A moderately Islamist government has been in power in Turkey for about 10 years now. Over the weekend it faced its first stern test. One brave Turkish blogger has decided to reach out to the rest of the world:
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening of May 31st the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
Read the rest. Hurriyet, one of Turkey’s best media outlets, has been doing an excellent job covering events after the fact. Their English-language site is here, and I recommend reading the site on a daily basis (even after the violence is over).
Here is my two cents: the Erdogan government (the Islamist one) put one too many straws upon the camel’s back. Ankara simply took too many liberties when it came to regulating the cultural and material life of the Turkish people. Too many blasphemy laws and too many clothing restrictions, coupled with too poor an economic performance made these protests inevitable. The harsh crackdown on an otherwise free people ensured violence and larger protests.
By the way, Turkey’s first post-Ottoman government, headed by the ardent secularist and Europhile, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also insisted on regulating the cultural and material lives of Turkish citizens, so Islam has nothing to do with this (check out our many discussions we’ve had here on the blog on this).
Rather, the “authoritarianism lite” of the Turkish state has more to do with its status as a post-
colonial imperial state and a Cold War pawn than it does with any inherent cultural traits of the Turkish people or of the Islamic faith.
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 06/03/2013
Riffing off of Dr Delacroix’s piece on Afghanistan, and reading through the comments, I thought it’d be a good idea to “go with the flow” (as they say in Santa Cruz). Anatol Lieven has a must-read piece in the National Interest on the US government’s failures in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Among the gems:
I have been struck, both in the United States and in Britain, by the tendency of officers and officials to speak and write as if protecting the lives of troops from Taliban attack is the first duty of the U.S. and British states. In fact, it is the duty of soldiers to risk their lives to protect the civilian populations of their countries, and the only valid reason why the U.S. and British militaries are in Afghanistan at all is to protect their fellow citizens from terrorism. If that equation is reversed, and the needs of the war in Afghanistan are actually worsening the terrorist threat to the U.S. and British homelands, then our campaign there becomes not just strategically but morally ludicrous.
Indeed, one of the most common leaps of logic that neoconservatives and Leftists make in regards to foreign policy and the rule of law is the role of militaries in society. If there is to be a role for the state, it should be limited to maintaining a domestic court system, providing for the defense of the state, and signing trading pacts with other polities. Anything more than this results in things like exploitative generational gaps, trouble paying the bills, and terrorist attacks.
Lieven continues, explaining the geopolitical situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan: (more…)
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 03/25/2013
I just recently came across a very, very good book on the history of the Middle East. As far as theory goes, it is lacking, but it is readable enough that the intelligent layman can pick it up and learn new things from it. Written by historian Eugene Rogan, it’s titled The Arabs: A History and it has won numerous awards. Be sure to check it out. One new fact that I learned is that while terrorism as a tactic in the Middle East did not appear on the radar until the 1920s, it was undertaken on behalf of Jewish interests, not Muslim ones. Rogan explains:
The terrorists had achieved their first objective: they had forced the British to withdraw from Palestine. Though their methods were publicly denounced by the leaders of the Jewish Agency [the pre-state government], the Irgun and Lehi [terrorist organizations] had played a key role in removing a major impediment to Jewish statehood. By using terror tactics to achieve political objectives, they also set a dangerous precedent in Middle Eastern history-one that plagues the region down to the present day.
Now, I am not “blaming the Jews” for terrorism in the Middle East, nor is the historian. What I would like to do is point out that the theories and excuses about Islam’s violent penchant produced by Western analysts is horribly wrong. In a similar vein, Arab culture is not to blame for the violence in the region, either. Terrorism is entirely a product of politics.
What we have in the Middle East is simply a problem of statecraft. A conceptual turn away from cultural and religious explanations for the violence in the Middle East and towards one that looks at political and legal institutions and the economic consequences that arise from them would do wonders for the region (and the world). If we cannot even agree on the fundamentals of what is wrong with the Middle East institutionally, we sure as hell are not going to agree upon anything else. This goes for domestic and regional factions in the Middle East as well as for Western ones.
