There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Mustafa Akyol, which looks at how powerful secular forces in Turkey view the AK Party which is led by the current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.* Whilst the article is centered on Turkey and deals with the way the secular philosophy of the heirs of Ataturk refuse to see any difference between democratic political Islam as represented by Erdogan’s Party and the followers of Osama bin Laden. In many ways this blanketing together as fanatical bigots all factions of political Islam, who must be vigorously opposed as they represent a danger to the very fabric of secular societies, is replicated throughout much of the European Union, including by sections of the political left. Whilst this attitude due to historical reasons is perhaps understandable, it is never the less mistaken.
To fail to understand the differences between Erdogan’s world view and bin Laden’s is to buy into G. W. Bush’s clash of civilizations. Bin Laden and his ilk fear the masses more than they claim to fear god, there ideas are a return to the past and the revival of the Khilāfah. (Caliphate) Which basically would mean a crude and brutal pan-Islamic dictatorship with an imperial head who masquerades as God’s representative on earth. People like Bin Laden understand only to well that in todays world, the majority of Muslims are never going to support voluntarily such a dictatorship, thus they are forever going on about the righteousness of the sword.
Contrast this archaic language with that of the AK Party, an organization that has harnessed the will of the people by gaining a democratic mandate from them at the ballot box. They are not alone amongst the advocates of political Islam in doing this, but where they are somewhat unique is once they have gained political power instead of restricting democratic freedoms whilst strengthening their own position by passing reactionary laws, the AK Party have so far done the opposite by placing on the statue book legislation which extends democracy and individual freedoms.
Akyol claims that what many secularists are doing when it comes to political Islam amounts to a doctrine of preemptive intolerance, in that they oppose political Islam, especially what is termed the ‘moderate’ kind not for what they say and do, but what they might do in the future. Such reactionary ideas were they to take hold within a democratic society have the germs of that societies destruction within them, as it opens the doors to the most oppressive and arbitrary laws.
For example Erdogan’s Government recently removed the law which had prohibited religious young women from wearing headscarves to university. This was welcomed by the overwhelming majority of Turkish people whether religious or not, yet for the guardians of the secular state the removal of this act was a reactionary step and they struck back through the Constitutional Court, whose members have now agreed to hear a case which demands that the AK Party be banned and the President and Prime Minister along with 69 other leading politicians be bared from political activities for five years.
Ayol in his Wall Street Journal article quotes Princeton historian Sükrü Hanioglu, who said this [type of secular] ideology is rooted in the “vulgar materialism” of late 19th-century Germany, which heralded a post religious age of “science and reason.” This philosophy, which was emulated by some of the Young Turks and inherited by most of their Kemalist successors, has been openly endorsed by the Constitutional Court. “The secularism principle,” Turkey’s top judicial body argued in a 1989 decision, “requires that the society should be kept away from thoughts and judgments that are not based on science and reason.” In Turkey secular fundamentalism is the official ideology, and it is eager to crush any alternative. If religion is given even a little bit of space in public, they argue, it will soon dominate the whole system. This doctrine of preemptive intolerance guides, and misleads, Ankara’s establishment on virtually every issue….For them, there is no difference between the Gucci-wearing, head-scarved woman in Istanbul who wants to study business and the chador-wearing woman in Tehran.
Interesting stuff and as I said above such attitudes are not only promenent within the Turkish establishment and ‘deep State,’ but throughout much of the West.
*Click here for Mustafa Akyol’s article in The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120648058852163507.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries