Friday, July 27, 2007

A different view at the latest Turkish elections

While surfing in blogosphere I came across an interesting article written by a Dutch journalist stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, Harald Doornbos. He is trying to draw a parallel between the outcome of the Turkish elections and the birth rate observed in secular and Islamist families in Turkey. Since I believe in looking at different aspects of every happening I would like to take your attention to his post:


So it is official now - Over 46 percent of Turks voted for the Islamists. Call it a farewell to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the greatest Turk ever. The end of Secularism. The beginning of the end. Death to the president, long live the sultan!

Turkey might have been an example for millions of oppressed progressive Muslims in Islamic countries - but no longer. One of the few truly secular Muslim countries (together with Bosnia and Albania) chooses - voluntarily - for mixing politics with God. Give me one example of a successful country where politics and religion aren't separated? Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, The Sudan, Lebanon? Good luck Turkey.

And isn't democracy a great system?!

Especially if it works like this:

Progressive secular Turkish families (Mostly city people) all have one or two children. Logically - because if you are progressive, not terribly religious and you care about a future for yourself and your children, it is rather obvious that you don't want 20 children.

Now here comes the countryside: Schooling is wanky, future not that rosy, conservative village mentality, religion very important and the result of this all is: Large families.

You can read the whole article
here. See for yourself if he is convincing enough in his theory ;-)


Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

Great posting Yasemin..))

Those terrible Duch knows everything better.
I don't believe that secularism will ever be defeated in Turkey.

Nihat said...

Hans, what do you base that belief on? For example, do all those Turkish media organs, which you say you like the best, do they work vigorously to expose various acts undermining secular principles? Or do they keep cheering for how all is good and very democratic?

You partly know my doubts and all from Emre's place. So, on a less polemical note, I'd like to ask a few questions that you or Yasemin may have thoughts on.

What has the role, if any, of the existence of organized, instutionalized Churches been in the development of secularism in Christiandom? Like their coming to a realization that they have to coexist? Consequently, in Islamdom, could the absence of an internalized secular thought be linked to the absence of organized, institutionalized Mosques? There are of course schools of thought in Islam (and some major sects); some are said to be potentially more accommodating of secularism than others. But these are not as organized or institutionalized as Christian Churches, and their teachings are only remotely and speculatively accessible to Muslim masses. Most out-there and vocal Muslim schools of thought appear to be dead set against each other, some poised to eradicate one another, physically if need be, while ordinary Muslims profess that there is one Islam, it is pure, and it can only be good to mix it with government and politics.

I'm afraid your Dutch colleauge has a point. Every people appears to have a natural need to reinvent the wheel itself. You don't even quite like or understand the wheel your grandfathers came up with.

Hans said...

Regarding Turkish media, I take them for granted, and in many cases or issues, they tend to a more sensational way of bringing news than bring up facts..
About your questions: most of the people in the Nordic countries as well UK, NW Europe, are non affiliated.
Only Greece is in my opinion not secular. Which is not a burden for the EU at the moment but will be...
I disagree with you that Christianity is institionalized in Europe. We talk more about values and norms then obligations towards your faith.
I will leave some space for Yasemin, since she lives in Catholic Italy, and as a Turk have more the picture than I have.
But there is a cosmic war going on between the fundamentalist of Al Quada and Bush....

Nihat said...

Hans, I didn't mean Europe is an institutionalized Christian club (if that's where your sensitive point is:). But historically, Christianity had institutionalized Churches. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches are probably the biggest ones of deep historical roots; and the fight between these two affected us, Turks, too, first as heirs to and then as descendants of the Eastern Church. Arguably, it still is affecting us. But this is a very convoluted, non-obvious, contraversial, and confusing perspective. And it is totally besides the point as the competition between these two was one of imperial claims against one another, and had nothing to with secularism. So your Greek side can rest assured in the context of this debate, okay?

