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A thought on percentages, and a matter for inquiry

Reader comment on item: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?
in response to reader comment: Iran the Shias or Turkey the Sunni

Submitted by Erich W (United States), Dec 16, 2010 at 02:54

To have 70% of the Iranian people favor western secularism would, if true, not be as significant as it looks. Societies are only partly made of the world-views of their majorities. Far more determinative is the world-views of those who occupy the institutions which educate and govern the people. In America's "culture wars" a general Judeo-Christian world view is probably the perspective of a very healthy majority of the people. The institutions that educate and govern, however, tend to be dominated by a profoundly secularist-humanist bunch, or those who go along with them. The secular humanist bunch tend to get their way in most things that are of a public policy and educational nature. It is safe to say, I think, that the United States' general direction is determined by the minority (secular-humanist) world view, not by the majority (Judeo-Christian) view.

Unless Iran's institutions could experience a full, deeply rooted transformation, even a regime change would not alter the deep Islamic coloring of the public life of the nation. Ataturk altered Ottoman Turkey by hanging many a mullah and shooting many an imam. An American or Israeli military incursion into Iran would never do what Mustafa Kemal did. Nevertheless, 80 years later, Ataturk's secularism is yielding again to the resurgence of a patient, grass-roots Islamification... That's my thought. Regime change in Iran may be valuable, but it won't result in a secular-humanist Iran. Islam is deeply rooted there, and the Shah barely held it at bay.

By the way, this above thought of mine tends to confirm Dr. Pipes's idea that Muslims will simply have to alter their unprofitable and inhumane positions themselves, however they do it. Outsiders can isolate, criticize specific Islamic practices and ideas, and protect their own peoples. We missionaries can preach Christ among Muslims. Rationalists can rationalize with them. Humanitarians can try to help the hapless victims. Only Muslims can decide what they must do for their own progress, individual freedom, and good relations with humankind.

Inquiry: Dr. Pipes, the current extent of Salafism, Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi influence on Turkish Islam would be of great interest to me, if you have occasion to survey it. I would be interested on how the project of the Department of Religious Affairs (modernizing Islamic practice, such as saying that they will allow women Imams) works as some kind of clean face for the Brotherhood..or if they work independently of the Brotherhood. I've read that the Ikhwan disavows the AK Party as secular. Is that reality or smoke and mirrors?


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Good questions that I cannot right off reply to but will keep in mind to write on.

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