Israel exists. It is a state in the Middle East, and a highly successful one at that. This may well explain why terrorism has been used so often, as a political tactic, for almost a century in the Middle East. It also helps to explain – conceptually – why terrorist attack rates were so high in Sri Lanka until the defeat of the guerrilla insurgency a few years ago, and why Latin America has suffered from chronic terrorism. Arab culture and Islam, on the other hand, do not explain terrorism in other parts of the world. I see no reason why we should make an exception to the rule for terrorism in Middle East. This is an institutional problem, not a cultural one.
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 03/04/2013
I apologize for not blogging much lately. I have finished summer school and have been enjoying my week off from rigorous studies. Back to the grindstone!
In China, protesters have been surrounding the Japanese embassy in Beijing and recently begun hurling debris at both policemen protecting the embassy and the embassy itself. In other parts of China (but not in the “special economic” [free trade] zones) Chinese citizens have been burning Japanese flags and calling on their government to take a harder line on a territory dispute and in trading policies with Japan.
The violence is not limited to the embassy or Japanese flags, of course. Japanese businesses have also been vandalized, threatened, and shut down due to the violence currently raging throughout the Chinese state. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 09/18/2012
In Part 1 of this essay, Islamophobia, I recounted some facts about terrorism that seems linked to Islam and I made some hypotheses about how Muslims in general array themselves with respect to this terrorism. In this second and last part, I divulge some of the bases of my worst suspicions regarding moderate Muslims.
I wish someone with credentials would help me disentangle who is what and in what proportions among Muslims in connection with the varying degrees of rejection of violent jihad described above. In the meantime, I feel intellectually free to speculate within reason and on the basis of other information I have, factual information, that is, not hearsay.
The first helpful element in my speculation is that, of course, I understand violent Muslim fanatics well. Anyone reasonably well versed in European history would, My ancestors used to be just like them. I never tire of repeating on this blog and elsewhere that the First Crusade (1099) massacred everyone there after taking Jerusalem. That massacre followed acts of cannibalism during the siege. And more recently, it’s clear that tens of thousands of witches were burned at the stake in Europe. (Note: The figure of millions advanced by feminists is silly propaganda bullshit.) Violent jihadists and other fanatics hold not mystery to me because I used to be they. Used to be. (more…)
Posted by Jacques Delacroix on 09/15/2012
The backlash that did not happen after 9/11 is taking place now because of Muslim stubbornness, arrogance, or simple lack of articulateness. Americans are tolerant and patient to the point of gullibility but there is a limit. When it comes to the establishment of an explicitly Muslim-anything near Ground Zero, many feel they have been deceived, that their good nature has been taken advantage of. To cap it off, the liberal media accompany some American Muslim spokespersons, and some ordinary Muslims in accusing them of the mysterious sin of “Islamophobia.” (Siddiqui: American anti-Muslim prejudice goes mainstream – thestar.com circa 8/26/10)
I am referring to the majority of Americans who have expressed some degree of opposition to the plan to establish a Muslim cultural center including a mosque near the site of the 9/11 jihadist massacre. I am one of those so accused.
I tend to look seriously at any serious accusation thrown at me seriously. Often, it does not tell me anything about me and my behavior but it gives me an insight into the ways of thinking of the insulter. So, I will look at Islamophobia, the dislike and fear of Islam and, by extension, of all things Muslim, from the standpoint of what I know and then, from that of what I don’t know for a fact but that is plausible. I try to keep the factual and the plausible, the speculative, separate.
In the end, I want to know what I am guilty of, if anything, as an Islamophobic American. I don’t discount the possibility that I am guilty as charged. (more…)
Posted by Jacques Delacroix on 09/14/2012
I am continuing a post I wrote earlier in the day on the difference between Islam and Islamism that was spurred by this thoughtful post from a blogger in India by the name of Geekay. You can find his awesome blog here.
Very often these dissident clergymen in the Muslim world have a good point. States in the Muslim world are notoriously brutal (and they get lots of funding from Washington to be so), which is at odds with the general interpretation by Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace and generosity.
I do not think it is pertinent or even useful to get into a debate about whether Islam is a religion of peace and generosity or not, largely because I believe it is and because of the ambiguity I wrote about in Part 1 that is associated with religion in general.
