BURAK BEKDİL > Why Islamism cannot be pluralistic

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The shortcut answer is that Muslims can defend pluralism but political Islam will not -- unless, of course, for deception. Pluralistic thought has an avenue to survive in Islam the religion, but it does not have a space to breathe in Islam the political ideology. That is the heart of the matter in the political war between secular and non-secular Muslims; between Muslims who peacefully practice their faith and Islamists who violently and non-violently enforce their practices on others.

A Muslim is a Muslim. An Islamist is a Muslim who directly/indirectly/by free vote/by monarchical power would force others to observe Islam precisely as he (not necessarily “she”) would deem appropriate. It is the unbearable allure of commanding good and forbidding evil that makes a peaceful Muslim a not-so-peaceful Islamist.

In the last decade, I have written unnecessarily thick and probably too boring chronicles in this column to explain, often with empirical evidence, why the ruling Justice and Development Party cannot be a “Muslim case for liberty,” sincerely hoping that I was wrong. I still hope I am wrong, after 10 years, despite unnecessarily thicker and more boring evidence suggesting that most probably I am not.

The latest controversy over a ban or tighter restrictions on abortion is in fact nothing but a resurrection of Islamism in the shape of yet another flagship taboo. In this column I have written endless times that the generic difference between a devout Muslim and an Islamist is the simple fact that a devout Muslim would abstain from alcohol and pork, whereas an Islamist would force others to abstain from alcohol and pork.

A Muslim would peacefully fast during Ramadan; an Islamist would attack smokers during Ramadan. Thus, the debate over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s newfound idea to ban abortion (murder, in his view) is not surprising in any way, especially because it is a reflection of his 2004 attempt to criminalize adultery.

As Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan put it, “It does not suffice for the devout, pro-birth, anti-abortion Muslims to simply avoid abortion themselves; they want the others to avoid abortion by law enforcement.” Just like alcohol. Here, we are not discussing alcohol or abortion. We are discussing whether pious Muslims in an overwhelmingly Muslim country should have the right to enforce their Muslim practices upon a less pious or non-Muslim populace. My case for alcohol was not for the sake of alcohol itself. Similarly, Mr. Hakan’s case for abortion is not for the sake of abortion itself.

In both cases, none of which is a convincing “Muslim case for liberty,” the dominant thinking goes with a strictly non-pluralistic “we-are-in-majority-and-our-faith-is-the-best-so-you-must-behave-like-we-do” tag, with a semi-visible “or-you-suffer-the-consequences” addendum. That is precisely why Islamists love democracy when their (voting) numbers overcome those of the “infidels,” while they hate (majoritarian) democracy when they are a minority.

The Islamist, for instance, would advocate head-count democracy in Turkey but would defend the minority rights for Muslims in non-Muslim majority countries like in Europe, China or Americas. This, as anyone over six-years-old and without an affinity to Islamism should notice, is an overtly childish “we-love-majority-rule-when-it-suits-our-Islamist-goals” democracy. Naturally, it is not democracy.

Otherwise, the “we-are-at-an-equal-distance-to-all-faiths-including-no-faith” hypocrite rulers of Turkey would have ordered opera and theater houses, shopping malls, schools, university dormitories and public buildings to have bars, synagogues, churches and prayer rooms for Alevis in their premises -- in addition to prayer rooms for Sunni Muslims – if indeed they wanted to cater indiscriminately to all Turkish citizens in public places.

Pluralistic Islamism is an unpleasant oxymoron.

Good luck, Egypt; bon voyage, Tunisia, Libya; see you later, Syria; sleep well, Turkey!


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onder mehmetoglu

6/24/2012 8:18:18 AM

Smart writer and great insights. It will get a lot of attention from fundamentalist Muslims and those who try to conceal their fundamentalist Islamic views with liberal and politically correct lingo.I am happy that there are still sane and independent thinkers in Turkey.


6/20/2012 10:11:58 AM

I believe the great majority of the Turkish public does not wish to understand the fact that rule of the majority is not necessarily a democratic form of government. In my opinion "democracy is where the majority rules, but minority rights are protected above all else." Individuals right to practice anything and everything that does not cause harm to another or to the community should be cherished not banned, like in many countries, especially those that have majority Muslim populations.

Ameer Raschid

6/15/2012 6:17:58 PM

Laws ıin secular countries may be based on the religious views of the majority or a minority. In Turkey no law can be passed,at if ıt is based on religion unless the rationale is secular i.e.scientific e.g. smoking,alcoholism and drunken driving as danger to health and welfare as well as gambling. The US passed alcohol manufacturing prohibition law,late repealed. Suicide is against Islam and Christianity and secular law as well. Freedom to kill yourself and others is not a human right

ismail demir

6/15/2012 4:23:18 PM

@cyprus, read wikipedia 1872 population census 44000 turks and 100.000 christians in cyprus.Cypriot pirates had continously raided ottoman civilian ships so ottoman empire conquered cyprus legitemately.

ismail demir

6/14/2012 3:37:50 PM

@ cyprus, there have been population census last 150 years and britian custom had registered who came to cyprus from where between 1878-1960, greeks couldnt fool turks by manipulation as you did europeans, since population statistics recorded hundreds of thousands of greek settlers.

de Wit Hans A.

6/14/2012 9:11:04 AM

@Turk Uzan: I always appreciate it when people who criticize, also come with some points. You fail miserable and you only point to people who enjoy a satirically column as xenophobic etc. Only the fascists of the world do that, since they lack the ability to criticize and be criticized. Don't try to place a shot below the belt as that has nothing to do with this column or my political preference

sam stevens

6/13/2012 11:41:48 PM

Sadly I see nothing but a tightening of the screw on 'choice' for Turks. They are being led by a fanatic who wishes to control all he does not tolerate. Mr Bekdil can see it I can see it so can others commenting here daily........democracy means fairness for all,not just those whom the leaders favour.

Turk Uzan

6/13/2012 8:09:30 PM

Haha love the anti Turks, Islamophobes and Xenophobes on this page. (comments) I am a Muslim yet 1000% secular, it's sad how your hatred vs the AKP would blind you to such a point your nothing but a pessimist. I don't like AKP either, like 50% of Turkey .. But your like Kilicdaroglu, I liked him until he started to bad mouth Turkey in international circles just to give AKP a bad image. "very bad strategy" @ Hans, you're such a typical PVV voter, your comments are amusing

Ozgur Erhan

6/13/2012 6:04:57 PM

So this article was not written by Mustafa Akyol but by Burak Bekdil. Fine but where's the note of apology telling bemused readers that there was a mistake and it has been corrected?

ismail demir

6/13/2012 5:14:41 PM

@cyprus, there are 500.000 turks live in cyprus it makes 1 of 3 of total population turk, this ratio have been stable for 340 years of last 440 years (1974-2012,1571-1877) that is why turks have 30% minister and public officer quota in 1960 cyprus constitution.
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