Secret societies

It is fantastical that vast numbers of Muslims are happy to bang on and on about Freemasons and the Illuminate, but the moment you mention the possibility that a Muslim organisation operates a clandestine secret society, everyone responds, “That’s preposterous, impossible, an outrageous assertion, absolutely unbelievable and patently untrue.” Some claims, it seems, are a stretch too far.

Licorice allsorts

Some light reading for those seeking something more wholesome than Muslamic conspiracy theories, government propaganda and pious apologetics.

Media Wars and the Gülen Factor in the New Turkey – MER Sept 2011

Altruistic Society or Sect? The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement – Der Spiegal Aug 2012

Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and the politics of Turkish justice: conspiracies and coincidence – MERIA June 2011

Fethullah Gülen’s Grand Ambition: Turkey’s Islamist Danger – MEQ Winter 2009

Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen wields power from self-imposed exile – FT Dec 2013

The 2014 Turkish Municipal Elections Under the Impact of the December 17 Process – TAD

What Future For the Fethullah Gülen Movement in Central Asia and the Caucasus? – CAC July 2014

Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World

The House of Service: The Gülen Movement and Islam’s Third Way – OUP 2014

Great games

Is Fethullah Gülen the head of a terrorist organisation? On outward appearances, I find that somewhat implausible. Followers of the Gülen movement are actively engaged in education, social welfare projects, humanitarian aid and interfaith dialogue all around the world. To the outside observer, they could only be an altruistic social movement; the idea of a malignant conspiratorial secret society seems preposterous. Continue reading Great games

In their shoes

I’m not an AKP groupie. The president’s style of leadership and temperament is not my cup of tea. The government deserves much credit for growing the economy, developing infrastructure and bringing about positive social change in Turkey, but uncritical fanatical followings help no one: there is the good and the bad.

Still, any objective person can see the that coverage of Turkey’s reaction to the coup attempt in our newspapers is far from balanced and fair. Compare coverage of France’s state of emergency instituted after the Paris terror attacks, to coverage of Turkey’s reaction after F-16 fighter jets repeatedly struck their Parliament, tanks rolled on the streets, prosecutors prepared an emergency constitution and made plans to hang not just members of the ruling party, but also of the opposition.

I wonder how exactly Turkey is expected to react to a massive terrorist insurrection, when it is yet to determine exactly who instigated the coup, and whether it has been fully thwarted or whether it will yet succeed. How would our state respond to such an incident? Would we not institute a state of emergency? Would we not see widespread arrests and suspensions in the course of the ensuing investigation?

I passionately believe that the Turkish government should use this near catastrophic event to reinvigorate its process of democratic reform, to carry the people with it and build a positive, vibrant, inclusive and tolerant society for all. I pray that they will not disappoint in this regard.

But let’s not be so naive to think that our reaction to events would be any different. If rogue officers hand commandeered several RAF Tornados on Friday night and dropped bombs on the Houses of Parliament, nobody would be calling on Theresa May’s government to show restraint.

If tanks had rolled down The Mall, crushing everything in their path, or if helicopters had fired on protestors gathering in Trafalgar Square, or if Balmoral had been bombed, you can imagine exactly what our reaction would be. We too would overreact. We too would take missteps and make mistakes. We too would institute emergency laws. It may not be right, but it is entirely understandable.

Defending the indefensible

For too many of our social commentators, reactions to current affairs are based not on ethics or the idea of right and wrong, but on who’s side you’re on.

Over the weekend I heard and read many commentators switching seamlessly from rightly condemning terrorist acts perpetuated by Muslims to celebrating the attempted violent overthrow of a democratically elected government and the country’s democratic system.

For all intents and purposes, the latter was an act of terrorism on a large scale. Its aim was to change and disrupt the way of life of ordinary people, and enforce anti-democratic values on them.

Could any of us imagine talk-show hosts lamenting a failed terrorist attack? It would be an abomination. But on my car radio this weekend, I listened as a talk-show host lamented that this coup had failed and that the elected president had not been killed.

Sadly those leading the nation’s conversation speak of the sanctity of life, the rule of law and democracy only when it suits them. There is not much difference between them and the apologists, hate preachers and ideologues on the other side.

Like those who bravely resisted a coup this weekend, we too should resist this madness. “O you who have believed, stand firmly for justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves…”

Taking a stand

Why would the people rise up against the attempted coup? Because they have long memories, perhaps? Because they remember what it was like last time? Because they remember loved ones being taken away for days and weeks on end? Because they remember being barred from travelling from village to village? Because they remember that, far from bringing freedom and upholding democracy, the people’s freedoms were trampled, arbitrary arrest was widespread, individual rights were undermined and the economy collapsed. Whatever the faults of the government — and there are no doubt many — nobody wants to return to those days.

The people

I pray the Turkish government responds to this crisis wisely. I pray they take it as an opportunity to reaffirm democratic, pluralist principles in service to all people of Turkey of whatever political leaning or belief, and not as an opportunity to consolidate power. This is an opportunity to carry the people with it.

The coup surprised a lot of people. But the people’s reactions surprised even more. In one night the Turkish people showed the world their love for their homeland.


New politics

Beware of forming or holding your own opinions, which run counter to the groundswell of euphoria generated by the disciples of the new politics. At best you will be accused of swallowing establishment propaganda whole, at worst of outright heresy. Don’t think for yourself in these times. Don’t be a traitor to the revolution. Beware!