Monday, June 17, 2013

Two contrasting views of Ataturk

Over on the Daily Times of Pakistan, Mr. Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer and author, writes of Ataturk
he abolished the state religion and made Turkey a modern secular republic, albeit flawed at times (a 1932 law banned 30 odd professions to citizens of Turkey belonging to the Greek Orthodox faith).
and of Jinnah and Ataturk:
It is also known that Jinnah stood for the same indicators of modernity, i.e. republicanism, women’s rights and the right of each person and indeed each Muslim to live free of the tyranny of the clergy’s dictates. Both men believed that sovereignty must rest unconditionally with the people and the parameters of material progress of a people were defined by their education, culture and civilisation.
Meanwhile. in the New York Times,  Edhem Eldem, a professor of history at Bogazici University writes:
Turkey’s past has little to offer in terms of democratic inspiration.

 Before claiming that Mr. Erdogan’s moves can be countered by returning to the foundations of the secular republic, we should recall that Turkey was not a democracy until 1950; that it was ruled consecutively from 1923 to 1946 by two unchallenged leaders, Ataturk and Ismet Inonu, each invested with dictatorial powers; and that its democracy was “interrupted” three times by military coups or interventions, in 1960, 1971 and 1980, not to mention a failed one in 1997. Moreover, Turkish “secularism” often marginalized and oppressed those who openly displayed their beliefs; head-scarf-wearing women were banned from universities, and few protections were given to religious minorities. 
Turkey’s past has little to offer in terms of democratic inspiration. Ironically, there is hardly any difference between the nostalgia for Ataturk-era secularism and the A.K.P.’s glorification of the Ottoman imperial past. Both rest on the reinvention of an imagined golden age — the former with a secularist emphasis, and the latter with a focus on Islamic identity. And both look back fondly on authoritarian regimes, which makes them all the less credible as political models for a democratic present and future.
 Nostalgia, it is a dangerous thing. 

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