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Turkey: The Case of 'Orthodox' Secularism
Author: Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz Fagge | May 14, 2007



“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know What religion is”Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) The political arena of the Republic of Turkey has recently fumed with political hullabaloo and brouhaha thereby attracting the world’s attention. The ruckus came as a result of the nomination of Mr. Abdallah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stand as the presidential candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party widely known as AKP. Wonderfully, the cause of this concern and frying nerves is that an ‘Islamist’ was contesting an election to be the Turkish president. As Gul’s critics agues it is against the strict code of secularism exercises by the country to allow extremist somebody like Mr. Gul to rule the country. Notwithstanding Gul is not an ‘extremist’ per say but the secularists’ accusation was that if Mr. Abdallah Gul is allowed to be the president his Islamic ideology would be accentuated. According to them, once Gul got the chance of clinching the helm of affairs he will turn out to “rejuvenate his Islamists’ ideology”. Turkey is a country with a unique history and distinct socio-political features. It underwent many changes and exposed to civilisations in different time of history. The antecedents of modern Turkey could be traced from the Anatolian empire of Hittites (18th to 13th Century BCE), later conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire (6th to 7th Centuries), then the Alexander the Great’s invasion of 334 BCE, to the time when Istanbul became the capital Byzantine Empire . Following the Seljuk’s victory over the Byzantine Empire in the battle on Manzikert (1071), they formed their new Empire however; it was also defeated by the Mongols fighters in 1243. It was amidst this unrest that the Ottoman Empire came into being. This was a Muslims kingdom that was politically and religiously established. It was among the world’s most powerful political entities in the 16th and 17th Centuries that have been competing with the then powerful empires of Eastern Europe such as Roman Empire . Ottoman Empire ruled for 623 before its downfall. Another unique feature of the Republic of Turkey that makes it culturally inimitable is the confluences and intertwined cultures which resulted from the mingling of Western and Eastern civilisations. Indeed there has being a great clash between the two civilisations in the country. The modern day Turkey , was formed following the toppling of the Muslims’ Uthman Empire after the World War 1. The movement against the empire was prompted by the Turkish National Movement, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey , which later promulgated Turkey as an independent Republic on October 29, 1923. Kemal’s era as president (October 29, 1923 – November 10, 1938) saw the reformation of the economic and socio-political spheres of the country through the so-called Kemal’s reform and the “Six Principles” of Ataturk, represented by six arrows (the logo of Turkish Republican People’s Party), the six principles are; Secularism, republicanism, populism, revolutionalism, nationalism and statism, these are the basic modus operandi of Turkey up to date. However, the changes brought under the auspice secularism are really an aesthetic ideology and to some extent an anti-Islam plan. From the onset of the Republic there are series of abolishment of such things as: Caliphate system, Islamic education system, Islamic canon law, Islamic courts, titles and by-names and also things such as the recognition of equality of both sexes, reform of headgear and dress among others. During Ataturk reign limitations and strict yardsticks were applied to Islamic processions and gatherings. Azan, for example, was condemned as public disturbance. Such principles which are still considered as model and fait accompli in Turkey have in recent years lead to molestation and consequent dismissal of a female Parliament Member for having put on a veil. The limit of Turkish secularism is beyond the scope of the orthodox secularism per see. The system is not fair even to the secular principles, for as against the ideal dictate of secularism, that is complete isolation of religion from the public sector. In a situation where the government have to interfere in personal lives of the people or where it have sanction the activities of the citizens (especially the educational curriculum and soon) to ensure that they are not becoming ‘spiritual’ the situation is said to be worse than secularism rather atheism. From the foregoing one will come to the conclusion that the main opposition of the Turkish secularism has being the Islamic codes and ethics. The direction of the country has always being the West. While its citizens always look up the West for their lifestyle, the leaders are always more than ready to implement the dictates and therefore blindly follow the doctrines of the Western world. May Allah guide us unto the straight path, Amin!

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