Turkish ‘Kristallnacht’ coming soon?
We live in days that can be frightening and amusing at the same time, days when the ruling classes defy any limit in self-ridicule, logic or reason. Columnists are instantly prosecuted for insulting some bigwig (almost always President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) in columns that do not even mention names (including Mr. Erdoğan’s).
A totally blank column can be prosecuted for “implying that it might have been filled with words of insult against the president.” Or some very important man may jump at a column mentioning “corrupt men, thugs, torturers and rapists” and file a complaint: “Honorable Judge, it’s me who that columnist implied in that article.” The judges may have a hard time in deciding who the real plaintiff should be if there are dozens of bigwigs who claim to be the “corrupt man, thug, torturer and rapist” in the article. That would be fun.
On Sept. 6, our colleagues at this newspaper’s Istanbul offices had some unwanted guests. Hundreds of club-wielding thugs chanting Islamic and pro-Erdoğan slogans pelted the office building with stones. Unsurprisingly, the mob was led by Abdurrahim Boynukalın, a member of parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a former head of the party’s youth organization. Mr. Boynukalın, the honorable MP, vowed that all of us who are not fans of Mr. Erdoğan will “get the hell out of Turkey” when Erdoğan is bestowed with additional executive powers, “whatever the electoral outcome on Nov. 1 will be.”
The question is, how? Will the AKP pass laws banning “disliking the president,” or “not admiring the president passionately enough”? They may have to prosecute nearly 50 million Turks for that. Send 50 million Turks to labor camps for a Turkish “Cultural Revolution”? Will they amend the constitution to grant Mr. Erdoğan the executive powers he so passionately craves? With 200-odd seats in parliament when they need at least 330 for a referendum? Will they abolish the constitution by military force and claim to be a democratically-elected government?
How will they force six out of every 10 Turks to passionately love their president? Forced collective psychotherapy? Turkish Gulags for anyone who refuses to adore the supreme leader?
This columnist has frequently argued that Islam as a religion can be pluralistic but Islamism as a political ideology cannot. There is no moderate Islamism; there is Islamism and its more violent forms. The common denominator between extremely violent, violent, less violent and non-violent flavors of Islamism is that adherents of each group behaves with absolute self-confidence that only his group’s Islamic practices (belief systems) are the right practices (belief systems), and all Muslims who are heretics must be first “taught” to come in line with the “right practice” (belief system) or punished if they refuse. Ironically, in this silly but often despotic or violent game of “my-Islam-is-the-only-true-Islam-and-yours-is-not,” various Islamist groups can be seen treating each other as “infidels.”
Recently, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) social media accounts uploaded a fatwa to the Internet calling for Mr. Erdoğan’s death for collaborating with the United States on airstrikes against the jihadist group. The “death warrant” was signed by an ISIL judge, Shaykh Abu Khabab al-Iraqi, and calls Mr. Erdoğan an “apostate” who must be killed for “shedding of Muslim blood.”
Mr. Erdoğan is an apostate… Sheer lunacy? No doubt. We tend to call those lunatics “radical Islamists.” What about the AKP’s “moderate Islamists”? No, they do not behead us columnists – yet. Instead, because they are “moderates,” fortunately not “radicals,” they simply wish that we would “get the hell out of here.” Thank you for not executing us all after the Nov. 1 elections. Thank you for being “moderate.”
The truth, ironically, is that the pro-Erdoğan, “moderate” Islamists view us seculars in exactly the same way as ISIL’s “radicals” view Mr. Erdoğan. For the moderates we are apostates because we do not adore Mr. Erdoğan, while for the “radicals” Mr. Erdoğan is an apostate because he collaborates with the United States.
Fortunately, this is not going to be a winning war for any Islamist, whether “moderate” or “radical.”