NURAY MERT > The demise of post-Islamist politics

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"Towards the end of post-Islamism" was the title of my column in this daily, just a year ago (July 23, 2012). I had written: "I think that the model or idea of post-Islamism had already started to crumble a very short time after it began to ascend. Most of you may think that it is too early to suggest…" My references were the failure of Islamist governments after the Arab Spring and of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey to deliver more democratic rule. Unfortunately, my suggestion proved to be correct, especially after the turmoil in Egypt, on the one hand, and because of the culmination of the AKP’s authoritarianism after the Gezi protests in Turkey, on the other.

The AKP is giving full support to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and moreover is using the coup in Egypt to discredit the Gezi protests and to whitewash its own authoritarian politics. In fact, the military coup or intervention in Egypt simply overshadows the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood and hampers criticism of them. Nevertheless, one year of Brotherhood rule proved to be politically controversial, not only because it failed to be inclusive, but also because it coopted the previous system in its own interest. For instance, right after Morsi was elected, the Brotherhood and its supporters turned against the Tahrir protesters and accused them of being “anarchists,” despite the fact that, at the time, the protests did not target him but were simply against the old political system. In short, from the beginning the Egyptian experience has been quite disappointing with regard to the thesis that suggests that the moderate Islamists would pave the way for more democratic societies in the Muslim world. Instead, they turned out to be “aggressive majoritarianisms,” motivated by Islamist aspirations.

The cases of Turkey and Egypt differ considerably from each other in many respects. However, Turkey was thought to be “the model” for other moderate Islamists and was presented as such. Thus, its failure has been more dramatic, though also more subtle. I am someone who expressed concern for possible rise of civil authoritarianism replacing the previous status quo as early as 2009, but I could not foresee that Turkey would slide so deep into authoritarianism. Besides, I could never foresee that the Islamists who reinvented themselves as “conservative democrats” under the roof of the AKP would turn back to Islamist ideology and politics. On the contrary, for a long time, I was even an apologist for the AKP, and critical of those who had been skeptical of the AKP’s self-definition as “a center-right party.”

Until very recently, I thought that the problem with AKP’s authoritarianism had its roots not in the Islamist political tradition, but rather in the center-right tradition in Turkey. I still tend to think so, but now I am not as confident as before concerning the impact of Islamist ideology's authoritarianism on PM Erdoğan and the AKP. For some time, AKP politicians have no longer needed to hide their intolerance of difference and they tend now to be more explicit concerning their reservations against liberal democracy.

Under the circumstances, what happened in Gezi during and after protests should not have been surprising, but after the events it turned out that this was not a safe country for dissenters - or even for ordinary citizens, if they are not the supporters of the government. Besides, ever growing political and social polarization has gained increasingly religious overtones, as ruling conservatives turn more and more back to their Islamist identity and convictions. As a result, political debate has turned into a space of religious battle. That is why Erdoğan and his party do not bother to further polarize the country, since he considers himself as a man on a “grand mission,” rather than just an ordinary politician.

In a speech last Friday, Erdoğan advised his audience to report their protester neighbors to the security authorities. It turned out to be so, since the PM and his party consider anybody who is not a government supporter as a threat. Finally, Turkey ended up being ruled by authoritarianism, xenophobia and conspiratorialism, and they have all come together.

No matter how Egypt and Turkey differ, they both need to overcome their democracy deficit and neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the AKP (or the “pupil” and the “master”) promise bright prospects for their societies. This is what we call the demise of the politics of post-Islamists, and of post-Islamism as the democratic prospect for Muslim countries.


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Brian Irlanda

9/23/2013 11:07:19 AM

Excellent article. I just hope the Turkish people can read it widely before the next elections. This is a fascist government in Turkey, there can be no debate about that.

Joe Phillips

7/23/2013 10:31:07 AM

Nuray, I admire the clear and concise analyses you provide on issues upon which you have commented. All of us, and especially those entrusted with the power to rule, should bear in mind the words of the song by Foster & Allen, which begin "All God's creatures have a place in the Choir, some sing low and some sing higher...." , which is one way of saying that the views and contributions of all should be taken into account, regardless of who tor what hey are.

Recep Ozel

7/22/2013 1:04:58 PM

Brilliant writing Nuray hanim! You have summed up the situation perfectly, and it just goes to show politics based on religion or islam are fundamentally authoritarian. They were once frowned upon in Turkey, but now are the norm.. I would like to see religion-based politics banned in Turkey and for Turkey to be the model for Europe in that sense (like it once actually was...)

dogan kemal ileri

7/22/2013 11:25:52 AM

I don't know what all the fuss is about.Bursi fell because he was an atrocious politician and useless leader.The Brotherhood will take note and re-emerge sometime in the future with a slightly altered agenda and win power again.There is no doubt about this. Meanwhile RTE must take note and draw lessons from the events of Egypt ans start to soften his tone and visibly be seen to get off his religious pulpit. Turkiye does not want a nanny state and certainly no personal lifestye choices from RTE.

young genius

7/22/2013 11:03:53 AM

@K M Spot on! That's why RTE is mad at the fact that Morsi was removed/

king arthur

7/22/2013 10:54:20 AM

Democracy and the culture of living together requires to reconcile to the full extent possible but it doesnt necessarily mean we can always compromise our thoughts. İncreasing authoritanism and civil dictatorship which linger on some people's mouths like a sticky gum is a trending and intellectual way to mask the motive behind what we can call disposal of conservatism in every place posssible.Then count it democracy without the greater part of the society expressing themselves in policy!


7/22/2013 2:17:26 AM

You're confirming waht a lot of us thought RTE's assessment is: Egypt tried to get in a year where AKP took ten, but the goal was always the same.

Tekir Feline

7/22/2013 1:16:56 AM

I think we shouldn't speak of the 'high boarxd' of MB as if they would just represent the opinion of all it's members, Within the MB exists e.g. a group, the movement of the MB without violence, who want free elections within the MB, who distrust Mohammed Badia and his calls for violence, and who want a national dialog and freedom to those MB members who are without a trial still in jail . It's a pity that we can't find any persons with such a moral attitude within AKP.

mara mcglothin

7/22/2013 12:32:24 AM

Great writing NURAY
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