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Coups Have Consequences — Including Making More Room for Islam: New Age Islam's Selection, 27 July 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

27 July 2016

Coups Have Consequences — Including Making More Room for Islam

By Timothy Waters

Coup in Turkey Has US Fingerprints on It

By Will Hickey

Decoding the Turkish Coup

By Professor Ozay Mehmet

The Challenge before Us

By Mahfuz Anam

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Coups Have Consequences — Including Making More Room For Islam

By Timothy Waters

24 July 2016

On two recent trips to Turkey to study constitutional reform, I asked everyone I interviewed — politicians, scholars, activists —  if there was any risk of a coup in the country. They all said “Impossible.” Last Friday, as jets bombed the parliament in Ankara and tanks blocked the bridges of Istanbul, I realized I should have asked a few soldiers.

For the fifth time in six decades, Turkish armed forces tried to overthrow the government, declaring, as they always have, that they were defending the secular constitutional order. This time, for the first time, they failed, thanks to a defiant president calling citizens into the street using his iPhone.

The coup has been defeated; now the war begins. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is purging tens of thousands of soldiers, judges and bureaucrats, and has declared a state of emergency. Soon the fight will enter another phase: for a new constitution, something Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known as the AKP, has long desired. Constitutional reform should worry friends of Turkey’s democracy; so should opposition to it.

The AKP has two main items on its reform agenda: a strong presidency to replace the parliamentary system, and more space for Islam in the secular state established by Kemal Ataturk. Both goals disturb liberals; they are afraid of Erdogan and of Islam. But though they are right to fear Erdogan’s anti-democratic impulses, they are wrong to see a threat to democracy in the AKP’s Muslim orientation. For most Turks, public devotion and popular democracy are not in contradiction. The challenge of constitutional reform is not only to restrain autocracy, but to rid Turkey of the belief that its own people cannot be trusted.

Much of the AKP’s Islamic agenda is consistent with a humane society. Nothing in human rights law prevents a state from giving religion a role in the public sphere, teaching religion in schools and supporting the construction of houses of worship (as the AKP has done) or even establishing an official religion (which it hasn’t). There are versions of Islam that violate fundamental human rights — such as Islamic State in Syria —  but the AKP isn’t proposing anything like that.

The Coup Has Been Defeated; Now The War Begins.

The truth is that the challenge to secularism is a consequence of democracy. The AKP’s parliamentary fraction is just 13 votes short of what it needs to call a constitutional referendum; if Erdogan called snap elections, he might get a super-majority to amend the constitution directly. Should that happen, we could criticize the voters’ choice, but we would have to acknowledge its validity.

In negotiating a new constitution, there is room for a bargain. Many devout Muslim AKP supporters are also uncomfortable with Erdohan’s authoritarianism. The opposition could find common cause with them, and put Erdogan to the test, by offering to make more space for religion in exchange for keeping parliamentary supremacy.   

But too many secular Turks — and too many in the West — don’t accept the need to compromise. They cling to a secular constitutionalism so rigid that it denies their fellow citizens’ legitimate right to change the system, as if Turkey’s secular principles exist somewhere outside of politics, independent of the Turkish people’s will.

Although liberals worry about religion being forced on people, in Turkey the historic risk has been the opposite, with the state imposing secularism. It banned women from wearing headscarves in universities, for example, and when an AKP government nominated a pious Muslim as president in 2007, the army threatened to intervene. In Turkey, secularism has never been genuinely democratic; behind Turkish secularism is the logic of the coup.

If we fear authoritarianism, it is not only Erdogan we have to worry about, but all those who disregard democratic process. The coup leaders claimed they were upholding democracy by trying to overthrow a popularly elected leader. The equivalent here in the United States would be if the losing side in the November elections were to roll tanks into the streets. No matter how bad you think Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is, that would be worse. Whatever other values we have, we value democracy as a process.                   

And we should value it in other countries too. The AKP was never the poster child of safely neutered Muslim democracy, and it’s not a Muslim Bund now.  It’s a complex, pious, populist movement; it wins elections because it appeals to millions of Turks whom the old system long disregarded, economically and spiritually. Erdogan’s authoritarianism is a real threat to the rule of law, but Turks’ desire to make a society that represents and includes them — and their religion — is not.

Elections have consequences, and so do coups. Now that Turks are united in opposing military rule, those who value a secular society would do well to focus on one victory that has long eluded them— at the polls. As long as they fail there, they won’t, and shouldn’t, get their way. That’s democracy, which is one of those universal values they — and we —  so highly prize.

