Spencer: Turkey’s Dilemma

In Human Events today I discuss Turkey and Rice:

Can democracy survive the closing of a major political party — the ruling political party in the country? Imagine if the Supreme Court had convened to discuss banning the Democratic Party. Something no less momentous is happening in Turkey this week.

Turkey”s constitutional court convened last Monday to discuss charges that the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the ruling party in that country, should be closed down. The party is charged with trying to destroy Turkey”s secular government and impose Islamic law. Al-Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid estimates that the court should take “at least three to 10 days” to come to a decision.

Closing down political parties has long been a means by which Turkey”s highest court has protected the increasingly fragile secular system established in that country by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The court has shut down over twenty parties over the years — including the foremost proponents of the establishment of Islamic law in Turkey. The AKP is the linear descendant of the Nationalist Order Party (MNP), which the court shut down in 1971 because of its agitation on behalf of political Islam; the Welfare Party (RP), which was banned for the same reason in 1998; and the short-lived Fazilet Party (FP), which RP Parliamentarians established shortly after their party”s demise and was likewise closed down shortly thereafter.

The Turkish court has good reason to suspect that the AKP is working to undermine Turkish secularism and impose Islamic law over the country. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), while Mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s (and a prominent member of the Welfare Party), Turkey”s current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against Turkish secularism. “If the people want it,” he declared, “of course secularism will go away. You cannot rule this people by force; you don’t have the power to do that. This [i.e. secularism] cannot work in spite of the people.” And the people, he suggested, wanted Islamic law: “But the fact is that 99% of the people of this country are Muslims. You cannot be both secular and a Muslim! You will either be a Muslim, or secular!…For them to exist together is not a possibility! Therefore, it is not possible for a person who says “˜I am a Muslim” to go on and say “˜I am secular too.” And why is that? Because Allah, the creator of the Muslim, has absolute power and rule!”

His saying that Allah “has absolute power and rule” was not merely an expression of piety. Islam has historically always been a political and social system as well as an individual religious faith. Islamic law, Sharia, is a comprehensive system governing every aspect of individual behavior. It also contains laws for the governance of the state and the ordering of society. If it is imposed in Turkey, women and non-Muslims would be subjugated under a system of institutionalized discrimination; the freedom of conscience and of speech would be restricted; and the relatively Westernized aspects of Turkish society would wither away.

Oddly enough, therefore, the closing of the AKP, while not administering a definitive defeat to the forces of political Islam, may be necessary in order to safeguard Turkey”s relative democratic pluralism. And if that is not enough, the Turkish military may ultimately have to intervene, as it has done before. Under the Turkish constitution, the military has the obligation to preserve democracy against the establishment of theocracy.

Can democracy possibly be protected by the court-ordered closing of a political party, or even by a coup d”etat? If democracy is simply head-counting, then no, it cannot. But Turkey now faces the possibility that its secular system and relative (and I do mean relative — relative to Sharia, that is) equality of rights for all its citizens can only be protected by these means.

Yet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has warned the Turkish military, the historical guarantors of Kemalism, not to act against the government. There is no indication, however, that in this she has taken into account the fact that the AKP-ruled government is clearly moving to establish Islamic law in Turkey, and to destroy the elements of Turkish society that make it more of a natural ally of the U.S. than any other Muslim-majority state.

Is she not being short-sighted? Or worse?

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  1. says

    Perhaps Rice should just stuff it and stay out of the situation – not much chance of that happening though. Amazing how this administration ALWAYS seems to be on the wrong side of any situation regarding Islam!!

  2. says

    Should the court vote FOR closure of the AKP, it’ll be fascinating to watch events unfold in Turkey. Will we see a repetition of Algeria, where the military overturned the elections in ’92 and this resulted in a decade-long, bloody Civil War? Or will the AKP simply reconstitute itself once again under a different name, as it has done twice in the past?

  3. says

    Democracy has never resolved the problem of what to do with a party that is flagrantly anti-democratic yet would win a democratic election. It’s the political equivalent of “this taoe will self destruct in 5 seconds.” examples are Nazi Germany and the Algerian situation in 1992 (with the Nazis rising to power and then eliminating democracy, whereas the rising Islamic Party was banned in Algeria in 92 with a resulting civil war killing 100,000+ by estimates.) I have never heard a good answer to this dilemma.

    Robert – pet peeve here. You say:
    “His saying that Allah “has absolute power and rule” was not merely an expression of piety. Islam has historically always been a political and social system as well as an individual religious faith.”

    I have always felt that Islam is in no way a religion in the traditional sense, but a fascist political movement (or whatever you want to call it) **MASQUERADING** as a religion for the express purpose of making its goal of political conquest easier. Is there any doubt that Mohammed realized the power of claiming to be a religion, i.e. beyond the reproach and questioning of mere mortals, and then was successful in selling that snake oil??

