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February 07, 2012, Tuesday

Islamic faction and democracy

I prefer not to delve into the whole debate on “raising a religious generation,” which was sparked by words from the prime minister. I do not know whether in the nearly 10 years that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been in power anything in this direction has been done.

But the matter itself has a political aspect to it. Let us remember for a moment that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was referring to the applications made by some Republican People’s Party (CHP) members to the Council of State concerning the topic of coefficient factors in state tests. So what these words really were was a protest by the weary who often wonder “what is it that these CHP people want from Imam Hatip graduates?” It is really not fair to take this sentence and try to read it any other way. To wit, the prime minister has even stated before that “our approach to different religious faiths is quite clear for all to see. We have no intent to try and format students or anything. To the contrary, we would like to see much more freedom and democracy.”

Religiousness is an adjective that is not applicable to everything in equal measure. It carries no rank. What is religiousness anyway? For example, is carrying out certain acts of piety and devotion enough to make one considered “religious”? And how is the definition of religiousness damaged when people who are cruel at heart, who crush others, and who are impolite and arrogant, declare themselves religious? Is the core of the matter the style of religiousness, or its essence? And what about the many people who, while not seeing themselves as particularly religious, are on a truly holy level? Personally, what I get from Islam is this: to try to be one person out of many, one person who feels pain for all people, a person who, without falling hostage to unrealistic expectations from this world, simply tries to focus on the wish of Allah, and in doing so, tries to carry out as many good deeds as possible, while trying to prevent bad deeds. And while doing this, one of course must strive for humility, tolerance, compromise, love and sharing. And this is wherein democracy emerges before us, which brings me to the topic that I was originally interested in focusing on: “The Islamic faction and democracy.”

In the years of our youth, let us say around 1966-1967, with leftism as prominent and center-staged as it was, we began to accept and express ourselves as “rightists.” Some of us were “patriots,” others were “fighters,” and some of us were members of the National Turkish Student Union (MTTB). And now we see this same generation boosting the “New Turkey” in every arena, from politics to the media, from bureaucracy to the business world, even in culture and art. In other words, yesterday’s tough-talking, pugilistic youth, whose actions and reactions all seemed to be sparked by an anti-Western motivation, are working and taking up responsibilities in every area of life.

The vast majority of us have changed in a positive sense, and this change is described in its plainest form by the presence of a constantly strengthening ruling party that has come about as a result of the transition from the “Milli Görüş” (National View) profile to the AK Party profile. And as the leftist-secular factions fail in their readings of both Turkey and the world, condemning themselves simply to the role of the opposition to the AK Party, we in these ranks find ourselves under the umbrella of “conservative democracy,” and, most importantly, find ourselves staying on our feet as we carefully stay far away from any feelings of revenge. The point at which we have arrived is pleasing, hope-inspiring and exciting.

But Turkey is not composed only of our ranks, and we have the same risk of falling into the same pattern of mistakes that the Kemalist groups have. Only one thing can prevent this: We need to question ourselves and put the spotlight on self-criticism. We need to peer into the mirror every day, and not shy away from telling ourselves the following: If you are going to be a Muslim and a democrat, do not do so just for yourself. We need to warn ourselves of this possibility to prevent it from happening.

We are at a turning point. Those who have rested their fates on the guardian system based on authoritarian secularity have been shaken. On the road to democracy, the 58 percent of the vote we received in the referendum was very valuable. At the same time, we are building new bridges with the world around us. Rather than breaking off from the rest of the world, we remain true to ourselves and are living a spring renewal of becoming more and more integrated with the global scene. The geography of the Islamic world, after three centuries of exploitation, is finally taking the stage as an essential actor. And the Turkish world is on the road to becoming a new international power.

History is proffering a golden opportunity. We are obliged, at the same time, to think of others. There is no other way than to live in the world, a world where justice is supreme, alongside others and encompassed by freedoms of idea and expression, as well as by freedoms of religion and conscience. We need a mentality that has sharing as its basis. Everyone needs this, in fact.

Domestic peace, universal peace, serenity, prosperity, stability … these are all dependent on how broad our horizons are.

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