Today’s religious dissenters in the Muslim world, as well as today’s elite in the Muslim world, all wield the religion of Islam to further their agendas. Again, the Jesuits were some of the worst perpetrators of religion-inspired murders in Europe at about the same time that they were responsible for fighting for the rights of Native Americans to live and practice what they wanted freely in the Americas. This is just how religion works. Pretty cool, huh?
The reason why Islam is often blamed for murderous acts is because the murderers often use Islam’s name to justify their actions. Thus in Saudi Arabia the monarchy executes women publicly in the name of Islam to placate their enemies at home. Meanwhile Osama bin Laden, a rival of the Saudis, used Islam to argue that the Saudi monarchy was insufficiently Islamic. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 08/07/2012
I thought I’d pull out the following comment from Geekay, an affable blogger in India, because it gives a good representation of the world’s ignorance about Islam. I use the term ‘ignorance’ in its literal sense, as in not much is known about the subject, rather than as a pejorative jab (I usually save those for the ‘comments’ section!). Geekay’s comment is reproduced unedited and unabridged below:
Should west remain liberal towards Muslims . I think west should use this liberty and equality toward them to seek the same for all in the land controlled by them. After all the minorities whether Islamic or non-islamic are suffering in the land controlled by them. Islam needs reforms like Christianity and it does not seem on the horizon with the kind of violence and intolerance exhibited by the clergy. While most of the Christian world is growing less religious, Muslims are becoming more religious which only means they are falling under the uneducated, non-liberal Ulemas and Maulvis. Can the west induce the Muslim clergy towards education and reform. After all, there has to be a set of human values approved even by Muslim world. The ‘Organization of the Islamic Conference’ (OIC) should be made to declare those values. If the membership of this club does not come directly to US then proxy like Bahrain, Saudi etc could be used. The US has been slippery with condoning the Saudi actions. How long should this behaviour continue from west because Muslims are not forcing their values on them yet.
The first thing that needs to be done when thinking clearly about the Muslim world is to immediately separate religion from state. I know this move seems counter-intuitive because most states in the Muslim world have declared Islam to be the official religion, but stay with me here.
Islam as a religion has nothing to do with today’s violence and upheavals in the Middle East. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 08/07/2012
Haha! The bumper sticker is the symbol of the downfall of the West. At Cabrillo College I have seen a few stickers around that are decorated with a sickle and hammer with a phrase next to it saying “sharing is caring”. Only in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz…
Also, I feel like a ‘thank you’ is in order. I am currently taking a class in Political Thought at De Anza, and it appears to be a waste of time. Despite the name of the class, it is not really about thinking at all, so I am grateful to have a teacher like Dr. Delacroix who is willing to take time out of his life and challenge me to stretch the limits of my reasoning and my worldview.
[update 1/11/11: I have to rebuke my statement that the class is not making me think. I have a bad habit of condemning my classes after the first week, and I have yet to break this deplorable vice. It is obvious judging by the content of the first lecture this week that I will learn a lot in this class.]
On to the debate at hand! Dr. Delacroix’s arguments are indented and in italics, and my responses follow. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Christensen on 07/28/2012
Note: I am exploiting Brandon Christensen to whom this response is addressed. I am using him as a proxy to have a debate with the many libertarians who I suspect, want to disarm the Republic The piece to which this is a response is can be found here.
Please, spread this series of exchanges around.
Dear Brandon: Your shameless flatteries area good start, for sure. Nevertheless, I need to bring a correction to the introduction of your rebuttal: I am not a really old guy. It’s still common for women to check me out when I walk on Pacific Avenue. Why, it happened less than three years ago!
Now, the rules of engagement I respect unilaterally:
Good ideas must defer to facts;
Many conventional ideas have no connection to facts (e.g. “catching a cold” has nothing to do with cold weather.)
Nevertheless, some perceptions are so self-evidently correct that the burden of proof belongs to those who would question them. (e.g. bullets in the heart will kill some people.);
Causal reasoning must respect the rules of logic enunciated by the Greeks before 500 BC; (more…)
Posted by Jacques Delacroix on 07/27/2012