Home/Daniel Larison/Hold Page One: We’ve Got Secularists Rallying For Secularism!

Hold Page One: We’ve Got Secularists Rallying For Secularism!

The pictures tell you everything: an exuberant, peaceful massive demonstration in a Muslim country for secular democracy. It seems to me that the most important ally the United States now has is Turkey: critical for maintaining the survival of Kurdistan; critical for stemming the tide of Islamism in the Mulism world; pivotal in helping Europe integrate its new Muslim immigrants in the ways of pluralism and secularism [bold mine-DL]. But let’s stop from a moment to look at all these people in the near east, loving democracy, cherishing freedom from theocratic diktats, celebrating the equality of women. Know hope. Freedom is more powerful than fundamentalism. In the long run. ~Andrew Sullivan

Never mind that the exuberant demonstration is a demonstration against the ruling party that represents most Turks and is made up of people committed to Kemalist secularism.  Their ace in the hole is the army, and they know that if the Islamists go too far the army will step in.  Then we’ll see how the survival of Kurdistan works out.   

Just consider whether the other points make any sense.  Turkey is critical for maintaining the survival of Kurdistan?  Well, I suppose it might be, if we mean that its refusal, so far, to invade Kurdistan means that Kurdistan will survive a little longer.  Turkey’s government doesn’t want Kurdistan to survive; if it had its way, it wouldn’t want Kurdistan to exist.  Turkey will stem the tide of Islamism in the Muslim world?  How?  The “reformed” Islamists are in power in Turkey, and have no particular interest in stemming the tide of Islamism elsewhere.  Ankara was notorious in backing Bosnian and Albanian Muslims in the ’90s, even though both groups had ties to jihadis from the Near East.  Is there any evidence that the Turkish government is actively working against Islamism in other countries?  On the contrary, the sympathy for Hizbullah itself last summer was hard to miss.  Turkey is pivotal in helping Europe integrate their Muslim populations?  How?  The Muslims in France do not by and large come from Turkey, and most Europeans don’t even want to bring Turkey into the EU–why would they accept Turkish advice on integrating Muslim immigrants if they don’t want to integrate Turkey into Europe, and why would the Turks give advice to people who clearly want to keep them at arm’s length?  Aren’t those elevating Turkey as the great synthesis of East and West simply projecting what they hope to see developing in the Islamic world?  Aren’t these protests expressions of a secularism under siege that feels itself to be on the wane and endangered by the rise of political Islam?  Why do we take them as signs of confidence and health of a secular Turkey?

The people in these demonstrations may be rebelling against imaginary “theocratic diktats” (of which there has been none in Turkey for at least 73 years), but they also represent the political forces that enforce secularist and nationalist diktats.  Relatively few people in Turkey are on the side of freedom as such.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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