Monday, November 06, 2006

Secular Turks March Against Radical Islam

In a promising development this weekend, thousands of secular Turks marched against the rise of radical Islam within the nation's borders.

ANKARA, Turkey: Thousands of secular, nationalist Turks marched in the capital Saturday, vowing to defend the secular regime against Islamization and urging the government not to make too many concessions in order to gain European Union membership.

Some 12,000 people from more than 100 pro-secular associations waved Turkish flags as they marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in a show of loyalty to secularism. Many of them carried posters of Ataturk.

"Turkey is secular and it will remain secular," they chanted during a march broadcast live on some TV channels.

PYY published a post Friday, critical of the growing fundamentalist sector in Turkey. If there was no such growth, there would be no need for a march like this. But there is and there was.

Every predominantly Muslim nation that has a secular government (and even those that do not) should look within themselves and decide if they want radicals to exert their oppressive wills over them. If not, all countries that fall into this category should take to the streets and peacefully show their opposition, just as they have done here in Turkey.

PYY applauds all efforts like this. We need more to follow suit, if the war against Islamists is to be successful.


Anonim said...

Hi LASunsett,

A much larger crowd had marched to Ataturk's Mausoleum in Ankara within the past year to protest the shooting of five appeals court judges by an angry Islamist lawyer (one was killed in the attack). Demonstrations such as this one are not infrequent in Turkey, where the society has strong secularist reflexes (let alone the fact that state's laws, traditions, and top echelons are staunchly secular). One particular episode that took place in the early year's of our Republic has haunted the nation's memory for decades. I am afraid, it has recently come to be remembered less, or to be seen irrelevant to our times or conditions.

That episode, briefly, took place an in a small Aegean town. In protest of Ataturk's reform acts, a local sheikh (molla, imam, whatever) organized a march inciting townspeople to rebellion against the "infidels" (who were of course Turks like himself; and Muslims too, but of a different kind I guess). A young reserve officer on duty intervened with a small contingent of troops, and tried to disperse the crowd before things got out of control. Unfortunately, the sheikh's bloodthirsty following overpowered the troops, and the young officer was beheaded on the spot by them. The sheikh could not enjoy his victory for long, but the sad event remained a reminder of what ignorance and blind religiosity could result in.

As recent as early 90s, a group of some 40 authors, poets and others of national renown was targeted by an angry mob of out-of-control Islamists in a central Anatolian city. The mob put the hotel where the group convened to fire. There were many fatalities.

By giving these two examples, I don't mean to say, Turkey is riddled with religiously inspired violence (across time or space); an overwhelming majority is comparable to mid-west US population in terms of their religious practice and conservatism, and would be offended by and condemn above examples. But there is this violent, intolerant and oppressive streak in Islam that seems to be too much alive. Just consider Taliban in Afghanistan, or the Homeyni regime in Iran... Although I think Turkey is far from facing immediate threat by such extreme currents, there is no reason to drop one's guard. I agree there is a "growing fundamentalist sector" in Turkey, and I tend to think they are for the most part misguided. Save a few legitimate grievances they may have with the particular Turkish secularism, they do not offer hope for the future. There should be a difference between expressing/addressing grievances and re-engineering the direction of a country.

Writing with a Turkish secular slant again,


LASunsett said...

Hi Anonim,

Welcome back.

//There should be a difference between expressing/addressing grievances and re-engineering the direction of a country.//

I agree, especially if the group with the grievances is clearly in the minority. But, too often the smaller groups that are the loudest and most vocal will try to make up for the gap in support with violence, to get their point across.