Date posted: February 26, 2014
Last week the Turkish Review and Hira magazine organized the first meeting of the Turkish-Arab Intellectuals Forum in İstanbul. The meeting was attended by about 50 Arab and 30 Turkish intellectuals from all walks of life. The topic to be discussed during the meeting was post-Islamism. Since the term “Islamism” still has sympathetic connotations in the Arab World, I suggested naming the topic “The ‘State’ Test for Muslims: Alternative Models for Social Change.”
Islamism is the name of an ideology that advocates a top-down approach for social change. Islamist political movements resemble the “vanguard party” of Leninism, though they are not necessarily revolutionist. Their strategy can be simplified as coming to power via peaceful and democratic means, controlling the state apparatus through gradual favoritism, inducing systemic changes through legitimate yet exclusivist tactics, forcing societal change through the use of state violence and legitimizing the use of power and securing continued control of the state in consequent elections. Similar to the Vanguardism of Lenin, for Islamists, party comes before the government. Controlling the party becomes equivalent to controlling the state and the internal regulations of the party are given priority over the laws of the country.
Islamism in this sense is over. The Muslim world is looking towards a post-Islamist paradigm by means of perceptions about citizenship, constitution, the state and civil society.
It has to be underlined that Islamism is not authentically Islamic. It is a modern ideology developed in the 19th century in response to the backwardness of the Muslim world and in principle it foresaw the Islamization of Western discoveries, be they scientific, technological or political, that accounted for the rapid development in the West. It was not a reactionary response to modernism; rather, it was modernist with a strategy of selectively assimilating Western political apparatus like elections, a parliamentary system, constitutionalism, the separation of powers and a nation state.
Some of these “imports” bore similarities to age-old Islamic notions and mechanisms. It was not difficult to naturalize elections, parliaments and the separation of powers in a Muslim context. But the nation state as a homogenizing central power had no similar structure in Islamic history. It was non-Islamic through and through. As Islamists made the nation state the target of their political conquests, they also became non-Islamic. Until Islamist politics bore the fruits of Islamist governments their non-Islamic status was not realized, though.
Islamism is an attractive opposition ideology. Within its reactionary — sometimes anti-establishment — rhetoric, Islamism failed to develop a strategy of responsible governance. When challenged with apparently un-Islamic but also indispensable necessities of day-to-day governance, Islamist politicians realized that there was no Islamist way to tax prostitutes, receive loans from international banks or pave a path that leads to a beerhouse. Individuals could be convinced not to commit adultery, not to work on interest or not to walk into a beerhouse but nation states are not so easily “convertible.”
The experiences of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Al-Nahda in Tunisia and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Turkey suggest that the nation state has greater power to transform Islamists, who long to alter the state and through it, society. The speed with which the authoritarian tendencies of the nation state invaded the souls, minds and pockets of Islamist politicians is unbelievable.
During the first meeting of the Turkish-Arab Intellectuals Forum, I gave a presentation on the graft operations of Dec. 17 and 25 and the aggressive protectionist measures of the government. Our Arab guests were shocked. This level of corruption was unbelievable to them. One participant said with dismay that if what I had told them was true, besides betraying its own cause, the AK Party had to also bear the sin of letting down Arab Islamists.
I wonder what he would think had he heard the recordings of phone calls between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son Bilal…
Source: Todays Zaman , February 26, 2014