On Turkey and some earlier posts

The other day one of my ex-students (Class of 86) posted on Facebook that he was in the middle of a military coup, but was safe. That was the first I heard of what was happening in Turkey, and yes, my ex-students do get around! Since then I guess we have all looked on with horror and probably a high degree of incomprehension. Not for the first time I have found the reports and analyses of Fairfax’s Paul McGeough useful. See Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repressive rule was tempting fate, Turkey coup: Erdogan cannot blame the military this time and most recently  Failed Turkey coup deepens conundrum of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power.

And so another cot-case nation is born. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan already has begun consolidating in the wake of Friday’s failed coup, with a vengeful purge of the military and the judiciary to help drive home a ruthless bid to package virtually all power in his strongman presidency.

Critics argue that his Putin-like shift from the office of Prime Minister to the presidency is a threat to democracy in Turkey. But the failure of the coup likely will cause Erdoğan to redouble his efforts, which he will parse as an essential antidote to instability…

But as world capitals focus on their own national interests, divisions in Turkey will deepen.

Even before the attempted coup there was rising secular anger over Erdoğan’s abuses of human rights – purging the judiciary, jailing journalists and forcing media proprietors to toe his line in the wake of sensational corruption scandals and his ferocious response to the Gezi Park protests of 2013…

A name that comes up again and again: Who is Gulen and why is Erdogan obsessed with him?

Gulen, 79 years old and a diabetic, runs an international Islamist network purportedly operating in more than 150 countries, including Turkey where it focuses on educating young Turks to take their place in the judicial and police services, in particular…

Gulen fled to the US in 1999 and was tried in absentia for conspiring against the then secular Turkish state. Part of the evidence was a video in which Gulen tells supporters: “You must move in the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing our existence, until you reach all the power centres… You must wait until such time as you have gotten all of the state power”.

In a 2009 cable, made available through WikiLeaks, former US Ambassador James Jeffrey reports that in Turkey, the Gulen political agenda is seen as “possibly insidious”…

The movement operates 135 charter schools in the US; and in Turkey, it has eight universities, dozens of private schools and hundreds of “cramming” centres that prep youngsters for vital university entrance exams…

So it was something of a cathartic moment in Turkish history when, in February 2014, a session of Erdogan’s National Security Council, which included the top generals, voted to list the Gulen movement as a threat to national security. Reportedly declaring ‘total war’ on the movement they approved the purging of government agencies of Gulenists…

Gulen and his defenders claim he has no interest in political power. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Gulen associate Y. Alp Aslandogan argues that Gulen could not have stacked the judiciary with his followers because so many powerful figures had stacked it before him.

He writes: “In their projects focused on education, health care, humanitarian assistance and intercultural dialogue, [the movement] is driven by intrinsic rewards alone.”…

I recall seeing the name before and found these posts in my blog:

The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals

29 June 2008

Foreign Policy: The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals and Prospect Magazine’s Top 100 came my way through The World’s Top Public Intellectuals Are… posted on Nah, Nope, Not Quite, who commented:

Perhaps I am horribly uninformed, or perhaps not. I will confess that my five votes were biased towards the West (they’re either American or English), though there were many more that I wished I could have voted for…

The results are also interesting because you know the people on the list care about where they rank. Salman Rushdie beat Christopher Hitchens (Amis wasn’t even on the list). Poor Ian Buruma finished dead last. Thomas Friedman was in the middle of the pack. And still other names shouldn’t have been there at all (I’ll leave you to judge who).

In any case, the results merit consideration…

What is drawing most attention is that the top 10 were all Muslims. What hasn’t so much been noted is the variety of thought within Islam the list indicates.


Religious leader • Turkey

An Islamic scholar with a global network of millions of followers, Gülen is both revered and reviled in his native Turkey. To members of the Gülen movement, he is an inspirational leader who encourages a life guided by moderate Islamic principles. To his detractors, he represents a threat to Turkey’s secular order. He has kept a relatively low profile since settling in the United States in 1999, having fled Turkey after being accused of undermining secularism.