Rather, I had in mind the products of reformation era. Protestanism, various branches that came into being (Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, etc.) I don't even know if all such are protestant sects, and sorry, I can't enumerate more examples. But, I believe they were and are organized and institutionalized in the sense that they had/have pyhsical assets (churches, schools, and other real estate maybe) and human resources (from salaried clergy to non-clerical employees). I also consider that the flourishing of European secular thought took off in that time and place of wars of religion. I don't know, my knowledge of Christian history is cursory, and I am not sure even of my chronology here. Was just asking.

Yeah, might be good to hear also from Yasemin.

yasemin said...

Hello boys ;-) My knowledge of Christian historical evolution is quite scarce but I can tell you what I observe/have observed and have heard from my friends down in Italy and up in Norway. Christian churches are definitely very well organized and they work like the clock. I once had a Polish colleague up in Norway (who enjoyed drinking a lot and could not be considered a Christian or believer of any religion) and he said that he respected the Christian church a lot, because, in his opinion, it was the best founded and well-kept organization in the world, with all of its assets, its politics and 'employees'.

I see the power of the church here in Italy everyday. The politicians have a tendency to 'show their respects' to the pope every now and then. When they are supposed to make some decisions they are afraid to 'hurt the feelings' of the church. And the church is not afraid to tell its opinion on daily life issues in the country, like they show on every occasion that they are against unions of men and women outside of marriage, they are against gays etc. But here in Italy the word 'secular' (they use the word 'laico') is misinterpreted. Anybody who is 'laico' is considered to be someone without religion. They are always talking about two groups of people: catholics and 'laici', catholics being the religious ones, laici the non-religious. If you go to a court house in Italy and enter any hall you will see the writing 'the law is equal for everybody' and over it hangs a cross with Jesus figure on it. In each classroom in schools (state schools, municipal schools, private religious schools) you find the cross hanging next to the blackboard. There have been cases where some 'courageous' people appeared and asked these crosses to be removed pointing out that the schools and especially the courts are supposed to be secular places, but they usually don't succeed in their battle. Immediately someone influential from the church comes out talks about the Christian roots, traditions etc and the crosses remain.

When it comes to the assets of the church.... They are Rich. Especially in Italy every beautiful corner, hill-top, forest is 'ornamented' by an old monastery of some kind. They are everywhere. They have many schools at all levels. Every year when we do our income declaration we are supposed to choose where to donate 8 promille of our income. The choices are different kinds of Christian churches/sects or the state. If you omit this choice your 'obligatory' donation goes automatically to the catholic church, not to the state as one would expect..

hans said...

As I once wrote, the Roman Catholic Church is the biggest mutinational in the world. Pretty well organized, but its impact is decreasing. The Philippines, Brazil, Poland, Portugal and Italy are considered as the most catholic countries where the church have influence on people education and choices.
The schisma in the 16th century was all about the St. Pieters basilique, which was built with money of 'aflaat'. Luther made the Protestant church less fancy. Calvin, the reformatic, made his christain church dogmatic. But the christian theocracy lost its influence after the 'enlightment' in the 18th/`19th century.
I can give a round up of countries, but in general, the Roman Catholic church is institutionalized, but limited by secular laws, especially those implemented by Napoleon.
In the netherlands, germany, Belgium etc, the frontrunners is envorimental issues and world aid are these reformist religion.
Sects are not tolerated, in contrary to the USA, where everybody can start an Inc. (ltd.)and say 'this is a churc'. But also there the church its institutions and power are limited by secular laws.

Nihat said...

Hans, sure they are limited by secular laws; otherwise, you'd have theocracies in all those countries.

I guess, my questions was simply, the competition and figting amongst organized Christian sects with assets to lose, and with hierarchical power structures to protect... could these have been a factor in these religious powerhouses' eventually conceding supremacy to secular laws and state superstructures? Despite my limited knowledge, I presume an affirmative answer. Perhaps, it shouldn't be exaggerated... I don't know.

