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March 04, 2013, Monday

Changing criteria for Muslims

A merchant who is always attentive to his personal interests was asked the result of 2x2. He said, “It is three if I am buying, but it is five if I am selling.” This is the method employed by those who rely on the neoliberal philosophy to promote the cause of democracy when it comes to Muslims who take Islam or their religious life seriously. In any case, they interpret democracy to the disservice of Islam, just as the merchant manipulated the figures in the face of the naked truth.

The Muslims who fight for their fundamental rights and freedoms are recommended to integrate with other social groups. To this end, Muslims who would like to survive in a hegemonic system have to learn how to integrate with the society they live in. In Germany and the Western world, where integration is defined as assimilation, this is the overall situation of Muslims as a minority. The only minority that can observe its religion in the West is the Jews. In essence, during the drafting of the legislation on minorities in a democratic system, the Jews were taken into consideration; the drafters never thought that the number of Muslims in the West would reach into the millions someday and, as a result, Muslims are unable to benefit from the rights that Jews enjoy.

In all countries where liberal democracy shapes politics, Muslim minorities have to deal with some depravities. They regard this as natural because they are members of a minority in the community.

It is now becoming evident that Muslims will become dominant actors in political life in this entire region, including Tunisia and Egypt. At this stage, a new definition of democracy is being offered to keep the Islamists under control. The means of achieving this can be appreciated and understood by a review of what has been happening in Turkey. In Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was able to come to power only after it made strong promises that it would no longer subscribe to its political tradition, that it would no longer promote the policies of the National View (Milli Görüş), that it would not adopt an Islamist identity and that it would not pursue religion-based policies. Even though it has not used Islam as a reference point -- if it had, these issues would have been resolved -- on crucial problems, including the Kurdish issue, the Alevi issue, poverty, minority rights, income inequality, the dissolution of the family, moral corruption and Middle East policy, the believers in liberal rhetoric have always stood over the AK Party as though they were the sword of Damocles. Every step that brings up Islamic references -- abortion, the construction of mosques and so on -- is an opportunity for opponents to make this statement: “You former Islamists, you cannot assume that you can do whatever you want just because you received the majority of the vote. Democracy is not rule of the majority. It is a regime where minorities are able to express themselves freely in the public sphere and are even equal to the majority as well.”

We have seen one of the most striking examples of this in a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the headscarf case. The court concluded that those who did not wear a headscarf were the minority, not the religious or ethnic groups. Judging that the women who were fewer in number in society might feel psychologically pressured, the court ruled that the women could be prevented from fulfilling their religious obligation. Clearly, in this case, the court concluded that 2x2 equals three. If a non-religious minority had filed an application against the Muslim majority, it would have said that 2x2 equals five.

There will be discussions in Egypt and Tunisia like those being held in Turkey. We look for answers to these questions here: a) What is the minority that would limit the decisions of the majority, b) What should we understand by the representation of the minority vis-à-vis the majority, c) In what democratic country in the world did the Muslims restrict the decisions of the majority or were their rights protected as minorities?

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