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!

Safeguarding our children

People are constantly petitioning me to object to government proposals to introduce Ofsted inspections for out-of-school educational groups. I’m not sure what the issue is.

Ofsted is tasked with regulating and safeguarding services which care for children and young people. They already inspect childcare, adoption and fostering agencies, as well as schools and colleges.

As a parent, I want to feel confident that if I send our children to study classes after school, religious or otherwise, they will find a safe, caring environment which nurtures them and does not expose them to harm.

I understand that some are concerned about a politicised inspectorate which will police moral and ethical matters, wherein religious communities might find themselves out of sync with recent legal and societal norms.

A legitimate concern, perhaps, but then so too are safeguarding issues, which have been neglected by too many voluntary education providers for far too long. We are all familiar with the horror stories. Where do we strike the balance?

There are some really excellent examples of out-of-school educational groups providing top-class guidance and care, producing compassionate, tolerant and successful young adults.

But there are also some really atrocious examples, promoting sectarianism, discrimination and intolerance, set in unsafe environments which damage children.

Some kind of inspection, regulation and oversight is required. If not by Ofsted, then by who?

War on Political Correctness

We’re going to wage war on Political Correctness are we?

Great idea. It’s about time we tackled the dreadful scourge of fairness, decency and good manners.

It has to be said that those who insist on not marginalising or insulting socially disadvantaged people are a threat to us all.

Thank goodness we have politicians prepared to stand up and say enough is enough, to put priorities in the right order and recognise that discrimination is our birthright.

Let’s make Britain great again!

This is the time, once more

And so, once more, the sheikhs and their followers are invoking apocalyptic traditions; the events of the day, they tell us, are the certain fulfillment of prophesy.

And so it seems, unless we put our cultural amnesia aside to recall the history of these sacred precincts.

So it seems if we forget that a group of militants who believed the Mahdi to be amongst them seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks in 1979 during Hajj, leading to the deaths of 250 people.

So it seems if we forget that the Kingdom of Hejaz in alliance with the British Empire laid siege to Medina, then held by the Ottoman Empire between 1916 and 1919, causing heavy loss to life.

So it seems if we forget that Medina was occupied and laid waste by the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab in 1806.

Indeed, so it seems if we overlook a millennia of history all the way back to Yazid’s siege of Medina and destruction of Mecca not even seventy years after Hijra.

But we are not supposed to familiarise ourselves with the past, to ask questions or seek context.

We are not meant to ponder on the long list of supposed saviours who came and went over a thousand years, each one the prophesized Mahdi to their followers.

We have been here before, over and over, but the sheikhs in their circles know better than last time. This is the time, they tell us. This is the time.

And the madness enfolds as prophesized.