  4. says

    The decision was 6 out of 11 judges voting for the ban, but 7 votes were needed. The court is believed to be issuing a warning according to the articles I have read. Now would have been an excellent time to remove the AKP, with the US distracted by an election and a lame duck administration, and Europe, well, weak as always.

    Incidentally, Turkey is not strictly 99% Sunni Muslim. The Alevite faith claims around 25% of the population. I recently learned of the existence of the Alevi, and it gave me a lot of hope for a country like Turkey, since there is a path out of Islam, or at least its most diabolical aspects. The Alevi are apparently strong supporters of secularism in Turkey. Here are some links:




    There IS a humanist tradition in the Muslim world that consists of jettisoning aspects of Islam – the Mutazalites are another example. If only these people were not killed off or terrorized into submission, Islam would fast wither.

  5. says

    Under the Turkish constitution, the military has the obligation to preserve democracy against the establishment of theocracy.

    Does Rice know that? How can anyone condemn a coup d’etat if the Constitution gives the military that responsibility?

    It’s odd that the civilian government never repealed that clause in the last ten years.

    Erdogan is right about one thing: either the people are Islamist or they’re secular. “Muslim in name only” will never fly again. If they vote for the AKP then they’re not secular. Do they have secret ballots in Turkey?

    If theocracy does take hold then it’s hard to see how Turkey can remain in NATO.

    Military juntas don’t look so bad, now.

  6. says

    It seems to me that the real coup d’etat attempt in Turkey is the 2500 page Ergenekon indictment by the government. It attempts to link all past terrorist and other bad events in Turkey to a vast secularist conspiracy.

    It claims that attacks by leftists, Kurds and Islamists were all controlled by the secularist conspirators. In pursuing the indictment, the government seems to be trying to intimidate the secularist parties.

    While the Court did not terminate AKP, it reduced its government funding by half. As I understand it, 6 judges voted to terminate; 7 are required to terminate a party. Four other judges joined in the order to reduce funding. Only 1 judge among the 11 on the Court voted to maintain the status quo.

    Focusing only on the military as the “bad guy” seems to be rather simplistic in approach. AKP are already attempting a coup with the Eregenkon indictment. If they are successful and intimidate the secular opposition, AKP may be able to impose its Islamist agenda on the country that would be almost impossible to reverse by secularists.

    At some point the military may be the only hope to maintain the Turkish secular tradition. Appearing to support a possible coup d’etat may be unpopular and very politically incorrect, but under the circumstances in Turkey it may become the least bad alternative.


    Abu el Banat

  7. says

    Oddly enough, therefore, the closing of the AKP, while not administering a definitive defeat to the forces of political Islam, may be necessary in order to safeguard Turkey’s relative democratic pluralism.

    Turkey’s ‘democratic pluralism’ is something like European ‘multiculturalism’ of which it is very proud. But this presents a problem if Turkey wants to join the EU, as some EU members would (foolishly) like to see happen. Then Turkey would have to go beyond ‘democratic pluralism’ but actually embrace ‘multiculturalism’ if it is to fit into the mold of the new EU. Can that happen, where both Turkey and the EU are on the same page?

    Banning the AKP’s ‘political Islam’ is a positive step to preserve Turkey’s demcratic pluralism, but it still falls short of European multiculturalism philosophy. Islamic theocracy ambitions, to rule by Sharia, is a huge obstacle for Turkey’s membership in a multiculturalist world, and they will do all they can to prevent it, because “rule of Allah” is not a statement of piety (as mentioned above) but a total belief system ruling every aspect of an individual’s life, both politically and in opposition to personal freedoms, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of belonging to a peaceful ‘multiculturalist’ society. Istanbul has a problem. So does EU.

  8. says

    Come on, don’t be a fool. There is nothing wrong in closing down a political party whose aim can be clearly shown to be the destruction of the democratic political system that foolishly allowed it to flourish in the first place. The Islamicists are only playing democracies for suckers, as usual, since it works so incredibly often. The Turkish courts I suspect are not so stupid as Western liberals.

  9. says

    There are some interesting things in this to consider — for other countries than Turkey.

    The phenomenon of a political party dedicated to destroying the constitution and purposes of a gov’t, and the rights that it is set up to protect, is fairly common.

  10. says

    Military juntas don’t look so bad, now.
    Posted by: PMK

    Agreed. Look what blanket endorsement of “democracy” yielded in Gaza. Enthusiasm for the democratic experiment needs to be tempered with a huge dose of pragmatism.

