By: Dr. Yasin Aktay*
Everyone would recall the thousands in Tahrir Square in January 2011, protesting Mubarak’s decades long regime in Egypt. The initial reaction of Westerners was to find out the religious or ethnic identity of the protesters. They care nothing about what they demanded, but rather who were the demanding. Were they religious segments or seculars? How many women were wearing hijab? How many of men having beards? The answer to these shallow questions was disconcerting. A massive heterogeneous crowd of people from highly different backgrounds rallied laying claim to an end of the corrupt order. The message was clear: Bringing democracy and the rule of law.
This call for justice in order to eradicate corruption, poverty, unemployment, social, political and economic inequity shortly turned into a series of vehement protests creating world-shaking effects. Nevertheless, as is known, the situation in the middle east today is far worse than pre-uprising. Two reasons came into prominence: Various religious, ethnic or sectarian groups’ labor over dominating their own ideological agenda over the furthest possible domain; and lack of efficacious support from global community due to adverse interests, self-centered calculations and opportunist maneuvers. There is already a substantial literature on the so called Arab Spring. This article rather aims to elaborate on July 15th coup attempt in Turkey with respect to the heroic reaction of Turkish nation and its symbolic link to the events in Arab uprisings.
While the initial slogans were common to all segments of protesters, the course of events soon derailed its trajectory and eventually led to a bloody environment based on redundant cleavages. Though there was nothing worth being at daggers drawn, justification of clashes gradually digressed from social and political realities of the region. Instead ethnic, religious and sectarian identities became determinant to kill or to die. Everyone asked for justice, yet none raised serious concern about what that justice really meant. Was it really that ambiguous? Was it really that difficult to find the lowest common denominator?
Is democracy Unislamic?
One key aspect that directly relates to muslims attitude over the years is about the meaning attributed to the concept of democracy. It has been a rationale for some muslims to nourish hatred to anyone or any group other than themselves. Since democracy was understood as a western concept inextricably linked to values such as secularism, liberalism and materialism, democratic principles and mechanisms could have no room to develop in the region. The alternative however has been brutal hostility and power struggle, even terror in the name of Islam. To these groups, democracy is the claim to establish the sovereignty of man against the sovereignty of Allah. Nevertheless, it is evident that for years, many muslims killed and died for parochial ideologies polished as the sovereignty of Allah. They forgot the fact that it was not these partial identities that created the thunder shivered the hearts of the corrupt governments. Millions of people from different worldviews could change the trajectory of the region in the name of justice and justice alone. Why did Muhammad Buazizi burn himself? And why now people are killing each other?
Turkish people gave the clearest answer to these vital questions on July 15th. All citizens from various backgrounds and worldviews united in the streets to show commitment to democratic system and the legitimate ground of politics. Although social mosaic of millions was quite similar to the people gathered in the Arabian streets, this time people stood shoulder to shoulder for the sake of preserving the established system rather than changing it. The message was clear: Protecting democracy and the rule of law.
Muslims who negate democracy and consider it unislamic, usually belittle majorities. Yet there seems to be no difference in attitude between those who claim to have the purest faith against the rest of the people stamped as ignorants, and the coup plotters who scorned the masses in Turkey. For both, majorities are useless wuss crowds who would strive only for their own life when coming across danger. Both pay no respect to people’s demands and choices, rather, they are the ones to be corrected simply by force(!). Those muslims at this point should face the question: Is it possible and just to establish an islamic society without the consent of the people in that society?
Justice and Development Party
Justice and Development Party (JDP) exhibit difference by its sensitivity and commitment to give ear to the voice of the public. JDP always focused on providing service to all segments of Turkish society without any discrimination. Instead of abstract ideologies that create undue cleavages, JDP focused on economy, education, healthcare, transportation, social and political rights as the central domains of development.
Although JDP is mainly considered as religiously oriented party, it is rather a party of service. Two reasons are behind that label: The executive team consists mainly of people who are religious in their private lives. And secondly JDP never treated muslims as the enemies of the secular republic. These two factors also –but unfortunately- accelerated Fetullah Gulen’s intensive infiltration into government bodies.
It is clear without a shadow of doubt that unless millions were in the streets to stand against coup plotters; on the next day, Turkey would be ruled by ruthless generals under the command of a psychopathic esoteric clerk: Fetullah Gulen. Turkish nation’s noble resistance in this sense is a clear message to all muslims in the world. Muslim leaders should respect their citizens regardless of religious, sectarian or ethnic identities. No one can stand against the power of people. The rulers should give voice to the common needs and demands.
For decades, muslim societies have been deprived of justice, transparency, accountability, political and economic independence, competence, social and economic welfare. We should abandon abstract identities of belonging that cover our real needs. Unfortunately, democracy also had its share by such abstraction. In some muslims’ mind it is placed upon its head. We should strive to turn it on its feet. As long as democracy is understood as an ideology inextricably linked to Christian secularism of the West, muslims are doomed to wallowing around intellectual sophistry, failing to see social and political realities. Democracy should essentially be embraced as merely a political technique devoid of any ideology. It’s the people’s consent that will shape its ideological content. In other words, it is to shape the world in accordance with the will of majority. The alternative is violent power struggle. Therefore, if muslims ask for an islamic future, they should first convince people so that they want it, rather than resorting to violence or oppression. Turkey clearly proved on July 15th that being a servant to millions would automatically generate the unhesitant support of those millions. That is a historical message to muslim world as well as to the conditional democracies of the West.
* Exclusively for www.middleeastobserver.org