May 31st, 2007 08:55 EST
The World's Softest Military Coup: A la Turca
On April 27, what made the Turkish Military interfere with the democratic process " once again and give the strongest and clearest message to Islamism through an ultimatum released on their official website? Turkish and the world media are still wondering if this ultimatum is the harbinger of an upcoming militarily coup. I`ve got news for them: the coup has already taken place but what makes it so different this time is the nature of it. Thus is it the softest military coup of all times, a soft coup specifically designed to stop the further development of soft (some call it moderate ") Islamism in Turkey. The Turkish Armed Forces, traditionally the most trusted institution of the Turkish nation, and predominantly a defensive force, gave a very clear memorandum to the wolves in sheep`s clothing " that Turkey is a secular country and will remain as such.
Just as radical Islamists have discovered democracy as a means to gain power legitimately, and temporarily soften their otherwise unbending ideology, the Turkish Military this time has opted not to use their tanks and prisons but rather their powerful words which have indeed successfully influenced and masterfully manipulated the most powerful mechanisms of secularism, the Constitutional Court being the most significant. Following the short and clear messages of the Military, the Constitutional Court, with an almost unanimous vote, legitimately " and democratically " blocked the soft Islamist Abdullah G"l`s path into the highest office in Turkey. Like his reformed " Islamist comrade Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo"an, who had said democracy is a street car, we will ride on it until we reach our destination, and then get off. " Mr. G"l had made many Islamist confessions in the past, including his declaration: the end of the secular Republic of Turkey has come! " The argument claiming that the ruling party has transformed from its radical Islamist National Vision ideology to the more moderate Islamic AKP might look believable and hopeful to many, including to our government in Washington. What we know about these Islamists through open source is enough to make secular Turks very nervous. Take a look at the millions demonstrating against them in Turkey "the latest one took place in Samsun on May 20. What is also significant about these demonstrations is that all of them were organized and led by secular women`s organizations - a symbolic message to the Islamists who have been using turban " (a specific form of headscarf, according to many, a counter-revolutionary Islamist icon) in challenging the very foundations of the semiotic revolution of the Republic of Turkey. One can be sure that the Turkish Military intelligence knows much more about Turkish Islamists and their operations, and nothing would stop the military from interfering with the democratic process " when their intelligence comes to an alarming level regarding Islamist activities and infiltration. This right to interfere " has been provided to them by their own constitution (article 35) whenever they determine " that the secular Republic must be protected against internal or external enemies of the country.
The military`s ultimatum vehemently accuses Islamists of exploiting the people`s sacred religious feelings and declaring war against the Turkish state, " asserting that Islamists, under the guise of religious freedom have been hiding their actual goal [the foundation of an Islamic Republic of Turkey]. " The ultimatum especially highlights the Turkish Military`s grave concern over the exploitation of women and children " in Islamist and separatist activities.
Eighty-four years ago, an Ottoman military, cultural, and political genius named Mustafa Kemal confined religion to personal conscience. An increasing number of critics in our time interpret this vision and policy as a violation of human and religious rights. Others find in it a protection of religious beliefs and values against exploitation by ideologies. This is where the Turkish Military stands. Though I try to understand the resentments of the former group mentioned above, I tend to agree more with the latter interpretation. The fact that there are now some 120,000 mosques in Turkey (a number that couldn`t have been imagined under the Islamic " Ottoman Empire which lasted more than 600 years) attests to the protections and religious freedoms that Atat"rk`s policies implemented (at least as far as the Sunni majority is concerned).
