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Making Moderate Islam work in Turkey

Reader comment on item: Dr. Pipes' views on Islamic Terrorism and Turkey

Submitted by James vesce, MD (United States), Apr 11, 2006 at 18:22

Moderate Islam will not be the answer until Moderate Islam can stand up to the threat of violence which is ever present in Militant Islam. This will require that the force of arms, and other threats of violent coercive sanctions, be raised up by the Moderates, to protect the Moderates from the Militants. Otherwise, Moderates will only be moderate until the Militants threaten them with a fatwah, at which point the Moderates will all suddenly say, "Oh, yeah, he's right. It's God's will that I be a Militant."

There must be an organizing ideal for the Moderates to rally behind, and for Moderates to stake their lives on, otherwise they'll always be coerced back to militant Islamist ideals at the point of a sword. That's the history of Islam for 14 centuries. That may be why Attaturkism doesn't work in Turkey. The Attaturkist focus is on secularism as the condition for embracing secular knowledge nationally, as opposed to embracing secular knowledge in a country where people also have religious lives. Religious people can acquire and use secular knowledge to secure political power and for protecting the traditions of their religion, which worked for Jesuits and for Popes for several centuries until Marxism subverted the Jesuits and gave birth to Liberation Theology. It also worked in Britain, Europe, and the United States, though again totalitarian ideals weakened the fabric of society and religion. Attaturk was almost right, but not quite.

I think there are only a very few ideals that have shaped the modern world and lasted, in the last thousand years. One is the way national leaders have used religion to sway the masses to concentrate and focus political and economic power, the message that says "God wants me to be boss, so you follow me". Constatine tried this one, which worked longer for the religion he organized than it worked for Constantine's nation. Another is to use the religious fervor already in a group to get followers who are united and committed, which Cromwell used successfully, albeit briefly. Another is to base a secular agenda on the ideal of religious legitimacy, "We're building this bridge because it's God's will that we cross the river." Manifest Destiny, as it worked in the US.

I think this last one is the answer that might work in Turkey. Muslims hate the West because the West's mastery of secular knowledge enabled the West to rise above the Muslim world, starting with a demonstration of naval superiority around 1492, and then with a demonstration of the superiority of land armies starting around 1803. Now, in the 21st century, Muslims can claim God loves them as His chosen people only after the smarter and more effective infidels come and get the lights working again, and pump their oil for them, proving that either God thinks highly of the infidels, or that being loved by God isn't worth much. Every time the infidels do things the Muslims can't do, it makes the Islamist claim seem incredible and downright silly. When Muslim countries send Muslims to Western universities, they either come back uneducated, stay in the West when they've gotten educated, or come back educated and less Muslim in their thinking. If the Moderates could embrace secular knowledge for the sake of secular knowledge, and make that one of their religious ideals, eventually they'd put the Militants out of business. Maybe they'd be willing to match the ferocity of the Militants if they thought God wanted them to break free from from the shackles of ignorance the Militants confine them with. Muslim manifest destiny in Turkey. We can work out the Kurdish wrinkle some other time.

I don't do this for a living, Dr. Pipes, so I know the ideas could be polished a little more.

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