Monday, April 30, 2007

RE: Turkey, Secular Democracy, And the illegality of secular resistance to the Will of the Turkish people

As of this writing, Turkey is experiencing a constitutional and societal crisis. It's largely a conflict where various societal forces, Secular nationalist parties and an Islamic oriented political movement, are coming to a clash. Now its political and legal. But it may very likely become wider.

Asia Times: Turkish military intervenes in Democratic election of president

But unlike normal domestic clashes between various political forces, this clash in Turkey holds important global significance.


Because for nearly 100 years, the Muslim world and its Muslim minority communities abroad have been undergoing a Resurgence towards Islam. Briefly, the 150 years preceding, Western colonial powers had advanced the causes of secularism and nationalism throughout the world. They had successfully raised these two flags within the Muslim world to serve their imperial interests. Thus, Arab and Persian nationalism resulted in these two groups siding against Turks and the Islamic oriented Ottoman state. Eventually after World War I where the Ottoman state fought and lost against the British empire and her allies, British imperial coaxing supported Turkish nationalism in the name of Mustapha Kemal. Through Kemal, the British aimed to finally do away with the remaining Muslim stronghold and the last bastion of Islamic sovereignty on earth: the Ottoman state (technically called the Uthmani khilafah).
But Kemal wasn't just a nationalist. Kemal was an ardent secularist who crafted a secular doctrine, cultural personality, and belief system which was designed to rival the Ottoman state and the Islamic identity which it upheld in every way.
Where the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) had a saying regarding public life, Kemal devised a saying. Where the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) presented a command or prohibition, Kemal presented an alternative one. Eventually, Kemal's efforts, called Kemalism by its followers, forceably replaced that of Islam from the Quran and the Prophet (saaw) in school, in the media, and in intellectual life of Turkey.

Kemal's idea was to replace everything that Islam and the Ottoman experience provided for hundreds of years. In most respects, Kemal's secular nationalism mirrored Leninist Russia and the fictious Orwellian state of modern literature.

After WWI, the British, French, Greeks, and others engaged in military conquests, acquisitions, and other actions against Anatolia and the Ottoman state. Kemal and his military forces which he led on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan countered. These counter actions by Kemal conspicuously ended in Ottoman victories which were made to bolster Kemal's standing rather than that of the Sultan. Kemal became more popular than the Sultan and more people turned to Kemal for leadership.
Thus, as the Ottoman state and the Ottoman Sultan were in their last days after WWI, at first Kemal pretended to call for a revised Islamic state with Turkish identity and Kemal as a kind of sultan/caliph.
But as Kemal took prominence and won leadership through the parliement, he abolished the Ottoman state, the office of the Sultan, and thus ended the Islamic caliphate. He next move was to form Turkey into a secular nationalist republic which would redefine Turkey.

In the process of redefining Turkey, Kemal took several authoritarian measures which served to destroy the Islamic and Ottoman identity of the people. He banned Islamic texts from public access, placing perhaps 100s of 1000s of texts, official forms and documents, and manuscripts from Ottoman history in govt restricted archives and out of reach of the people. He changed the language from an arabic based script to a latin one, forcing millions to abandon their linguistic heritage which connected them to Ottoman and Islamic history to a new state controlled history of Kemal's interpretations. These authoritarian actions closely resemble Orwellian and Soviet governance in the 20th century. Kemal went on to ban cultural attire from Islamic and Ottoman heritage, such as banning headcovers on women, turbans and fezs on men, and robes on both men and women. Kemalism also meant such Christian centric adopts as the Gregorian calender and the Sunday Sabbath, abolishing the Islamic alternatives. All of these actions and more took place through military power.

Upon forming the Turkish republic at the abolishment of the Ottoman sultanate, Kemal inscripted in the new Turkish constitution that the military would be the power and guardian of the Kemalist based Turkish republic. And as Kemal mde these declarations, he swiftly removed those military officers who showed fealty and ties to the Ottoman state and promoted those who showed obedience to his own ideas. Adn through these measures, the Turkish military served Kemal's agenda obediently. Eventually, the Turkish military would reject soldiers that prayed according to Islam, that wore facial hair according to Islam, that read the Quran or knew arabic or traditional Turkish language or showed Islamic identity in any fashion. This
vetting process served Kemalism to a point where Kemal became more important to Turkey than God, the Prophet Muhammad (saaw), Islam, or Ottoman history.

In this way, Kemal was quoted as saying: "I am Turkey... To destroy me is to destroy Turkey." To no surprise, Kemal imprisoned, executed, and exiled his political rivals. Only his secular nationalist political party was allowed by the military to run government. After years of authoritarian rule, Kemal was crowned by his parliement Ataturk, the Father of the Turks. Kemal's sayings were taught in school, memorized, and quoted in the media, intellectual and political life both forcibly and consistently until generations knew only Kemalism and knew nothing or only little of Islam.

In this historical light does modern Turkey revisit this matter of Kemalist shaped Turkish government facing a global resurgence towards Islam. The Turkish military had engaged in 4 coup detats since 1950 to remove Islamic leaning political movements in Turkey and to maintain the dominance of Kemalism.
However, in a modern Turkey which presents "democratic elections", though they outlaw Islamic political parties or any parties reflecting anything less than Kemalist type thought, Turkey's people once again has voted a majority into the National Assembly that favor Islamic ideas, identity, and political direction.
Once again, the process of the will of the Turkish people has been fairly presented to the world.
And yet once again, as Kemal had designed it, the Turkish military has blocked the will of the people according to their interpretation of Kemalism as it contradicts and counters Islam.

And as this occurs, the world is forced to reconsider whether the "will of the people" through relatively free and fair elections can supercede the secular nationalist ideologies which are forced upon them by their military. For Turkey, the sole candidate for the office of the presidency of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, is legally qualified and personally capable of the position. But according to Kemalist military interpretation, by some cryptic unannounced and unknown reason except their claims of "defense of the republic", the military refuses his candidacy.

Four times they've done this, the most recent in 1990/1991. But this time, more is at risk. For as the crisis ensues, Turkey is pledging to join the EU, which holds adherence to constitutionality and rule of law in a nation more valuable than the Turkish military values Kemalist ideology above the will of the people, or so it seems. And the military intervention serves as a far greater obstical to Turkish membership to the EU which is so prized by the secular parties and the military of Turkey. And so, the Turkish military upholding Kemalism against the will of the Turkish people shows the world that it does NOT value rule of law or constitutionality above its political power.

And so it goes that all the world must question from what source do laws emerge? From dictators and military rulers? From "the people"? From constitutional assemblies representing one, the other, or both? From God Himself?

And which is better for mankind? As it were, many secular Western leaders such as De Gaulle, Sharon, Newt Gingrich, Roosevelt, championed and lauded Kemal as a great example and leader of the world. Yet in his name, the military which he constructed still blocks the will of the Turkish people to advance beyond him and his era of authoritarian rule. What is left for such a people if 80 years later they are still obstructed from advancing and growing beyond him and his followers?

And in this light, who led the protest this April weekend in support of the military, but a minority of people who ally, and most reasonably are organized and supported, and led by the Turkish military? The same military who subsequently used the publicity of the protests to reverse the lawful electoral process based solely on some unknown, cryptic nationalist dogmatic interpretation of which they only refer to in slogans rather than some incriminating evidence.

And so it goes.

No comments: