Spencer on Turkey

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

FrontPage Magazine has an posted interesting article by Robert Spencer on the threat to secularism in Turkey and more importantly, what, exactly Turkish secularism is.

[B]ecause most of the participants in these pro-secularist rallies are nominally Muslims, they illuminate certain important aspects of the way forward for opposition to Islamic Sharia rule in Islamic societies. Onur Oymen of the secularist Republican People's Party recently denied that the secularist ralliers represented "moderate Islam." He declared: "You can't have democracy without secularism. The notion of moderate Islam to check radical Islam is nonsense. This idea being promoted by certain countries should be abandoned."

At first glance Oymen's distinction between secularism and moderate Islam may seem to be a distinction without a difference. Wouldn't a secular government in Turkey, and a movement in favor of that secularism, be essentially a movement of moderate Islam? After all, almost all of those who are protesting against Islamic rule in Turkey would identify themselves as Muslims.

However, identification as a Muslim is one thing, and acceptance of the principles of political Islam is quite another. All over the world today jihadists are targeting peaceful Muslims in their recruitment efforts, and presenting themselves as the exponents of "true" and "pure" Islam, including -- as the title of a widely-circulated publication had it -- jihad, "the forgotten obligation." Part of this presentation centers on a reassertion of political Islam. Cultural Muslims who have no desire to live in an Islamic state nonetheless have been able to formulate no response on Islamic grounds to the jihadist challenge. The only response that has ever gained traction in the Islamic world has been not just a de facto laying-aside of Islam's political and social character, but a self-conscious elimination of that character -- and Ataturk's Turkey has been the site of the greatest success of this approach. Ataturk realized that there would be a recrudescence and reassertion of political Islam whenever there was a revival of religious fervor. Thus Kemalism presented itself not as "moderate Islam," nor as an Islamic construct at all, but as an explicit rejection of political Islam in favor of secularism. That is, it was never presented as an Islamic construct or justified by Islamic teachings, but was an explicit rejection of certain traditional aspects of Islam. [bold added]
Note the echoing of a point made by John Lewis about our current war -- a point which was understood by our leaders as we were occupying Japan: that freedom requires a separation of religion from the state.

Despite the rising threat to secularism in Turkey, the fact that Turkey has been secular for so long is something we should think about more deeply. Why? Because Turkey's history shows that even a society where a followers of Islam form a majority can be free of Islamic law.

What the trouble in Turkey shows us is that the public must generally want the advantages of secularism. Some of these advantages would be far more apparent were the West far less tolerant of the malfeasance that is part and parcel of Islamic theocracies.

-- CAV

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