Monday, October 22, 2012

The Islamisation of Turkey: the case of Fazil Say

by Elizabeth Kendal

For background on the Islamisation of Turkey see my earlier post:
Erodgan, Ergenekon, Europe and the Islamisation of Turkey
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 13 Oct 2012

The Case of Fazil Say

Energetic, world renowned virtuoso classical and jazz pianist Fazil Say (42) has filled concert halls around the world, performing with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel. He has also served as a cultural ambassador for the European Union.

In April, in the course of a Twitter conversation, Say retweeted a verse by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam which mocks pious Islamic hypocrisy by asking believers: "You say rivers of wine flow in heaven: is heaven a tavern to you? / You say two houris [beautiful virgins] await each believer there: is heaven a brothel to you?"

Other tweets to have caused "offense" include one where Say joked about a call to prayer that lasted only 22 seconds. "Why such haste?" Say tweeted. "Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki [alcoholic drink] on the table?"

And another: "I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it's always an Islamist."

Three people filed complaints, and on 1 June, prosecutors charged Say with inciting hatred and public enmity, and with insulting "religious values". He faces a maximum 18 months prison term, although any sentence is likely to be suspended.

On Tuesday 16 Oct, Say sent a note to a gathering of artists in which he said he was "amazed" he was having to appear in the dock. "All my life, I have represented the modern face of Turkey to the world through my art," he said. "I feel weird because I am facing the threat of being punished with a case like this."

AFP reports: "Say has also often criticised the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accusing it of having a secret agenda to Islamise Turkey.

"In April, Say told the Hurriyet newspaper that he felt completely ostracised by Turkish society since he declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance."

At a concert performance the night before his 18 October court appearance, Say read out a prepared statement: "Many intellectual friends, journalists are behind bars for reasons we can't know or understand.

"I can't even begin to explain this era. Believe me this reminds me of Nazi Germany the most.

"It is perhaps an honor to be tried because of retweeting a verse of Khayyam in an era like this. . . I have committed no crime. . . We are modern individuals, not a flock.

"If this is a dark era, then let us enlighten it."

On 18 October, "a visibly upset Say" told the Istanbul court, " I reject all the accusations."

AFP reports: "In a written defence submitted to the court, Say said he did not seek to insult anybody, but was merely expressing his uneasiness with people who were abusing religion for their own benefits. 'What I have done as an artist is to share my thoughts with my followers. . .  It is clear that I haven’t invited anybody to spread violence, or jeopardised public peace.'"

Say's lawyers requested an immediate acquittal; however this was rejected. The court adjourned the case to 18 February 2013.

Turkey -- a model of Islamic democracy?

See:
Tweeting Turkish pianist Fazil Say denies religious insult charge
By Nick Tattersall, Reuters, 19  October 2012 

Turkish pianist on trial for insulting Islam
Reuters, Thursday Oct 18, 2012

Turkish pianist ‘insulted Islam’
AFP, October 19, 2012

Turkish musician accused of Islam insults
By Daniel Dombey in Istanbul October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whither the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets on Friday 5 October, in what has been by far the largest political demonstration in the kingdom since the onset of the "Arab Spring".  The protestors were calling for "democratic reforms," threatening to boycott the forthcoming elections should adequate reforms not be realised.

See: A late-blooming Arab Spring in Jordan?
By Ilene Prusher, Jerusalem Post, 2 Oct 2012
Muslim Brotherhood, opposition groups, call for massive rally in Amman to demand reform and boycott upcoming elections.

In Jordan, real democracy would, ipso facto, result in a Palestinian state. As was the case in Iraq and Syria, Jordan is dominated by a minority. While in multi-racial, pluralistic Iraq and Syria, the divisions are sectarian, in Jordan the divisions are tribal. In Iraq, a Sunni minority dominated a Shi'ite majority: a situation established by the British. In Syria, an Alawite minority has dominated a Sunni majority: a situation established by the French. In Jordan, which is officially 92 percent Sunni Muslim, a Bedouin ("East Banker") minority dominates a Palestinian ("West Banker") majority: a situation created by mass migration. And within the dominant minority, the Hashemite monarchy represents merely one tribe amongst many -- and a "foreign"/ outsider, British-transplanted tribe at that.