Timothy Waters is professor of law and associate director of the Center for Constitutional Democracy at Indiana University, where he teaches Islamic law.

Source: latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-waters-turkey-coup-islam-constitution-20160724-snap-story.html


Coup in Turkey Has US Fingerprints On It

By Will Hickey

July 27 2016

If one looks at all the military equipment strewn about after the recent coup attempt in Turkey, it is overwhelmingly US hardware: tanks, M-16s, helmets, kits and F-16s.

Despite US Secretary of State John Kerry’s many protests that the US had no involvement in this coup, the stakes were too high to be ignored and odd patterns have seemingly emerged from other countries that draw comparisons.

The US controls a large NATO airbase at Incirlik that still houses “live” nuclear weapons, in the southeast of Turkey, near the Syrian border, where much of the instability is. Turkey is fighting Kurds and Islamic State (IS) movement, but not in the order that Washington has approved or desired, an asymmetry exists.

The leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been antagonistic to Washington with his dictates, an initial refusal to allow attacks on IS from Turkish soil, and demands for return of an elderly opposition cleric in the US. Essentially Erdogan, while elected by 52 percent of Turkish voters, has been biting the hand that orchestrates.

Recently Thailand and before that Egypt had successful military led coups that had toppled in both cases, duly elected governments. US hardware and realpolitik seems to have been behind both episodes. Outside of Israel, Egypt, is the second largest recipient of US aid in the world, receiving around US$2 billion a year. By this we mean largely military aid: hardware and training in how to use that hardware.

The US government seeks moderate Islamic governments at best. Anything demonstrating a return to conservative Islamic rule or Sharia law is simply not tolerable to the US, especially in an area with so many tangled US alliances and having the largest “sweet” oil reserves in the world. Whether the governments there are elected or not seems to be irrelevant.

This also puts a serious test to the US commitment toward real, one man one vote, democracy. It seems more to be “democracy with approval” or a controlled consensus.

In the case of Thailand, a nearby ASEAN country, and with some parallel to Indonesia in terms of investment and export economy, an elected Red Shirt government under Thaksin and later his sister (that tilted Marxist in doctrine) became a nuisance to the US with its budding relationship toward China. This could not be allowed to continue.

Thailand has been a useful ally for the US since 1965 when it was used as a staging ground for bombings in Vietnam and Cambodia and a way-station for US troops R&R. This long-term relationship might be at stake under this drift by the Red Shirts.

A military coup ensued, and long-time US ally Yellow Shirt General Prayuth Chan-Ocha took power. He has been quick to suspend civil liberties, install curfews, and decided that he himself would push a new Thai constitution, that he wrote.

While publicly praising Thailand’s relationship with China in the media, it is noted he has been circumspect about his dealing with it, recently delaying a long planned and China financed toll road project (that has irritated China). In short, a rising China represents an offset to long held US sway in the area.

Indonesia should not underestimate the Washington consensus by any means even today. It was complicit in installing an unelected military leader in Indonesia in 1966, who weathered nearly 32 years in power until deteriorating economic conditions in Indonesia forced him out (that again with US soft-power intervention).

In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor as part of an annexation. This was done with the approval of Australia, a near ally and regional power, but the record has also shown that Australia was itself acting under the greenlight of then US president Gerald Ford and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Indonesia now has a non-military president who is under some constituent pressure to honor Islamic party demands for social change in established areas, yet Indonesia also has large US investments, particularly in the energy industry (oil and gas), significant aid programs (such as MCC, US AID) and on-and-off US military assistance in particular for training and intelligence sharing.

It is not only the US but also their alliance free market partners: UK, Japan, France, Germany and now even Korea. All have significant operations in Indonesia, not only commercial, but also for “development”, educational, energy and building civil society. In short, much is at stake.

If one considers recent events in Turkey, Egypt and Thailand, a message is being sent that tectonic shifts in power, (the rise of China, sharia law, etc.) elected or not, may not be welcome by established “free market” order or even “free” countries seeking influence. Indonesia should take notice of this.

The Washington consensus may be demonstrating that if soft power does not work, interference at the least and hard power at worst is still very much on the table.

In a world of political upheaval that is changing established orders, “democracy” may be a nice ideal but no longer “a priori”.

Will Hickey is an associate professor and public policy adviser for the School of Government and Public Policy in Jakarta.

