Turkey between neo-Ottomanism and secularism

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Our Own Correspondent

Jumada' al-Ula' 09, 1433 2012-04-01

News & Analysis

by Our Own Correspondent (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 2, Jumada' al-Ula', 1433)

As Turkey’s hopes of becoming the leading power to restore Muslim public identity and its own Islamic socio-political distinctiveness gradually fade away from Muslim memory, it is important not to exaggerate the deviations of contemporary Turkey.

By our correspondent in Istanbul

As Turkey’s hopes of becoming the leading power to restore Muslim public identity and its own Islamic socio-political distinctiveness gradually fade away from Muslim memory, it is important not to exaggerate the deviations of contemporary Turkey. Similarly, they should not be underestimated either. The global Islamic movement must understand the roots of this deviation in order to challenge it more effectively.

Turkey’s decision in September 2011 to host an early-warning anti-missile radar system as part of the NATO defense system against Iran, its backing of the US-Israeli partition plan for Syria, its Western aligned position on Libya and partial support for the military takeover in Egypt show Ankara’s current preferences. These policies greatly undermine the Islamic movement and Muslims worldwide in general but they are not implemented with the intention to sustain the US, European and Zionist dominance over the Muslim world. At the superficial level this may appear to be the case and perhaps may even lead to this unintended consequence but its overall impact would be marginal.

The leadership of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has never been coy about its plans to restore Turkey’s Ottoman status and glory. This ambition is the fundamental reason for Turkey’s alliance with the imperialist powers. Turkish leadership assumes that they can extract concessions from powerful Western states if they play the give-and-take game with them. What Turkey is offering is that it will not back any forces or policies that would not only weaken Western presence in the Muslim world but aim to eliminate it completely by restoring an Islamic civilizational order. In turn, Turkey wants the West to acknowledge Ankara as the sole regional superpower through whom and with whom the West should deal when implementing its policies in the Muslim East. In simple language, this means Turkey wants to become the new Saudi Arabia for the US and its allies, but in a more sophisticated manner and be less submissive than the tribal-run desert kingdom in the Arabian Peninsula. Turkey’s rationale is that confronting the West requires a great deal of effort, sophistication, stamina and skills, which the ruling establishment lacks. Based on this, Turkey has decided to jump on the US-Western bandwagon on issues and policies considered crucial to Ankara.

On numerous occasions Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu stated that Turkey has multiple identities which give it a strategic depth. This concept would not be problematic if it did not neglect the socio-political turmoil brought upon Turkey by having multiple contradictory identities. One of the most paradoxical phenomena in Turkey’s socio-political environment is the presence of powerful forces that are equally loyal to its quasi-Islamic Ottoman past and the secular, anti-Islamic “Ataturk” model imposed since 1924. These conflicting loyalties, actively cultivated and promoted by Western powers during the Cold War era, created major identity crises for Turkish society that led to an inferiority complex within its political culture. It is this inferiority complex that has run the zero-problem policy of Ahmet Davutoglu into a dead-end.

It is clear today that the widely marketed zero-problem policy is completely shattered. Unless radical policy changes occur within the ranks of Turkey’s ruling elite it is difficult to see how Ankara can hope to normalize ties with Syria within the next few years and win back the trust of Islamic Iran. The Turkish zero-problem policy reached such a fiasco that even commanders of the anti-Russian forces in the North Caucasus issued a warning to Turkey on 11-21-2011 over what they believe is Turkish cooperation with Russia. This emerged in the framework of the assassination of members of the anti-Russian forces residing in Turkey. These are clear signals that something went fundamentally wrong with the AKP agenda, at least insofar as its foreign policy is concerned. The fact that Iran and Syria, two of Turkey’s principal neighbors see Ankara’s foreign policy as inconsistent with what can be defined as friendly neighbors is a manifestation of this failure. It must be remembered that AKP’s zero-problem policy initiative was fully backed by Iran and Syria when it was first anounced.

Competent governments usually attain needed results through flexible methodologies without compromising the core principles of their agenda. True, it is not easy to master this skill, but careful examination of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Sirah, especially his policies after signing the Treaty of Hudaybiya, at the time of the liberation of Makkah and post-Hunayn events provide the best framework on how one can be flexible and yet remain principled. In contemporary history four political entities have mastered this skill, namely, the US, Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah. Even though the US state apparatus is pursuing a series of illegitimate goals worldwide and does so in a criminal manner, Washington has developed a government apparatus that is firmly rooted in protecting its interests. This is precisely the reason why the “change” slogan so loudly proclaimed by Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign did not result in any change of policy whether at home or abroad. On the contrary, Obama intensified the anti-people policies while maintaining a broad smile on his face. In the US, the state system based on imperialist objectives, guides all institutions. It is not predicated on the wishes of individuals, whether politicians or members of Congress. The same is true for Iran, even though Mohamed Khatami’s foreign policy aims were quite different; they did not change Islamic Iran’s strategic Islamic political identity and kept the core principles of the Islamic Revolution intact.

It is still too early to predict what the exact outcome of Turkey’s play with the West at the expense of regional stability will be. However, it is important to keep in mind that too much pressure on Turkey from the global Islamic movement will play into the hands of Western imperialist powers and too little attention to its deviation might lead to a situation where Turkey will think its policies are acceptable. Therefore, a balanced approach needs to be taken that would expose the many historical mistakes Turkey made during its Ottoman era and in the current secular imposed order by following inconsistent multiple identity policies. Ottoman Turkey collapsed because it blended Western imposed nationalism and other contradictory concepts into its Islamic identity, and secularism failed Turkey because it rejected its Islamic identity. The West clearly wants to hijack the process of Islamic revival in Turkey by luring it into an alliance. The Islamic movement must clarify in a sophisticated and brotherly manner that such an alliance will cause more problems than gains for Turkey. History bears witness to this.

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