These large-scale rallies are most encouraging, and show that while there is widespread popular support for an Islamic state in Turkey (otherwise the Prime Minister and others would not be in office), there is also widespread support for Kemalism.
It is also worth nothing that while the rally participants are nominally Muslims, at least some voices in Turkey deny that the ralliers represent a contingent of “moderate Muslims” who are opposing “radical Muslims.” Onur Oymen of the Turkish Republican People’s Party, said recently: “You can’t have democracy without secularism. The notion of moderate Islam to check radical Islam is nonsense. This idea being promoted by certain countries should be abandoned.” Kemalism itself was not predicated on a construct of “moderate Islam,” but of explicit rejection of political Islam in favor of secularism. That is, it was never presented as an Islamic construct or justified by Islamic teachings, but was an explicit rejection of certain traditional aspects of Islam.
But what does Oymen mean? Isn’t his distinction between secularism and moderate Islam a distinction without a difference (at least in Turkey), since Islam without its political component is “moderate,” and since almost all of those who are protesting against Islamic rule in Turkey would identify themselves as Muslims? Part of the problem here stems from loose usage. No one has ever defined what a “moderate Muslim” really is, and the term has been applied to jihadists who are proceeding through deception and peaceful argumentation rather than by bomb-throwing, as well as to genuine Islamic reformers and cultural Muslims who know little and care less about the traditional Islamic teachings on jihad.
Those cultural Muslims give us the answer to the question about Oymen’s statement. For most of the “moderate Muslims” who have lived through the centuries until now have been cultural Muslims who, because of a variety of historical circumstances, were ignorant of or indifferent to the Islamic doctrines of jihad as taught by all four mainstream Sunni schools of jurisprudence (madhahib). For Ataturk that wasn’t enough, for it always allowed for a recrudescence and reassertion of political Islam, whenever there was a revival of religious fervor. So Ataturk became the first political figure ever in the Islamic world to reject — explicitly and without apology — political Islam in favor of a Western model of the separation of the religion from the state. While this would not forever prevent — as recent events in Turkey clearly show — a reassertion of political Islam, it would give the state greater ability to resist this reassertion, while a state that was nominally an Islamic one or that paid even lip service to Sharia in its Constitution would not have that ability. So Turkish secularism is predicated not on moderate Islam, but on premises that are not Islamic at all. And Oymen knows that any modification of Turkish law to change that will simply open the door to a full reassertion of Sharia — Islamic law — in Turkey.
By Suzan Fraser for Associated Press:
IZMIR, Turkey – Choking the highways and crammed onto ferries, hundreds of thousands of Turks streamed into this port city on Sunday in an enormous show of opposition to the pro-Islamic ruling party, increasing pressure on the government ahead of early elections.
Some 1.5 million protesters carried anti-government banners, red-and-white Turkish flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the secular republic in 1923. Turkish flags hung from balconies and windows, as well as buses and fishing boats and yachts bobbing in Izmir’s bay.
“I am here to defend my country,” said Yuksel Uysal, a teacher. “I am here to defend Ataturk’s revolution.”
Throughout the morning, thousands were trying to reach Izmir and highways leading to the city were at a standstill. Municipal authorities said some 200,000 people sailed in on ferries.