In its original sense, Atat"rk`s vision was not based on dogmas but rather on self-questioning and progress, and it is this progressive nature of Kemalism that distinguished Turkey from other countries with a majority Muslim population. Just about every article of the Turkish Constitution could be questioned, reinterpreted or be completely rewritten according to the political needs of a given time. But there is one article that can in no way, shape or form be questioned, modified, or abolished" "that is, Turkey is a secular and democratic Republic. Many critics of Kemalism find a contradiction and self-destruction in this philosophy, but Kemalism interprets this as the insurance and protection of religious and democratic values and freedoms since it views Islamism, not Islam, as an enemy of democracy and pluralism.Washington`s project of promoting moderate Islam " may very well be the best available solution to stop terror from gaining ground in Islamic countries and would be an enormous step forward in normalizing " those societies. But the same project cannot be viewed as progress " for the Republic of Turkey. This is where the line must be drawn. The majority of analysts suggests that Turkey is and should be the leader in achieving the goal of establishing moderate Islam " in the Middle East and beyond. I completely disagree. Turkey should be left alone in this venture. First of all, no Islamic country would believe that Turks are Muslim enough. " Accusations of manipulations by the CIA would fuel the usual conspiracy theories. Despite its current and alarming problems with Islamism, Turkey is already light-years ahead of all other Islamic countries. Secularists, including of course the President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and the Turkish Military, most likely view this project as backwardness " and an attempt to destroy the separation of mosque and state, which is the foundational principal upon which the Republic of Turkey rests.
The military`s ultimatum on April 27th makes it very clear that the Turkish Islamist, "irticai` (meaning literally "backwards`) mentality also obtains its courage from some current developments and discourses and thus has been expanding its operational territory. " What do they mean by these current developments and discourses "? The presumed US plans to establish an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq would certainly fall into this category, but more important than that, the Turkish Military seems to be worried about the green light that the global Fethullah G"len network has been given by the recent RAND Corporation`s publication entitled Building Moderate Islamic Networks. " The RAND report presents Fethullah G"len as a Turkish sufi " (p. 74). There may be many wonderful people among the millions of G"len followers (some of whom I personally know and like very much), but as far as I know, the Turkish Military has always been extremely cautious and suspicious regarding the leader of this global empire, as it views G"len as a clever Islamist who has been operating freely, and now from within the borders of the United States. Although there is no official recognition of an organic link between Erdo"an`s AKP and the G"len network, it seems highly possible to me that the Turkish Military presumes a direct link between the da`wa ( "struggle`) of Erdo"an and G"len, one operating locally, the other globally, towards the successful transformation of Turkey from a secularist state to an Islamic theocracy.
The generals of the world`s softest military coup argue with quite harsh words that using religion as an instrument of a political discourse [clearly a reference to all forms of Islamism] destroys the very faith itself and turns it into something else. " Following this argument, the Turkish Military`s ultimatum gives the specific example of the recent massacres in Malatya where three Christian missionaries were barbarically sliced into pieces by the followers of Islamist ultra nationalism. This example should make it very clear to those who might be confused about the concept of ultra nationalism " in Turkey.
Nationalism no doubt was and still is an indispensable part of Kemalism, but the expansionist and racist ideology of ultra nationalism and especially its Islamist mutation (as represented by Muhsin Yaz"c"o"lu`s BBP) are considered as dangerous as any form of Islamism by the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kemalist ideology itself. The dictum of this movement, Kan"m"z aksa da zafer "slam"n! ", ( Even if our blood is shed, the victory will be Islam`s! "), cannot possibly find any kind of endorsement from the guardians of Atat"rkist thought and secularism.