The Hashemites are an Arab tribe emanating from the Hejaz / Red Sea region of what is now Saudi Arabia.

During World War One, Lawrence of Arabia convince the Hashemites to rise up against their Ottoman overlords. After the war, Britain rewarded its Hashemite allies with kingdoms in Iraq, Trans-Jordan and the Hejaz.

Hashemite rule over the Hejaz ended in 1925 when the Saudis conquered and annexed the territory into their own kingdom, thereby seizing control of Islam's holiest and most lucrative sites. In Iraq, Hashemite rule ended in 1958, when the monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. Only in Jordan has Hashemite rule survived. If the Palestinians are able to exploit the window of opportunity afforded them by the "Arab Spring," then a Palestinian state might be not far off -- albeit one that retains a Hashemite king as a powerless figurehead. Much depends on whether on West decides to "champion democracy" in Jordan (as it supposedly did in Egypt and Libya) or give tacit support to violent repression (as it clearly did in Bahrain).

What a Palestinian Jordan might mean for local Christians and for Israel is unclear.

A report published in the winter (northern hemisphere) edition of the Middle East Quarterly, entitled "Jordon is Palestinian", explains the situation well. The author, Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian of Palestinian decent. Full of hope (and doubtless a little bias) Zahran is extremely positive about the prospects of a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian State in Jordan. What is uncertain, however, is whether those who would eventually hold power in a Palestinian Jordan would share his position. Doubtless Palestinians would be profoundly divided. For certain, many would be overjoyed to be able to get on with their lives free of the shackle of "refugee" status. However, there would also be plenty of belligerent Islamists keen to ruin everything for everyone.

See: Jordan Is Palestinian
by Mudar Zahran, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012.

Palestinians comprise a majority in Jordan. Jordan's two largest cities, Amman and Zarqa, are majority Palestinian. Yet as Zahran notes, the "Palestinian majority has been discriminated against by the ruling Hashemite dynasty, propped up by a minority Bedouin population, from the moment it occupied Judea and Samaria during the 1948 war (these territories were annexed to Jordan in April 1950 to become the kingdom's West Bank)."

Held as "refugees" with a "right of return", the Palestinians are discriminated against in every way as they used as pawns in an Arab strategy aimed at destroying Israel. They are politically marginalised: "there is not a single Palestinian serving as governor of any of Jordan's twelve governorships", writes Zahran. Though they are the backbone of the Jordanian economy, the Palestinians suffer economic discrimination. For while they pay hefty tariffs and high taxes, the Bedouin "East Bankers", as public servants and military service personnel, have access to government-subsidised stores. As such, Palestinian taxes go into supporting the economic benefits enjoyed by members of institutions the Palestinians are not permitted to join. It is not a wonder that Jordan's Palestinians have for some time been viewed as "a ticking bomb".

On the other side of the coin, the Bedouin have come to realise the degree to which the Hashemite monarchy is dependent upon them. The army, the police forces, all the security agencies and the Jordanian General Intelligence Department are all made up of Bedouin (East Bankers). Consequently, as Zahran points out, the Hashemite monarchy has little choice but to kowtow to their demands.

Zahran reports, "Despite their lavish privileges, Jordanian Bedouins seem to insist relentlessly on a bigger piece of the cake, demanding more privileges from the king, and, in doing so, they have grown fearless about defying him."

Furthermore, the Bedouin have a tradition of pragmatic flexibility, freely trading loyalty according to interests such as who can offer the best rewards.

Zahran writes that essentially, "the Jordanian regime is now detested not only by the Palestinians but also by the Bedouins, who have called for a constitutional monarchy in which the king hands his powers to them." According to Zahran, it is the Bedouins who dominate Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.

