Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turkey: The Islamist Paradox

David Seaton's News Links
This article from the New York Times is chock full of paradoxes if you follow the Bernard Lewis, neocon reading of Islam.

The neocon nightmare is that democracy might mean Islam in the Muslim universe. Certainly if Turkey becomes a democracy by becoming more rather than less Muslim, it will shoot a million holes in the neocon narrative. It will also mean that no matter how moderate an Islamist Turkish government is, a government not run by the army and more responsive to the people's opinion will certainly be more pro-Palestinian and less hand in glove with Israel than the "secular" governments have been to date.

In short, Sunday's elections in Turkey may change the face of the Mediterranean and the Middle East... and beyond. DS

Turkey’s Election May Prove a Watershed - New York Times
Abstract: For 84 years, modern Turkey has been defined by a holy trinity — the army, the republic and its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Each was linked inextricably to the others and all were beyond reproach. But a deep transformation is under way in this nation of 73 million and elections this Sunday may prove a watershed: liberal Turks, once the principal political supporters of the nation’s ruling secular elite, are turning their backs on it and pledging their votes to religious politicians as well as a broad new array of independents. They say they are fed up with attempts by the elite to use religion to divide Turks and that Turkey, a predominantly Muslim democracy with a rapidly growing economy, needs to relax its controlling approach towards its own citizens in order to become a modern democracy. “This election is a power struggle between those who want change and those who don’t,” said Zafer Uskul, a prominent constitutional lawyer and human rights advocate who is running from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-inspired party in southern Turkey. “Religion is just an excuse.”(...) Now, as the election approaches, unleashing a power struggle between the nation’s secular elite and a group of religious politicians who draw their support from Turkey’s lower and middle classes, a vocal new civil society may just tip the balance, and help offset the danger of rising nationalism. The number of independent candidates running have more than tripled compared to the last election, many of them members of smaller parties that would not clear a 10 percent hurdle. “You heat water to 99 degrees, and it’s still water,” said Baskin Oran, an opinionated political science professor running as an independent candidate in Istanbul. “You heat it one more degree and it’s not water any more. This one degree is the year 2007.”(...) Inherent in Turkey’s progress was a strange contradiction. The state excluded religion from public life, and looked down upon religious, traditional Turks as backward — yet when those people became more integrated in public life, it condemned them as enemies of the state. “Secular urban forces headed by the army look at these people as if they were aliens from outer space,” said Dogu Ergil, a sociology professor at Ankara University. “But they are the products of the very regime that left them out.” READ IT ALL

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