Links quite likely won’t lead anywhere, as is true of the next post:

On the extreme ugliness of fanatics of all kinds…

19 January 2007

So now we have a home-grown radical Muslim nut-job with movie star appeal who is apparently attracting some of the young, idealistic and impressionable to his cause. I refer to the young and deluded and very loud Sheik Feiz Mohammed, rightly condemned by just about everyone. However, when I looked at the comments on AntBlog701 the other day on the entry 13 January, 2007 I found people there who in opposing the other recently publicised loudmouth were themselves just as bad as any radical Muslim nut-job and equally reprehensible. (Antony has a more laissez-faire attitude to comments than I do; his call of course, but I would have hit the delete button myself. Some things are just too vile to be given the credibility publication implies.)

Anyone tempted to give even ten seconds attention to the child-abusing — encouraging children to blow themselves and others up is surely worse than any sexual abuse, not that I condone that either — Sheik Feiz Mohammed, a true enemy of mankind and of peace, should go to another Lebanese, Amin Maalouf, and to Jonathan Glover, HUMANITY: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century — linked in that entry in a very relevant context — not to mention the many sane Muslim sources one might point to, some of which are on the right under the 50+ blogs and “Faith and Philosophy”. Let me replay something I wrote just before Anzac Day last year:…

You may also follow in the Internet Archive Muslims against Extremism and Fundamentalism, another post 9/11 page.

My post goes on to cite Gulen on terrorism. Thanks to the Internet Archive you may still read what he wrote in September 2001.

… The reasons why certain Muslim people or institutions that misunderstand Islam are becoming involved in terrorist attacks throughout the world should be sought not in Islam, but within the people themselves, in their misinterpretations and in other factors. Just as Islam is not a religion of terrorism, any Muslim who correctly understands Islam cannot be or become a terrorist.

Even though there are naturally exceptions, the interpretations of Islam by Turkish scholars are tolerant. If we can spread the understanding of Islam held by the pillars of affection like Rumi and Yunus Emre throughout the world, and if we can get their message of love, dialogue and tolerance to those people who are thirsting for this message, then people from all over the world will come running into the arms of this love, peace, and tolerance that we represent…

I am actually rather more chuffed that the Amin Maalouf extract also continues to live in the Internet Archive. His Deadly Identities is a true classic, more relevant today than ever. Not a Muslim, by the way… See Amin Maalouf.

… Who does not perceive a personal friction in Europe today that will certainly increase between being part of an old European nation — France , Spain , Denmark , Great Britain – and at the same time being part of an emerging continental identity? And how many Europeans from the Basque Country to Scotland still feel a profound and powerful attachment to a region, its people, its history, and its language? Who in America today can consider his place in society without any reference to his old ties: African, Hispanic, Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish or other?

That being said, I must admit that my first examples do possess something distinctive. All of them are about people who belong to different components of society that are violently opposing one another today; people at the border in a way, crossed by lines of ethnic, religious or other fractures. Because of this situation, that I do not dare call “privileged,” these people have a special role to play: building bonds, resolving misunderstandings, reasoning with some, moderating others, smoothing and mending conflicts. Their inherent vocation is to be links, bridges, mediators between different communities and different cultures. This is why their dilemma is full of significance. If these people cannot live their multiple belongings, if they constantly have to choose between one side or the other, if they are ordered to get back to their tribe, we have the right to be worried about the basic way the world functions.

“Have to choose,” “ordered to get back,” I was saying. By whom? Not only by fanatics and xenophobes of all sides, but by you and me, each one of us. Precisely, because these habits of thinking are deeply rooted in all of us, because of this narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplified conception that reduces the whole identity to a single belonging declared with rage.

I feel like screaming aloud: This is how you “manufacture” slaughterers! I admit it is an abrupt affirmation but I will be explaining it in this book.