Source: thejakartapost.com/academia/2016/07/27/coup-in-turkey-has-us-fingerprints-on-it.html


Decoding the Turkish Coup

By Professor Ozay Mehmet

 July 27, 2016

Most foreign observers are puzzled by the popular support for President Erdogan in the failed coup of Friday night, July 15, 2016. Why this support when he has been so authoritarian in his presidential role? And how come he is getting away with the unprecedented purge that looks like a massive crackdown on enemies and consolidation of power?

The cue to decoding the paradox lies in the fact that Turkish citizens know about the Gulen Movement. It seeks to build a “parallel state” on the road to an Iranian-style theocracy. For Kemalists and secularists, it is a huge tarikat (secret societies, religious or charitable, but also political) the forerunners of which had challenged Mustafa Kemal so violently in 1920s at the start of the Turkish Republic. 

It is, of course, a story of clash of two personalities: Fethullah Gulen and Receb Tayyib Erdogan. Both Islamist and allies till a few years ago, they are now bitter enemies. Their enmity is now wrapped up in the Syrian conflict and Big-Power geopolitics.

Who is Gulen? He is a self-exiled Muslim cleric, living in Pennsylvania, USA. He is super rich, having made his fortune from a network of 'prep-schools” in Turkey, which subsequently grew into a multinational educational conglomerate. Gulen's schools are considered the very antithesis of Koran-teaching medreses, often accused of training Jihadists. They are modern, focused on liberal arts.

The Gulen Movement is mysterious and international with schools and institutes in Asia, Africa and North America. In the USA, Gulenists run the biggest charter schools and are often subject to tax investigations. In Kanata, near Ottawa, there is a Gulenist 'Intercultural Dialogue Institute' which maintained warm relations with the former Harper government. Like an iceberg, one sees only 10 percent of what the Gulenist movement represents.

Gulen has effectively been under American protection, thanks in part to his NeoCon links, because he represents “Moderate Islam” (as alternative for radical, Jihadist Islam), a brand that is part of the US model. This is a NeoCon scheme to reshape the Muslim world. It is strongly rejected in Ankara which has no interest in exporting religious ideology.

There does not appear to be any credible evidence of American role in the coup. But, American policy in Syria and Iraq are very much factors. Specifically, the relative American failure to stem the Syrian conflict, lack of success against ISIL terror globally, and most significantly its opting for Kurdish PYD alliance, has angered Ankara. The rise of Russian and (in the background) Iranian support for Assad is also relevant, along with Brexit and indifference of Europe to do anything about the Syrian conflict beyond entering into a refugee agreement with Ankara to contain flooding of refugees into European territory.

Recently, the Syrian conflict has spilled over into neighbouring Turkey, already bulging with some three million refugees. The nation is divided over an existential war with PKK separatists. Daily lives and security of ordinary Turkish citizens have been badly hit by waves of terrorist attacks in Ankara, Istanbul and other Turkish cities, exposing state weakness to protect life and property.

In a divided society, the Gulen phenomenon is the last straw. The exiled cleric fell out with his former friend and ally Erdogan first over corruption charges, over youth and education policy and finally, over the handling of the Gezi Park demonstrations. Erdogan, never tolerant with dissent, reacted with limited purges of Gulenist supporters in the judiciary and public service.

But the Gulenist rot ran deep. Turkish society is cult-oriented, organised on clannish lines in a local feudal system. These are tarikats that owe allegiance to its chief or the sheik at its head. Gulen has, over the years, channeled his wealth into building and nurturing an elaborate cultist system. He owned newspapers, TV and movie stations, and his secret societies expanded with members from academe, military, civil service and judiciary.

To what aim? To prepare the social and political ground for Gulen's triumphant return from exile similar to Khomeni's success in Iran. With his (undemocratic) assumption of power in Turkey, Gulen would establish a Turkish theocracy, a living example of the US 'moderate Islam'.

Erdogan, very much the darling of USA Mideast think-tanks in the early days of the Obama administration, has in recent years pulled away from 'moderate Islam' schemes. He has felt “betrayed” by Obama's U-turn on Assad, and has become increasingly critical of US policies in Iraq and Syria. Recently, the US has opted for alliance with the Kurds, not only in Northern Iraq with whom Ankara has good relations, but what is anathema to Ankara, with Kobani Kurds, the PYD, an affiliate of PKK which, strictly speaking, is a terrorist organisation in the USA and Europe.

