Those hoping to witness the fall of Turkish dictator Recep Erdogan were disappointed when the recent coup failed almost as soon as it began. The event was the latest spasm in the country’s ongoing tensions between secular and religious forces.
Secularism is enshrined in Turkey’s modern constitution, but many in the Muslim country want it to embrace sharia law instead. On April 25, Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman — who is reportedly close to Erdogan — called for a new “religious constitution,” and created an uproar. Did this light the fuse to this week’s coup attempt?
A few days after Kahraman’s statement, one expert observed:
Erdogan’s ambitions are more about power than doctrine. (…)
Erdogan likely has the support of this hardcore, Islamist minority of 12%, who probably do expect him to create their utopia. At the same time, he also has the support of a much larger block of “conservative” voters who are religious and like reference to religion, but who still prefer to live under secular law. This is why Erdogan would want to retain secularism in the Turkish constitution, albeit while not shying from venerating religion in the public square or perhaps even in the constitution.
The author compares Erdogan’s game plan to Putin’s. Both leaders cynically use religious sentiment and talk of “values” as powerful weapons but ends in themselves. The ultimate goal for both men is complete, permanent power.
Keep in mind that the latter-day ideology of the party is not simply “Islamism” after all, but “Erdoganism,” in which Islamism is indeed an important theme, but not the only theme. This would not put Turkey on the path to becoming another Iran or Saudi Arabia, as Turkey’s secularists fear, but it could lead in the direction of another Russia, where a similar ideology, “Putinism,” rules.
The most brutal, murderous governments of the 20th century have been about a man more than an ideology: Hitler, Stalin, Mao. Let’s hope that we don’t have to add “Putin” or “Erdogan” to that list. Only a powerful America with the right leadership will ensure that.
Credit: AL Monitor