CUMALİ ÖNAL

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CUMALİ ÖNAL
November 06, 2011, Sunday

Muslim Brotherhood did not understand Erdoğan’s message on secularism

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s emphasis on the need for secularism during his visit to Egypt in mid-September did not have the expected impact on the Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest movement in the country.

Leading figures of the movement argue that, in reference to the type of secularism in Turkey that has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, this system cannot be implemented in a religious country like Egypt.

Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman last week, the movement’s media speaker, Mahmoud Ghazlan, said the most obvious difference between Turkey and Egypt is that secularism in Turkey is imposed by the military, whereas Egypt, as spelled out in Article 2 of its constitution, is an Islamic state.

Ghazlan, noting that there are many examples of repression in Turkey in the name of secularism, also underlined the many coups that were staged to this end and that former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was executed in 1960.

Emphasizing that the headscarf ban and legitimization of adultery are not acceptable to them, Ghazlan pointed out that Egypt is the home of al-Azhar University, one of the leading defenders of Islam and the Quran.

Noting that religion and the state cannot be completely separated and referring to the Susurluk scandal in Turkey that surfaced on Nov. 3, 1966 after a car accident that involved in the same car the deputy chief of police for İstanbul, a Kurdish deputy and a leading Turkish nationalist, Ghazlan argued that the state and a mafia could easily become interconnected in a country where religion is excluded. According to Ghazlan, a secular Egypt would encourage and promote corruption in many fields, from economics to politics.

He did underline that the Muslim Brotherhood has complete respect for Erdoğan because of his efforts to lift the Gaza blockade and his showdown in Davos; however, they are strongly opposed to an understanding that excludes Islam from government.

Secularism is one of the top issues of discussion on the eve of the upcoming elections in Egypt, a country that is still going through a difficult period. There are many issues that occupy the agenda, including security concerns, economic upheaval, strikes and whether the military is eager to stage a coup.

However, in order for it not to waste its time like Turkey, Egypt should heed the messages Erdoğan delivered on secularism. His message was intended to emphasize social peace. In other words, authentic secularism is an assurance and a guarantee of social peace.

Although it is not perfect, Turkey is now developing an approach to and an understanding of true secularism. It also enjoys and experiences improvements in many fields. In order for Egypt to pass through this process smoothly, it will need social peace and cohesion.

Egyptians are religious people, but they are also one of the most moderate peoples in the world. They do not want conflict. Despite a huge gap in security, the country has not been dragged into a state of major conflict. This is mostly thanks to this unique characteristic of their society.

However, it is also likely that some people are pushing for a conflict between Muslims and Christians in Egypt to further their political agendas.

We observe such a danger through political polarization and alignment. The country’s politics are being shaped by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Several parties founded the Egyptian Bloc to ensure that the Freedom and Development Party (HKP), sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, would not come to power. However, many parties have left the HKP alliance to run individually in the elections.

Undoubtedly, the chances of parties supported by liberals, leftists, nationalists, communists and Christians being elected are not high. However, any slight mistake by the Muslim Brotherhood that raises suspicion and fear would risk causing chaos even if they come to power. All of their messages and activities must be very clear.

This should result in a sense of relief for Christian and liberal circles. Christians ask the Brotherhood to clarify its message and show its true intentions. Liberals, on the other hand, insist that if the HKP is elected, women will be forced to wear chadors, the liberal market economy will be lifted, tourism activities will be frozen and the banking system and country will be forced into a transition to a different style of dictatorship.

In short, for the country to attain a better state of affairs, the Muslim Brotherhood -- as the greatest chance for the country to move to a democratic government -- has to offer plausible responses to these allegations and doubts. This could be accomplished through true secularism, regardless of how unpleasant that would sound. In other words, the country would be ruled by a government that would remain equally distant to all and embrace all groups in the country at the same time.

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