Islamists for Human Rights
There's an interesting piece in the NYT today about the nature of secularism in Turkey. A reader adds:
I have to agree with the dissents about Turkey. Thanks for posting them. The normative associations that secularism and Islamic parties usually carry for us may not apply to Turkey. Turkey's version of secularism is aggressively nationalist and statist, linked to a tradition of authoritarianism, military rule, and a personality cult surrounding Atatürk that ought to make one very uncomfortable. It has been the driving force behind the denial of the Armenian genocide, the ruthless suppression of the Kurds, heavy-handed censorship, and discrimination against devout Muslims. The secular regime in Turkey has presided over the widespread and systematic use of torture, as well as crimes against humanity in Kurdistan. It is not a pretty picture.
Meanwhile, the Islamic "Justice and Development" party has pushed hard for liberal reforms - indeed, no other government in Turkish history has done more for human rights. As far as I can tell, the Justice and Development party is genuinely committed to freedom of conscience, certainly more than the secularist establishment. I strongly recommend Stephen Kinzer's 2001 book "Crescent and Star" - a fast read. Kinzer has the following quote from Abdullah Gül (the Justice and Development member whose candidacy for president sparked the current crisis):
"When my wife went to MIT in Boston, she wore her head scarf to class every day and nobody said a word. If an exam was scheduled on a Muslim holy day, she would ask the professor if she could take it on another day, and every professor agreed immediately. The United States is a secular country that doesn't allow religion to influence government but doesn't suppress it either. That's all we want for Turkey."
If that's what a moderate Islamist model looks like, I'm fine with it. But I worry about its inherent tendency to metastasize, just as Christianism has in the U.S.