Erdogan will, thanks to its numbers, have a not insignificant influence on decisions that affect all EU citizens.
That does not strike me as a good idea.
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.