    Slightly OT, but germane to the main thread here: I just returned from two weeks in Granada, Spain. Among other things I questioned my hosts closely about Turkey’s entry into the EU. There was universal agreement that allowing Turkey into the UE, with unrestricted internal migration, would be a huge problem, specifically on account of the incompatibility of Islam with Western civilization and especially in view of the precariousness of Kemalism in Turkey. The view seems to be that the EU, while giving lip service to multiculturalism, is in fact engaged in protracted foot dragging about Turkey’s entry into the Union. They expect internal events in Turkey deriving from conservative Muslim forces may well result in its break up as a state, in which case entry into the EU becomes moot. This could be whistling in the dark, but I was heartened to find such solid resistance to encroaching Islamization.

    As a side note, there were only a handful of openly Muslim families on the streets of Granada, with no tensions that I could perceive. The place was more or less solidly, and staunchly, Catholic, with a huge statue in the main plaza of Columbus kneeling before Isabella receiving his 1492 charter to find a new sailing route to the Indies.

  11. says

    In a Democracy you have the right to swing your fist, but not hit anyone in the face. A hit to the face is a crime. A person needs to decide what constitutes threatening behavior, when swinging the fist becomes a prelude to the hit and one can legally act in self defense to the imminent danger. (There is little reason to wait until your nose is bloodied.)

    The AKP is the fist to Turkey’s secular face. At what point can the country act in self defense to threatening behavior. And to act without apology.

    Islam is a fist, in MY COUNTRY it is a fist brandished threateningly. Whether in Mosques or the internet or through funding networks, the fist is looking pretty real and ominous. The response by our elected officials is insipid. Our Constitution is not a suicide pact, we too should act without apology. Will we?

    Islam is NOT a spiritual religion – it is a religious-political-judicial (read spiritual-legislative-legal) ideology that replaces or subjugates anything non-Islamic. It is only “peaceful” to other Muslims, and then only marginally so.

  12. says

    Apparently the AKP has decided to regroup, at least partially, by dropping its explicit demand that headscarves be allowed in universities.


    Cue the orchestrated, telegenic weeping by the “I-love-my”-hijabis, whose dreams of tightly-headwrapped medical breakthroughs and Nobel Prizes have now been so cruelly destroyed.

    The AKP haven’t given up, they’ll shift strategies to PR-jihad. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  13. says

    Yet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has warned the Turkish military, the historical guarantors of Kemalism, not to act against the government. …

    Is she not being short-sighted? Or worse?

    I fear that it’s short-sighted and worse.

    The dedication of people at the state dept and other gummint critters to the principle of democracy uber alles displays a shocking lack of comprehension of what America is about, and why we have the degree of democracy we do in the first place.

    The right to vote is strictly derivative and secondary to other rights.

    It makes sense for free people to have a say in their own governance. And having achieved freedom, the thinking is that the people having a say in their own governance is apt to contribute to the preservation of freedom and the preservation of the security of other rights. But there’s nothing magical and wonderful in democracy in and of itself.

    On the contrary, unbridled democracy is simply the tyranny of the mob.

    There’s nothing to say that an iron fisted military dictatorship can’t be a more effective protector of the people’s rights and freedoms than a democratically elected government — and in the case of Turkey, this is very apparently true.

    My fear is that whether or not the state department critters and Condementia Rice know anything about the principles involved, that they are actively trying to suck-up to the wahabbis and other sharia freaks in high places, by showing how supportive they are of the growth of sharia government.

    … much the same way that Clintoon bombed the Serbs on behalf of the Yugoslavian mohammedans.

    The scariest possibility of all is this: They may have made the decision, down in dark and murky DC, that sharia governments are organizations they can do business with — that they stand nothing to lose by the growth of sharia government around the world.

    Or possibly that they see the spread of sharia gov’t as inevitable and not worth resisting — a sort of if-you-can’t-beat’em-join-’em attitude.

    Either would be a disaster of world-historical proportions.

    Need I mention that the constitutions of both Afghanistan and Iraq declare the supremacy of religious law? That was on the American watch.

    We have only 3 choices in what to believe regarding DC’s attitude toward sharia gov’t.

    1) They are all completely oblivious.
    2) They have noticed, but think it’s too trivial to bother with.
    3) They’ve made some sort of policy decision that they haven’t told us about.

    I think (1) is highly unlikely — they can’t all be retards. I think (2) is part of the picture for some of the players, but unlikely to be the whole story.

    I’m inclined to believe that they have made, and are making policy decisions, and that those decisions are completely wrong — partly out of ignorance, partly arrogance, partly naivete, and partly out of despair.

    I think they’ve decided to be sharia-friendly.

    Like I said, short-sighted and worse.