On November 22, 2006, 39 members of a related militant group called the Alperen Ocaklar" (or Nizam-" Alem Ocaklar") invaded the Hagia Sophia museum and performed a protest-prayer against Pope Benedict XVI`s visit to Turkey. Their official website openly declared that Pope Benedict XVI is an enemy of Islam, " and that Hagia Sophia is a mosque that was given as a gift to the Islamic world by Sultan Mehemmed the Conqueror. " The site also made it clear that Hagia Sophia cannot be a place of worship for Christians in Turkey. " Similar conclusions have been drawn regarding the Pope and his visit to Turkey during a massive demonstration of more than twenty thousand supporters of the radical Islamist Milli G"r"" (National Vision) movement in Istanbul on November 26, 2006. So, anyone who attempts to use Islam as a vehicle for the development of their political and militant programs will find some severe warnings in this historic statement by the Turkish Military.The ultimatum ends with a brief and extremely firm statement that whoever goes against the philosophy of Atat"rk`s dictum of "Ne mutlu T"rk"m diyene` ( "Happiness to one who says I am a Turk`) is an enemy of the Republic of Turkey and will remain as such. " It goes on to add that the Turkish Armed Forces maintains its unshakable determination in fulfilling its duties which are clearly defined by the laws. "
Even though some militant groups later imposed a racist connotation upon it, the Kemalist idea of Ne mutlu T"rk"m diyene " is not based on an assumption of racial superiority of the Turk " but rather on the assumption of a unifying national identity for the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural entities carried over from the Ottoman social structure. The military`s statement should be read and interpreted in this context, and should be a steadfast warning to those who resist being integrated into Turkish society with separatist goals in mind, like those of the terrorist PKK organization. The same warning was leveled against those who have been conducting an Islamo-centric silent revolution " in Turkey, thus attempting to replace the idea of national identity " with an identity of umma (global Islamic community). The Turkish Armed Forces are likely to interpret this idea of umma as a counter-revolutionary program, which attempts to melt down the uniqueness of the modern Turkish experience and eventually make the Turkish identity disappear in the global chaos and confusion of a utopian concept of Islamic umma. Perhaps the Military`s hesitation before the idea of a possible (but highly unlikely, especially now) membership in the EU comes from these concerns. Another possible concern is the elimination of the Military`s traditional and historical role as a political power.
I have always wondered why Islamists have been working so hard, harder than all other groups combined, towards making Turkey a member of the EU. The almost monolithic nature of Islamism has been at odds with European social values and lifestyles, and Turkish Islamism is no exception. To me the Turkish Islamists have finally seen a clear opportunity to eliminate the greatest obstacle in front of them, which is the power and political influence of the Turkish military. Whether Turkey actually becomes a member of the EU or not is not an important issue for Islamists, it seems. What is significant here is the process of this membership. In other words, the longer this process takes, the better it is for Turkish Islamism as it provides more time to them to decentralize and eventually undermine the Military`s political nature.
According to a recent study published by TESEV (the Turkish Economic and Social Science Foundation), today 48.5% of the people in Turkey identify themselves as "slamc" " (Islamist), and only 20.3% of the people as laik " (laicist, secularist). Another alarming result of this study shows that 41% of the Turkish population wants a dinci " party, and I must underline here that there is a crystal clear distinction in the Turkish language between the words dinci " and dindar. " Dindar " simply means a pious person, while dinci " means one who uses religion as a political tool. This unfortunate picture should be interpreted as one of the outcomes of the hard work " of the AKP government and other soft Islamist groups, which have been using religion as a political instrument.
Some in the media today are depicting the fears and concerns of the Turkish secularists, including, of course, those of the Armed Forces, as fact-free paranoia. " I do not believe that Turkey will ever become a Taliban Afghanistan, whether the military interferes further with political affairs or not, but one must bear in mind that global Islamism has discovered the means of democracy and what Daniel Pipes rightly calls lawful Islamism. " This lawful Islamism should not be confused with the term moderate Islam, " as I believe that ordinary Muslims are normal, moderate " people but the Islamists are not. In other words, if the term and concept moderate Islam " includes lawful Islamists, such as those of National Vision, or AKP, we may in the short term enjoy some comfort, but in the long term, this seemingly soft version of Islamism will come back to haunt us after receiving all the material support that we might be providing to it now. I am sure that the highly educated and experienced senior members of the Turkish Armed Forces are aware of the physical negative effects of any kind of military intervention in Turkey, such as its immediate harmful effect on markets, but in the long run they might indeed be helping Turkey to avoid becoming another Islamic Republic of Iran.