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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
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5.21.2007

Turkish Non-Delight

Barbara Lerner:

Turkish secularists — even, or perhaps especially, the many pious Muslims who march in their ranks — know in their bones that the first assumption is so far off-the-mark that, by and large, only non-Muslims really believe it. It was, after all, Christ, not Mohammed, who said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” and “My kingdom is not of this world.” Those statements are, at the very least, ambiguous enough to allow Christianity to play a limited role in some secular governments without turning them into all-encompassing theocracies. Islam’s Prophet never said anything remotely similar, and there was no ambiguity about what he did say on this topic. Islam is both a religion and a complete, all-encompassing system of theocratic government, here on this earth. Arguing that it can play a limited role in government is like arguing that one can be a little bit pregnant.

Modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal — renamed Ataturk (“Father of the Turks”) by his grateful countrymen — had a profound grasp of these home truths, and acted on them in ways that changed Turkey and the world. Ataturk is the man who abolished the Caliphate, and with it, Turkey’s 500-year-old claim to a divine right to rule the Muslim world and a good chunk of Europe, too. Ataturk is also the man who made secularism — not democracy or liberty — the bedrock constitutional principle of the Turkish Republic he founded in 1923. He did that because he understood that liberty and democracy can only coexist with Islam in a passionately secular state — a state that maintains an all-but-complete separation of mosque and state, confining Islam to the religious sphere, denying it any role at all in government on principle, and remaining ever watchful against Islamist encroachments on government. That was Ataturk’s formula for success, and American Neos, especially, should “bethink” themselves before dismissing it as an “unworkable” extreme, because it did work. It kept liberty and democracy alive in Turkey for 84 continuous years, and that’s a record no other mainly Muslim nation has ever approached, and only a very few mainly Christian nations have ever equaled or surpassed.

Ataturk’s contemporary followers — the Kemalists O’Sullivan sees as less “tolerant of religious expression” than European secularists — are, in fact, the most persistently tolerant Muslims the world has ever known when it comes to respecting the right to worship in peace of both their Sunni Muslim majority and their Alevi (Shiite) minority, and of Turkish Christians, Jews, and Sufis, too. As Bekdil forcefully reminds us, it wasn’t secularists who carried out the disturbing series of violent attacks in Turkey over the past five years — murders of priests, judges, Christian converts, and Armenians, bombings of synagogues and Western consulates, and more. The AKP didn’t order these attacks, but it is a mistake to ignore the fact that all of the men who carried them out came from the ranks of Islamists who back the AKP. Turkey’s secularists aren’t “intolerant,” and they don’t reject Islam as a religion. They’re Muslims; it’s their religion, too. What they reject is any role at all for Islam in the governance of their Republic.

No matter, say the Neos: contemporary Kemalists are only a tiny, unrepresentative elite, working to thwart the will of the Turkish majority by allying themselves with the real threat to Turkish democracy: undemo-cratic Turkish military officers who cling to what EU Neos call “their illegitimate, self-appointed role” as guardians of the secular Republic. As Neos see it, these power-hungry military officers are just itching to mount a military coup, and are only barely restrained by the steady stream of warnings, threats, and condemnations issued against them by the EU in April and, sadly, echoed by our own feckless State Department in May.

These Neo warnings to Turkish generals may sound righteous to many Americans, but they offend and anger tens of millions of Turks because they ignore the actual Turkish facts about the Turkish military and its role in Turkish life. In place of these facts, Neos impose the conventional Western view of “the military,” refusing to recognize the unique character of Turkey’s military and the unique role it has always played in making Turkey the Muslim world’s only successful democracy. It is a mistaken view, on all counts.


As someone who's shooed cats away from my sac tava while sitting on a stool propped against the ancient walls of Diyarbakir, I can tell you that what Western journalists and EU bureaucrats know about Turkey wouldn't fill a thimble. They insist on applying Third World templates to the most stable and secular Muslim nation the world has ever seen.

Turkey should not be romanticized. There is rampant political corruption, terrorist violence (confined largely to the southeastern, Kurdish areas), and significant economic misery in Turkey. However, Turkey has also been one of our stauncher allies, has one of the finest militaries in the world, and has shown literal interest in expanding her power and influence (in fact, we've tried to prod her to do so in the Middle East).

We are combatting Islamic fascists. The Turks have triumphed over them, repeatedly. Might there not be something in their approach to emulate? Might they not be natural allies in the struggle?

Who would you trust more---the Pakistanis who harbor Osama bin Laden, or the Turks who fought by the side of our Marines in the worst fighting of the Korean War?

In a contest between a democratically-elected Turkish Islamist premier and a secular, pro-American Turkish Army, I know which side I want to see prevail.

Does the President? Does the State Department?

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Turk said...

Actually, barbara lerner doeant know what she is talking about. Both "secularist nationalists" and "islamist" terrorists hate the akp and are allied.
For instance, "secularist nationalists" carried out the murders of priests, judges, Christian converts, and Armenians, while "islamist" terrorists carried out the bombings of synagogues and Western consulates.
Don't believe the hype. Both of these groups are equally nuts. Always support democracy, both in the US and abroad. Otherwise, you support the " terrorists" .

7:51 AM  

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