Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish political commentator who seems to be either fooling himself or others by implying that the left and Islam can coexist when their common obstacles are out of the way (Mubarak, Gadhafi, Ben Ali). The problem is that history doesn’t support that notion.
Via the Dallas News:
For years, foreign policy discussions have focused on the question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy. But this is becoming passe. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists, who were long perceived as opponents of the democratic system, are now promoting and joyfully participating in it. Even the ultra-Orthodox Salafis now have deputies sitting in the Egyptian Parliament, thanks to the ballots that they, until very recently, denounced as heresy.
Passé? If anything is passé about the Islamic / leftist dynamic, it’s that they align against a common enemy and when that enemy is defeated, Islamists throw the leftists under the bus. It happened in Iran in 1979 and it’s happening all across the Middle East now. As for Egypt and Tunisian participating in democracy… Indeed, the Middle East is willing to participate in democracy – through the election period only. Period.
For those concerned about extremism in the Middle East, this is good news. It was the exclusion and suppression of Islamists by secular tyrants that originally bred extremism. (Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda’s leading ideologue, was a veteran of Hosni Mubarak’s torture chambers.) Islamists will become only more moderate when they are not oppressed, and only more pragmatic as they face the responsibility of governing.
First of all, Islamists are “joyfully” participating because – as Turkish Imam Fethullah Gulen likes to say – the time has not yet become “ripe” for Islam to seize total control. They’re still playing the part of Lucy who is trying to convince Charlie Brown to kick the football. As for the notion that al-Zawahri become radicalized to the point of helping to coordinate 9/11 because the Mubarak regime tortured him, Akyol’s best defense for the al-Qaeda leader seems to be that the latter was suffering from a bad case of displacement.
Even if we were to accept Akyol’s faulty premise about terrorist bombings not actually being the fault of those who commit them, it limits Islamic extremism to “explosive acts” only. Islamic extremism also includes a much more insidious political activism that relies on the use of naive activists like Akyol. What came first, Zawahiri or the Brotherhood? And does the Brotherhood really condemn Zawahiri? The answer is “Yes” in English but “No” in Arabic.
Islamists will become only more moderate when they are not oppressed, and only more pragmatic as they face the responsibility of governing.
That is a theory that provides no proof, historical backup or any clinical testing. Reality proves otherwise; the Palestinian elections gave Hamas a victory. In Sudan, a militarily dictatorial regime led by Jafar Mohammed al-Numeri who ruled from 1969-1985. Since then, the religious Islamist party, National Islamic Front (NIF), the motivator and the leader of the 1989 coup was the basic co-operator with Numeri during the 1980s to produce what they call the Sharia laws. Egypt today entertains the Islamic Sharia laws of Hiraba (Crucifixion, Amputation) and underage marriage. Perhaps the perfect allegory for Islam’s defeat of leftists after both defeat a common enemy was Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi stealing the spotlight from Wael Ghonim at Tahrir Square after the fall of Mubarak.
If giving Islamists freedom is a good idea as Akyol suggests, why then does he ask:
What if elected Islamist parties impose laws that curb individual freedoms — like banning alcohol or executing converts — all with popular support? What if democracy does not serve liberty?
The answer is simple. Akyol would rather play with fire:
This is a risk for the post-Arab Spring countries, and even for post-Kemalist Turkey. The real debate, therefore, is whether Islam is compatible with liberalism.
Boy, there’s an idea. Let’s accept a risk that has proven over and over again to birth tyranny whenever that risk is taken. Talk about betting on a losing horse. This is like betting on a horse with only three legs. In Akyol’s view, liberalism is the goal and the battle is between two systems, one being the good guy of liberalism (Arab socialists) and the tempest of Islamist regimes. Akyol has no interest in the one option that works – the Judeo-Christian ethics of the West. The very code of ethics that educated the Middle East and brought it out from the darkness of the Ottoman Caliphate is rejected. This means only one thing–a repeat of the whole scenario again, which is the rise of Islamists in Turkey. This rise will eventually birth another Sick Man of Europe after much devastation and destruction. Islamists are not nationalistic; they are universalistic.
Soon we will see Turkish expansionism, but until then, people like Akyol will entertain their own pipe dreams:
If Turkey succeeds in that liberal experiment, and drafts its new constitution-in-the-making accordingly, it can set a promising example for Islamist-led governments in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.
There is a reason the Islamists have no problem giving Akyol a voice; it’s very similar to fattening a calf. They know these dreams will come nowhere close to meeting reality and they know the formula for defeating Arab leftists… when the time is ripe.
Why do I make such predictions with confidence? There are two reasons: No country or entity that has risen to power in the Middle East failed to use it and expand it via militarily means. In a few years, we will see the Turks entering North Africa and Egypt in triumph and a Caliphate will be in place. Perhaps an Islamic Mahdi-Caliph all in one. Pretty soon, the Muslim will argue on the street, why would Christendom have a Pope and Islamdom has rejected one?
Even Aykul sees some of that writing on the wall:
…there are reasons to worry that illiberal democracy could emerge. For Turkey still suffers from a paranoid nationalism that abhors minority rights, a heavy-handed judiciary designed to protect the state rather than its citizens, and an intolerant political culture that regards any criticism as an attack and sees provocative ideas as criminal.
As Akyol dreams, he seems oblivious to the fact that there is a much more powerful dream than his – the Turkish Neo-Ottoman dream.
The Muslim Brotherhood serves as the umbrella under which countless Islamic groups like CAIR, ISNA, MSA, MAS, Hamas, al-Qaeda, etc. reside. The Turkish Neo-Ottoman dream includes opening a much larger umbrella under which the Brotherhood would reside.
This can only mean one thing.
Mustafa Akyol is all wet.
Walid Shoebat is the author For God or For Tyranny