Praying for Sanity and More Self-reflection!!

Alison Stendahl - Turkey The prevailing ideology that is behind these "neo-fascist / ultra- nationalistic" attacks in Turkey is not necessarily coming from the AKP party. Erdogan himself was jailed for a "freedom of speech" issue before he became Prime Minister. The "headscarf issue" to many members of the AKP party is a personal freedom issue. To a small group within the party, it may represent the beginning of Islamic rule. To others outside the party, it represents the potential imposition of Islamic law and the loss of personal freedom.

The prevailing ideology that is behind these "neo-fascist / ultra- nationalistic" attacks in Turkey is not necessarily coming from the AKP party. Erdogan himself was jailed for a "freedom of speech" issue before he became Prime Minister. The "headscarf issue" to many members of the AKP party is a personal freedom issue. To a small group within the party, it may represent the beginning of Islamic rule. To others outside the party, it represents the potential imposition of Islamic law and the loss of personal freedom.

The thinking behind all of this current insanity in Turkey is that if freedom of speech were allowed, they would have to listen to what comes out of peoples' mouths and this is "dangerous" to the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic. When Ataturk established the ideology of "secularism", he basically was rejecting the Islamic clerics and western powers meddling in internal affairs, and squelching rebellious elements within the borders of the country by unifying everyone around a single "national" identity. The military became the guardians of this new ideology that was to keep religion out of the running of the state and the borders of the new founded republic intact and the military was to protect this at all costs.

There is a humungous paranoia that permeates Turkish society. It ebbs and flows depending on the political weather around it. With...

(1) the perceived battering at the hands of the EU;
(2) the instability in Iraq and therefore part of Turkey's border;
(3) the numerous countries who have "insulted Turkishness" with these genocide resolutions;
(4) an ignorant Turkish press and media whipping up feelings of suspicion and fear;
(5) a limited understanding of their own history;
(6) no learned skill of self-reflection;
(7) the general climate in the world in respect to Islam, this fear of the "other" is at the highest level I have witnessed in the 27 years I have lived here.

Those who are "different" within the country are receiving the brunt of this fear. It manifests in a purified racist way with the perceived image of the "pure, super-human Turk". This ideology of the "master race or super race" is not unique to Turks but it has always been dangerous. The Americans suffer a bit from this themselves when they race around "fixing" everyone's problems by making democratic societies without really doing their homework at the consequences of such a move, and detaining people according to their own rules! Perhaps the French have a bit of this also in terms of culture. But when this false self-image combines with a climate of paranoia, it is very, very dangerous and scary. I need to hear those few sane voices out there that cut through all of this. I just wish there were more.

Let us pray for sanity and more self-reflection!!

Selam/Shalom
Alison

[Note: On August 28, Abdullah Gul was elected President of Turkey. Mr. Gul is from the Islamic "Justice and Development Party" (AKP).]

Alison Stendahl serves with the Near East Mission, Istanbul, Turkey.  She is Academic Dean of and a math teacher at Uskudar American Academy in Istanbul Turkey.