But, in my humble opinion, if this was a significant factor behind Western secularism, then it becomes quite interesting an exercise to contrast this with the case of Islamdom. As I said before, Islam doesn't have the same kind of organized Mosques; furthermore, this is a matter of pride for many Muslims (meaning, no clergy between the Muslim individual and Allah; if Yasemin went through the same mainstream Turkish institutions I attended to, she would know what I am talking about.) My point is, arguably, this very no-middle-man nature of Islam has also made its consolidation into similar powerhouses which, by their very nature, would have to evolve politically, potentially reaching a secular modus vivendi in their environment. Absent such historical development, today we mostly see the more radical and/or violent Islamic groups' proving themselves more adept at organizing themselves to great effect, albeit often in a negative sense. From their perspective, this probably is the great power of Islam: an ever-present grassroots to draw power from, you know.

I don't know, I may be onto something here. On the other hand, I can't imagine myself, a scarcely educated person on these matters, to be the first to ask this line of questions. There's gotta be some research done on it somewhere in the social or Islamic studies daprtment... I just am not aware of such.

Yasemin, your account of Italian world was very interesting for me. Thanks for sharing... Laici being regarded as irreligious people especially. How very Turkish-Islamistish! Our people of faith may have a point, a precedent then. Aren't there any people (in measurable numbers) who consider themselves Catholics and also laico? Wait, maybe, this is a linguistic impossibility... Then, do you think that Catholics would describe themselves as secular when the term is properly qualified?

Nihat said...

Correction: Strike made out, and write prevented in the following.

My point is, arguably, this very no-middle-man nature of Islam has also prevented its consolidation into similar powerhouses which, by their very nature, would have to evolve politically, potentially reaching a secular modus vivendi in their environment.

Hans said...

Nihat, the so called 'sects' in Christianity are rare and often not legal in Europe. Remember, we still are talking about the Eu with an AC.
Sects in North and South America are well known.
The point here is: is Islam organized as a relgion, as we can witness every day: no.
Is Christianity organized: no.
But the main difference is that, bottom up, Christianity is pascifistic in contrary with Islam.
And was colonial Europe pascifistic: no. So were not the Ottomans.
To avoid further clashes the EU was established. Something some Turks still don't get..((

Nihat said...

Oh, make no doubt, I (and I believe most Turks) had gotten the ultimate idea behind EU, "to avoid further clashes," as you put it. That's why, for example, you had witnessed some uneasiness, warnings and opposition to Turkey's supporting the Annan Plan for Cyprus, all understandable yet measured. In contrast to that, you started to see an uproar out of disappointment after the Greek Cypriots' rejection of the plan, and the EU's admitting them as full member nonetheless. Add to this the German and increasingly outspoken French intransigence. We are more disillusioned about it all than anything else, Hans. This naturally leads to most other aspects of EU-Turkey dealings' being called into question. The dream may continue for you, but it appears to be dead for us. Until further sign to the contrary, but you know that I am not holding my breath.

Hans said...

The ultimate goal of the EU is 'no to Nationalism'.
Emre can give you a direction since he with his Bsc in Political Science knows how the EU works..))
I leave my Msc's next to me..))
Turkey will be a member of the EU by 2014. A bet?.))

Hans said...

Btw, Nihat,
You like to burn the Midnight Oil..))

Nihat said...

Admirable goal; but yes to what? Good luck pulling it off. I hope the demise of the dream doesn't come out of Turkish hands.

Yeah, I am lighting the kandil. Good night to you.

Hans said...

Nihat, replying to all my 'fans' took me today 5 hrs....))
I can tell you that I love to write, but rather have a conversation faco to face than and endless chat.
Nothing wrong with your comments, but I need the silence in my head to write what my thoughts are.
At the moment I am worried about Iran, who they kill on daily base people. Turkey is for them 'Heaven'.

Nihat said...

I perfectly understand (and I didn't think you were prematurely cutting the conversation, either; I felt it was about time, too).

Yeah, I'd rather continue my pursuit of understanding you better thru your posts rather than quick comments. Even in your posts, I find you cryptic sometimes, but that LDP think somewhat clears it up.