Posts tagged Islamism

If you’d like to tag along with my POL 102 class this semester, here’s your chance. Once a week I assign a web based assignment to go along with the topic of our chapter textbook (we’re using The Good Society: An Introduction to Comparative Politics).

This week, we’re looking at various facets of political culture. So Wednesday we’re discussing a Current TV report about the religious/secular debate in Turkey, particularly with the rise of the AK (Justice & Development) Party. The report is called "Scarf Wars" and first aired in 2008.

The report is particularly fascinating, because it looks at a predominantly Muslim country that is—and historically has been—remarkably secular. In fact, the country’s constitution proscribes a strict separation of church and state (known as laïcité) that goes much further than in the US. In many ways, the images and discussion in the video challenge traditional perceptions of “Muslim” political culture in the US media. But pay attention to the debate over the role of religion in Turkey. Does it mirror any of the debates in the US—particularly the “war on religion” rhetoric—taking place today? If so, which US political party most closely resembles the “Islamist” AK Party?

While we’re at it, here’s a recent article from Time magazine about Turkey’s current president ("Erdogan’s Moment"). With the current events in Syria and the rest of the Middle East after the “Arab Spring,” Turkey—a longtime US ally—has become a potential model for many Arab reformers. Should the US encourage this? 

The Political Notebook: Can we all stop acting like political Islam means that "Arabs can't do democracy"?

From thepoliticalnotebook:

I mean, really? Talking about the possible dangers of the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists or the Ennahda Party (particularly when it comes to social freedoms) don’t have to involve saying things like “Are the sceptics who said that Arabs could not handle democracy—and would inevitably elect nasty people who would never surrender power—being proved horribly right?

Just to point out - we rarely look at the Evangelical role in US politics as an argument for a Western inability to successfully implement and maintain a democracy, but Evangelical Christianity’s political and activist role is frequently aimed at detriment to social freedoms like the right to choose or the freedom to plan a family and to have safe sex, or to have the same rights even if you’re gay.* We absolutely need to be talking about what the outcome of Ennahda’s big win in Tunisia and the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt might mean for those populations, but we also need not to get carried away into the land of paternalistic Orientalism and start making broad decisions and evaluations of any culture’s innate ability to form a certain kind of government to our own liking, or make snap decisions for those countries about whether or not their new systems are successfully created.

Important things to remember here when talking about this: not all residents of the Middle East or North Africa are Arab or Muslim; a significant chunk of Egyptians and Tunisians did not vote for political Islam and are exerting pressures on those parties to dilute their politics, make promises about their social policies, and form coalitions with more moderate or secular parties; talking about the failure of a political transition just as it’s officially beginning is hasty and silly; not Western does not equal not successful. 

*If you’re reading this and you’re Evangelical, this is not equivalent to me saying your religion is bad or that you automatically believe these things or act in these ways. I’m talking about the politicized elements seen in and wielded by numerous conservative/Republican candidates and their political influencers.