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Interview (11 Jul 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

‘ISIS Wants Sharia Law … Turkey’s Got Secular Fundamentalists … West Mustn’t Heed Muslim Radicals – Or Islamophobes’

By Aarti Tikoo Singh

July 11, 2016

Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish writer and author of ‘Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty’. Speaking with Aarti Tikoo Singh, Akyol, who contributes to the New York Times and Hürriyet Daily News, discussed the recent Istanbul attack, Turkey’s clash between secularists, Islamists and Kurds – and how the West can best handle moderate versus radical Islam:

Islamic State claims responsibility for the Istanbul airport attack – but Turkish PM Binali Yildirim said this was linked to Turkey’s success against Kurdish rebels and mending ties with Israel and Russia. Do you agree?

I don’t agree. That’s a narrative the Turkish government has been trying to sell – but it’s just wilful blindness.

IS has its own ideological reasons to commit terror. Russia and Turkey spoke to each other only a day before the attack – it’s impossible that such a deadly attack could be planned at such short notice.

IS has other reasons to create this mayhem.

Such as?

Well, although Turkey is ruled by Islamic conservatives under Tayyip Erdogan, which draws a lot of criticism worldwide. Turkey is still a secular state – a secular state that doesn’t implement Islamic Sharia law is an apostate regime by IS standards.

Therefore, for IS, theologically, Turkey is an enemy state and eligible for attacks.

The latest attacks are also a reaction to Turkey’s war against IS in Syria.

Speaking of which, as Turkey fights Islamist terrorists, isn’t it also hostile to Turkish and Syrian Kurds fighting IS too?

True, that is a conundrum Turkey faces. It’s been fighting home-grown rebels, specifically Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but the Kurds are an effective force against IS jihadists in Syria.

Last year, the peace process between the Erdogan government and PKK fell apart. Turkey’s lax control of the Syrian border benefited IS – that put Turkey at odds with its western allies in the war against terrorism.

For the last one year, Turkey’s taken a clear stand against IS – but Turkey continues to fight its own Kurdish rebels.

The Turkish government must solve this conflicting position strategically. The Erdogan government needs to decide which of the two groups it can negotiate with – the smart thing for the government would be to make peace with its own home-grown rebels.

At the end of the day, there can be no diplomatic agreement with IS – but it’s possible to talk to the Kurds and put all resources effectively in the war against IS.

Do you think Turkish and Syrian Kurds’ aspiration for an independent country is a legitimate demand?

Every political demand is legitimate – as long as one is not trying to pursue it through violence. Kurdish terror attacks are wrong and completely unacceptable. As it is, most Kurds don’t want an independent state.

But I see no problem with holding a referendum on the Kurdish question.

If the British could hold the Scottish referendum, why can’t we?

Turkey is ruled by an Islamic conservative party. Has Turkey’s socio-political space radicalised or is there a liberal backlash against this?

There is not a liberal but a secular backlash in Turkey – and it’s not liberal at all.

Due to Erdogan’s conservative authoritarian politics aimed at social engineering of Turkey towards a more Islamised society, we have fundamentalist secularists who believe in suppressing religion and religious symbols, such as the head scarf.

That only makes the country highly polarised.

I oppose both. Let there be freedom for everyone – both for those who want to wear the head scarf and those who don’t.

How should Turkey deal with such polarisation?

There has to be a big spectrum that can make a distinction between violent Islamists, who are threats to our security, and non-violent Muslims who may be a political force, such as Muslim Brotherhood.

Moderate Islam is possible. We should welcome that. We have reformist views within Islam. It’s not impossible to revive that tradition.

What should be the role of the West in this?

The West should not give itself to the far right and the Islamophobic trend emerging internationally, in Europe, in the rise of Donald Trump in the US, in ‘us vs them’ notions – that will only empower radicals.

Islamist Jihadis and the far right in the West agree that Islam and democracy are not compatible – the West should not give into that view.

Instead of a confrontation, the West should have a conversation with the Muslim world.

Source: blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-interviews-blog/is-wants-sharia-law-turkeys-got-secular-fundamentalists-west-mustnt-heed-muslim-radicals-or-islamophobes/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interview/aarti-tikoo-singh/‘isis-wants-sharia-law-…-turkey’s-got-secular-fundamentalists-…-west-mustn’t-heed-muslim-radicals-–-or-islamophobes’/d/107920


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