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December 09, 2012, Sunday

Let us make sure history does not repeat itself

As people living in Turkey, we have to recognize that we have been suffering from the intervention of social engineering for over 250 years, since the start of modernization. This is a reality. The Western paradigm was so strong and we were so unprepared, that we experienced grave consequences. This was amplified due to the collapse of an empire during this process.

Enverism and Kemalism emerged in response to and were shaped by a particular eclectic image of the West: Dismissing the past and emulating Western society; redefining Turks and Islam without incorporating the East in the process; and holding as the ideal the notion of erasing all of our differences by relying on discriminative rhetoric defining Turks. This is a state of affairs that has been host to many dangerous dilemmas.

In this case, what emerged was a generation of culture and lifestyle contrary to the people's values; an authoritarianism that interfered with everything, including attire, alphabets, daily life, music -- and did so with coercion. The people reacted silently. Society acted like they took what they were offered, but they also transformed it by paying attention to radicalism sometimes and wearing masks of acceptance. This means that we have transformed while being transformed and created the unique Turkey of today.

Now we have been governed for a decade by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) administration that emerged as the political movement of Muslims that had been excluded from politics. It is the political representative of a group of people that is aware of being "the other" in this country and it was the promoter of bold reforms up until 2010. It has aborted all the plots and scenarios of the Kemalist elites. The administration is self-confident at least on this matter. We are talking about a competent and strong government.

However, I think that some attitudes during this phase of competence referred to as the era of mastery are no different than the attitudes of Kemalist social engineering. Huge mosque projects in Çamlıca, reorganizing Taksim without asking the people, the strong reaction to a soap opera, attempts to sanitize history and many other acts seem to be exclusionary even if they are said to be done as a return to the original culture. Authoritarianism makes itself clear known at the center again. What Kemalism did for years was so grave and painful that these efforts of the current government make religious people feel good. For this reason, they may ignore some of its flaws and mistakes. However, this attitude makes some other social groups furious.

Turkey now needs freedom and peace. The achievements of top-down interventions always lead to polarization and social upheaval. Culture and social life find their normal course and appearance when they are left to the people and their free choices. There is no significant difference between the creation of the Atatürk Cultural Center by Kemalists in Taksim and the construction of a huge mosque in Çamlıa. It is not proper to repeat the mistake of Kemalists in 2012. If there is a need for a mosque, the people will take care of it without intimidating others and causing a disturbance. The involvement of the state in such matters always makes things more complicated.  

In contrast, organic processes yield lasting results and form. They are warmly embraced by the people and have a unifying effect.

Let us make sure that history does not repeat itself.

Previous articles of the columnist