Zahran explains how in 2008, the monarchy enacted a discriminatory electoral law through which it strategically empowered the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). By empowering the MB, Abdullah created a platform upon which he could appeal to the US for political support and aid to tackle the Islamist threat. [NOTE: This is exactly what Gen. President Musharraf did in Pakistan in 2002 when, through gerrymandering and amendments to the electoral law, he engineered the way for the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA: an alliance of six Islamist parties) to emerge holding the balance of power. He then brokered quid-pro-quo deals with the MMA, deals that advanced his own personal ambitions while simultaneously advancing Islamisation which he then presented to his Western allies as the reason why they should back him and keep the aid flowing!]

For more on this see another article by Mudar Zahran
Jordan's King and the Muslim Brotherhood: An Unholy Marriage
American Thinker, 20 January 2012
Quote: "It seems that the Jordanian regime is not as anti-Islamist as it claims to be, and it seems that both the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime don't want the Palestinian majority to come to power.  From the king's point of view, it would mean the end of his kingdom.  From the Muslim Brotherhood's point of view, it would present Palestinians everywhere with 'the alternative homeland' -- i.e., the 'Jordan is Palestine' option is 'a threat' to their attempts to destroy Israel [through 'right of return']."

For more information on the Palestinian "refugee" and "right of return" issues, as well as on UNRWA -- the UN Relief and Works Agency which is dedicated to perpetuating the crisis --
SEE:

Nitza Nachmias, UNRWA Betrays Its Mission
A temporary relief operation turned into a self-perpetuating agency
also
Steven J. Rosen, Why a Special Issue on UNRWA?
Because the agency has become part of the problem
and
Alex Joffe, UNRWA Resists Resettlement
It advocates solely for the "right of return" to Israel 
FROM:
UNRWA: PART OF THE PROBLEM
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2012 • VOLUME 19: NUMBER 4

In December 2012 or early 2013, the Palestinian majority and Bedouin opposition, with the momentum of the Arab Spring behind them, will be faced with the prospect of "un-democratic" elections. Despite this being a recipe for conflict, the West seems confident that its ally, King Abdullah II, will remain in control. Personally, I'm not so sure. A perfect storm may well be looming.

But would the solving of the "refugee" problem solve the problems of the Middle East? Would a Palestinian Jordan be economically engaged and at peace with Israel (as Zahran believes)? And what would be the status of the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?

If these questions can be answered positively -- then great! If not, because it turns out that the majority of Palestinians are far too radicalised for that, then whither the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Erodgan, Ergenekon, Europe and the Islamisation of Turkey


By Elizabeth Kendal

A column by Andrew C. McCarthy, in National Review Online, has motivated me to find time -- between writing on pogroms, massacres, dispossession, imprisonments and tortures -- to highlight a grossly under-appreciated and deeply-controversial matter: How Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is exploiting European ignorance and timidity to advance Islamisation in Turkey.

In his column, entitled, "Why Turkey Will Never Join the EU" (NRO, 29 Sept 2012), McCarthy has a lot to say about Turkey, Islam and Europe that is of critical importance.  I have long shared his view. It is a position that has frequently put me at odds with European evangelicals.

McCarthy opens with these words: "When Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey, it was anything but clear that he would last more than a few months. The military, the constitutional guardian of Atatürk's secular order, had killed the Islamist administration of Erdogan's mentor, Necmettin Erbakan, only a few years earlier. At the time, Erdogan was jailed for several months as a seditionist. Though he was nonetheless permitted to assume the prime minister's office in 2003 after leading his Islamist party to victory, the man who famously proclaimed 'I am a servant of sharia' still aroused great suspicion.

"To survive and thrive, Erdogan would have to find ways to erode and nullify his Kemalist opponents. Thanks to Europe, he had cards to play."

As McCarthy notes, Turkish integration into the West had long been a "Kemalist dream". Erdogan, however, knows the truth: European leaders will never accept Turkey into the European Union (EU).