But, Erdogan's terrorists are not necessarily Obama's. Just recently, the Pentagon signed an agreement with the Kurds to launch a fight to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, now under ISIL. Ankara views the US-Kurdish alliance with alarm, wondering if it signals the first stage in the dismemberment of Turkey with American endorsement, toward the creation of independent Kurdistan. Repeated Turkish warnings have fallen on deaf ears in Washington, DC, in part owing to Neo-Con influence.

Now, the geopolitics of the region are changing fast. Erdogan has ended his feud with Israel. No less importantly he has promoted normalisation with Putin, whom he will visit in Kremlin. He is also warming relations with Iran. All this is intended to assert a new Syrian policy in Ankara, aimed at preserving the existing national boundaries in the region. Ankara is acting more independently, reacting to what it sees as a strategic American vacuum on Syria at a time when Europe is entering structural and long-term uncertainty over Brexit. Erdogan is hedging that EU needs Turkish cooperation over refugees immediately, while Brussels' influence in post-coup Ankara remains rock-bottom, victim to years of double-standard in EU handling of Turkish membership talks.

The price for these new realignments may fall on ordinary Turkish citizens. For the next three months, likely much longer, it seems, with a civilian-run state of emergency, Erdogan will be the strongman in Ankara as Gulenist cells in the country are rooted out. Hopefully, the death penalty will not be reinstated and vengeance will not determine post-coup purges.

Turkish people have saved democracy. From this point forward, Erdogan's Turkey will build a new system of political stability, the army will be remade under presidential rule and economic confidence may rebound. As for the existential threat of PKK separatism, it will be contained either through a closer Russian-Turkish deal, possibly in the context of a Syria deal, or, as part of renewed relations with the US. The latter will largely be determined by the extent of American cooperation with Ankara over the Gulen extradition and how a post-conflict Syria and Iraq are rebuilt.

Professor Ozay Mehmet is Senior Fellow, Modern Turkish Studies, Distinguished Research Professor, International Affairs (Emeritus), Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Source: thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/decoding-the-turkish-coup-1259839


The Challenge before Us

By Mahfuz Anam

J uly 27, 2016

The Indian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 on the basis of religion. Bangladesh was born 31 years later, in 1971, on the basis of nationalism, democracy and secularism. Democracy we lost first, in the mid-seventies and then in the early eighties, and are yet to recover it fully. Secularism, which was on a gradual decline, now faces its most severe threat.

As a freedom fighter I remember, as I we sat glued to a one-band radio, on the evening of December 16 1971, along with others in a guerrilla camp, listening to the surrender ceremony of the Pakistani army to the joint command in Dhaka and shouting “Joy Bangla” (Victory to Bangla), I was certain that my new country would be a place of prosperity, freedom and religious harmony. Never again would a Muslim or a Hindu lose his or her life for religion.

On the night of July 1, as most inhabitants of Dhaka stayed up all night watching the hostage tragedy on television unfold and hoping that the end would not be as tragic and gruesome as we were beginning to fear, I could hardly imagine that it was the same country to whose birth I, with millions of others, had contributed.

Bangladesh - the people, government, civil society, intelligentsia, media, etc. - is still reeling from the events of July 1 that saw the killing of 20 people; 17 foreigners and three Bangladeshis. Two police personnel also died while trying to fight the terrorists in the first rescue attempt. It was not only the act of cold blooded murder but also its bestial nature and the age of the perpetrators-between 20 and 28 years- that has raised many questions as to where the country has come in terms of values and beliefs in its post- independence period.

As a people, we firmly believed that our culture and history, especially the syncretic Islam that we practice here, and our religiosity that blended our diversity and devotion to produce a living culture of tolerance and openness, was enough to protect us from the extremism that seems to afflict so many other countries where Islam is the dominant religion.

We Proved To Be So Thoroughly And Tragically Wrong.

ur government made the cardinal mistake of being in denial from the start, thinking that any admission, either of the seriousness of the initial killing of bloggers, atheists and LGBT activists, or of any outside link will provide an excuse for the international community to term us as terrorist or a terror prone country with all its paraphernalia of negative 'advisories' and other possible restrictions and actions.

This led to the initial downplaying of the gruesome murders of writers, publishers and 'free thinkers' as “isolated incidents “and not taking timely steps to galvanize serious and effective preventive measures that could have prepared us better to handle the situation that we unfortunately faced on July 1.

