Monday, April 30, 2007

Talking Turkey

My Turkish ancestors moved to India and thoroughly misbehaved. One started his own religion. Another wasted millions on building a tomb for his favourite wife.

I have a soft spot for Turkey which goes beyond the usual ANZAC Day nostalgia. This year, two major events are happening in my ancestral land. First is the 800th anniversary of the birth of Afghan-born Sufi poet Mevlana Jalaleddin Rumi, buried in the Turkish city of Konya. The second is the Presidential elections.

Believe it or not, these two events are linked. Rumi is a symbol of Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, probably the best antidote to political Islamist violence. However, Turkish Sufi orders historically played a major role in the Ottoman administration.

When Turkey ’s Gallipoli hero Mustafa Kemal Pasha carved out a nation from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire , he immediately banned Sufi orders. Turkish secularism doesn’t keep religion separate from politics per se. Rather, it ensures religious institutions are always subservient to secular politics. Further, religious symbols are to be kept away from public life as much as possible. In 1999, one Turkish MP was removed from Parliament and lost her citizenship after wearing a traditional headscarf.

For years, Turkey ’s more religiously-minded political movements had to remain content with making loads of hard cash. This gave them a natural advantage over their colleagues in other parts of the world. It also made them more pragmatic.

Hence, Turkey ’s version of political Islam is more pro-Western, democratic and secular. The ruling AK Party is Turkey ’s Muslim equivalent to the Christian Democratic Party of European nations such as Germany .

However, when Turkish Foreign Minister and AK Party founder Dr Abdullah Gul announced he would stand for the largely ceremonial position of President, the response from the Turkish Army (regarded as guardians of Turkey’s secular status quo) was a predictable one of threatening to move out of the barracks. Other Turks protested at what they saw was the AK Party’s attempt to impose political Islam on an inherently secular institution.

What a strange world Turks live in. The most democratic and pro-Western forces are the Islamists. The anti-democratic forces are the most secular. To think some months back Peter Costello wanted local Muslims to learn secularism and democracy from Turkey !

© Irfan Yusuf 2007


Anonymous said...

This is what our diggers did to the Mosque in Gaza;seq=91

All mosques should be made into rubble.

Irfan Yusuf said...

I didn't want to post the above comment, but I thought the URL for the photo was interesting. Otherwise, I urge the NSW Young Liberal staffer who posted the comment to get back to work! My taxes are paying your wages, you lazy piece of otherwise unemployable crap!

Marek Bage said...

I think you've got that one wrong Mr Yusuf.
The URL is from the State Library of NSW.
Since when would a Young Liberal ever be found near a library?
Unless you're infering that the poster actually 'works' at the SL-NSW.
Now, tell me, what are the chances of that?

wali said...

anon @ 2:07 PM -
No wonder the Liberals are the laughing stock of NSW politics. They are literally a giant, bumbling, retarded joke these days. And is it any wonder, what with incompetent, unemployable, mummy's-boys like your embarrassingly sad, below-average IQ self at the top of their selection-list?