Terrified of being accused of Islamophobia, European elites have opened their arms to Turkey while setting up a process -- a series of hoops through which Turkey must jump -- the end result of which will be EU-Integration. Knowing Turkey will never achieve EU-integration -- and not caring, because he doesn't actually want it -- Erdogan is masterfully exploiting the situation to advance his own agenda: the Islamisation of Turkey.

"For", writes McCarthy, "among the steps Turkey must theoretically climb on the ladder to Euro-worthiness are religious liberty, the separation of religion and the state, and civilian control of the military. As Erdogan saw, the EU-integration process was the surest way to cow the generals into accepting elected Islamists and to break secularist constraints on Islamic supremacism."

McCarthy describes Islam as "totalitarianism packaged as 'religion'". I likewise have described Islam as totalitarianism concealed under or protected by a cloak of religion. It is precisely because socio-political, imperialistic, totalitarian Islam covers itself with "religion", it can appeal to religious liberty every time it is challenged. Furthermore, it is precisely because Islam is totalitarian and supremacist, that "liberty and Sharia cannot share the same space".

"In Turkey," writes McCarthy, "the administrators of the Kemalist governmental model — comprising Muslims who understood Islam intimately [better than the EU] — suppressed Islam not to deny freedom of conscience but to enable it. They were trying to forge exactly the sort of secular civil society Europeans revere. They knew it could not coexist with sharia. Thus, the government assumed supervision of the country's 80,000 mosques, vetted the imams, controlled the content of sermons and literature, and aggressively monitored the Islamic charities. The Muslims running the state realized that Islam would inevitably work against secular civil society if left to its own devices. [. . .]

McCarthy makes the point that the difference between Turkey and the West, is that Turkey has been trying to "cultivate freedom in an Islamic setting, not preserve freedom in a preexisting culture of liberty". And, he notes, "In a mainstream-Islamic society, the threat of reversion to a freedom-devouring sharia societal system always looms."

"Kemalist Muslims wanted a flourishing civil society but realized they could not keep one unless Islam's supremacist proclivities were permanently checked. Though very far from perfect, they were trying to establish a prosperous, Western-style nation-state. The Kemalists, unlike sharia adherents, never sought to strangle freedom of conscience. There was never any prohibition on being a Muslim, believing in Islam, or privately adhering to Islam's spiritual elements. It was Islam's extra-spiritual aspects — political, social, economic, military, etc. — that were the problem. Without the military as a bulwark against Islamic supremacism, freedom of conscience and liberty in general would be doomed."

But, as McCarthy notes, Europe will have none of it, arrogantly insisting that history is flowing irresistibly towards European-style secular humanism and Western-style democracy.

To summarise: European elites don't actually want Turkey in the EU. But rather than stand accused of Islamophobia, they hold out the promise of integration, as soon as Turkey reaches the unreachable state of "reformed". Meanwhile, Erdogan ,who has nothing but Islamist contempt for the West and would not join the EU unless it was to dominate it, "continues to leverage this European pressure for Turkish reform because it serves the Islamist cause of weakening the Turkish military and breaking Atatürk's shackles on supremacist Islam — all under the ironic guise of promoting 'religious liberty'."

See: Why Turkey Will Never Join the EU 
By Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online, 29 Sept 2010.

ERGENEKON

One of the most significant scams Erodgan has pulled off, enabling him to repress and persecute all opposition while still impressing the Europeans, has been the Ergenekon investigation.

Supposedly created to prosecute members of a "Deep State" conspiracy, the Ergenekon investigation has been used to harass, persecute and silence opposition, particularly those associated with the Constitutional Court and the Military.

Hundreds of Turks -- including journalists, academics, geriatric authors, transsexual actors etc as well as Kemalist politicians, Generals and judges -- have been detained without charge and without evidence, for no other apparent reason than they expressed opposition to Erdogan's pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - AKP) or to the Islamisation of Turkey in general.