The ever vigilant Bengali intellectuals, known for their anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic struggles and for being the first to raise their voice against all forms of oppression and for their uncompromising stance against extremism and for secularism, appear to have failed to fully grasp what was happening around them. Instead of making a robust call for waking up to the fundamentalist threat they made the fatal error of allowing themselves to be sucked into partisan politics and rather than being the voice of freedom and democracy that they traditionally were, they became a tool of the two dominant political parties who, for their own narrow ends, flirted with the fundamentalist forces whenever it suited them.

Civil society, especially the grassroots based non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which were spread throughout different corners of the country; appear also to have failed to grasp the spread of extremism. For, ordinarily they should have been among the first to sense what was happening on the ground in the remote areas. Here again, the government, in its deep suspicion of the role of the NGOs and mainly considering them to be peddling a donor-driven agenda, probably ignored whatever warning they might have given, if at all.

Media must also accept its share of the blame for not going deep enough with investigative reports to challenge the government's narrative that these were “isolated” incidents, and that everything was under control with the leadership repeating for years the policy of “zero tolerance” of extremism; all the while it grew under the very feet of the administration. A few who tried to project a different story were branded as trying to damage the image of the country and for working for interests inimical to that of the country.

The challenge now before all of us is to determine how deep and wide the spread of extremist ideologies is, how entrenched is the threat and, more importantly, how we can effectively fight it.

The first question to face is where is all this extremism coming from? So far the culprit was thought to be poverty, ignorance and the Madrassa based education.  The rural religious schools were generally considered to be the breeding ground of fundamentalist ideals and activists. However, the killings at Holey Artisan Bakery showed that only one of the five kids that carried out the massacre came from a Madrasa. As we discover the identity of others it is becoming increasingly clear that most of these kids come from middle and upper middle class, have studied at expensive English medium schools and private universities, few had even studied abroad. They were the usual boisterous kids, donning T-shirts and jeans, frequenting hangouts like youngsters of that age do everywhere in the world. So what had gone wrong with these kids and at what point in their lives?

There is no denying the fact that the overall impact of religion in general has significantly risen in the country. It is more a part of our lives than ever before. More men and women are seen in religious clothing and men sporting beards. Friday prayers are far more widely participated in than ever before. Religion, no doubt, is in the air.

People of Bangladesh are traditionally religious. However, our religiosity must be clearly distinguished from extremism some signs of which we see today.  It is also true that there has been an overall corrosion of secular principles in Bangladesh. It is a fact that when bloggers, atheists, so-called 'free thinkers' and LGBT activists were being murdered one after another there was a murmur that since they criticised religion and some professed not to believe in any they, somehow, deserved to be 'punished'.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

We are still to gauge the full impact of terrorism on our lives. But the 'normal' is no longer so. Personal lives are restrained, social lives significantly narrowed and public gatherings are few and far between. Shopping malls and restaurants are almost empty and roadside shopping is down. Factories are running and our major export, the readymade garment sector, is still holding in terms of order. However, many buyers are refusing to come to Bangladesh. Many countries and foreign businesses are considering declaring Bangladesh as a non-family post, with some having already done so. Some big international conferences - much business related ones - are being shifted away from Dhaka.

The good news is that our government appears to have moved away from the denial mode and by the large-scale anti-militancy operation that we are seeing it appears we have taken the threat seriously. However, so far the moves have been by the police and other law enforcers. Those familiar with religion based extremist movements say that these are not mere law and order problems that can be solved simply by use of force. The challenge here is to “win the hearts and minds” for which there must be motivational campaigns alongside the use of force. The campaign at Dhaka University launched last Monday, is a step in the right direction but needs to be replicated all over the country.

Bangladesh has a long history of resilience and of beating the odds. From a country of disasters we are now a country of doers and achievers, almost always proving our sceptics wrong. It is my deeply held belief that in fighting back extremism we can prove to be equally successful. The balance between religion and culture ingrained in our tradition, the hospitality inherent in our society, our unique blend of Islamic heritage and Bengali heritage, our fundamental nature of tolerance, our tradition of openness and acceptance of the 'other', our rich heritage of political struggle have prepared us well to resist a fundamentalist and extremist thrust.

It is what makes us unique as Bangladeshis that will, in the end, help us win in this battle against extremism.

Mahfuz Anam is Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star, Bangladesh. This is part of a series of columns by editors from the Asian News Network (ANN) and published in member newspapers across the region.

Source: thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/the-challenge-us-1259854

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/coups-have-consequences-—-including-making-more-room-for-islam--new-age-islam-s-selection,-27-july-2016/d/108088


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