The AKP also exploits the Ergenekon investigation as a means to shift the blame for every act of Islamic religious hatred or terrorism on to secularists. "It goes without saying that a disinformation campaign which holds Ergenekon ultimately responsible for all the violence previously attributed to Islamist groups is unlikely to encourage those who are best-placed to identify potential Islamist terrorists to be more vigilant." (Jenkins, Terrorism Monitor, 3 Oct 2008)

In a parallel case code-named "Sledgehammer", more than 300 active and retired military officers were recently sentenced to prison terms on charges relating to an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government. Bill Park, a senior lecturer who specialises in Turkish foreign and security policy at King's College, London, comments that as a worst case scenario, "Kemalist/secularist officers are now more generally purged as part of an Islamist long march through Turkey's institutions".

Ergenekon -- Recommended reading:

Turkey's New Islamism
By David Pryce-Jones, National Review Online, 27 Sept 2012

Erdogan, Ergenekon, and the Struggle for Turkey
By Michael Rubin, Middle East Forum, 8 Aug 2008.

Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey's Ergenekon Investigation
Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Silk Road Studies Program
Silk Road Paper,  by Gareth H. Jenkins, August 2009.

The Impact of the Ergenekon Investigation on Turkish Counterterrorism Operations
Jamestown, Terrorism Monitor, Volume: 6 Issue: 19
By Gareth Jenkins, 3 October 2008

includes Sledgehammer 

ERGENEKON, SLEDGEHAMMER, AND THE POLITICS OF TURKISH JUSTICE: CONSPIRACIES AND COINCIDENCES
GLORIA Centre, Global Research in International Affairs.
By Gareth Jenkins, 29 August 2011

The Ergenekon investigation gets out of control
Caspian Intelligence, 10 January 2012

Turkey's Sledgehammer Coup verdict: justice or Soviet-style show trial?
Turkish court's jailing of hundreds of military officers over Erdogan coup plot revives fears of return to authoritarian rule.
By Simon Tisdall, for the Guardian, 25 September 2012

Turkey’s Massive Military Trial Opens Old Wounds and New Anxieties
Claims of procedural and evidentiary anomalies in a huge trial of coup plotters raise criticism of the Erdogan administration. Is the Prime Minister trying too hard to bury the military — and Turkish secularism?
By Pelin Turgut in Istanbul for TIME, 24 Sept 2012

Hundreds Convicted in Turkish Coup Trial
By EMRE PEKER, Wall Street Journal
21 September 2012.

The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations are not the only show trial campaigns being waged against those who oppose Erdogan, the AKP and/or Islamisation.

In a trial that has been dubbed the KCK case, "193 men and women are being judged on charges of 'membership in an illegal organization', legalese for 'terrorism'. The defendants were arrested for either teaching or taking classes at academies set up by the BDP, the Peace and Democracy Party, a liberal coalition political party dominated by the Kurdish minority and dedicated to establishing equality for all of Turkey's minorities. According to the ruling AK Party under Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan, participation in any form at these academies -- even the tea servers were arrested -- meant membership in the KCK, the urban branch of the Kurdish guerrilla movement.

"Among these supposed trainers of Kurdish terrorists in the mountains are also non-Kurds, such as Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Busra Ersanli, a professor of political science. Authorities have charged the aged and infirm as well, including Zekiye Ayik, an elderly woman who never learned to read or write, and Muhsin Yenisöz, a man who has to be frequently hospitalized for heart disease. These four, due to significant outside pressure, were released on bond at the end of the first phase of the trial in July, but are still being tried. Most of the defendants remain in prison, including my 60 year old father-in-law, Kemal Seven, a former elementary school teacher and instructor at the academies."

From: Turkey's Treacherous Show Trials
By Jeffrey Wade Gibbs, for Gatestone Institute. 1 October 2012
Gibbs is an American writer and teacher who has been living in Istanbul for five years.

None of this bodes well for religious freedom or for the Church in Turkey. Incredibly though, it is all being done in the name of religious liberty and democracy, to cheers and congratulations from the West.

It is a travesty that the European Parliament has supported these clearly political investigations which do nothing to advance democracy or liberty but plenty to advance totalitarianism, Islamisation and a climate of fear.