Monday, August 9, 2010

PACE analysis: Turkey and the future of Islamic Leadership


Turkey, the west said ‘has turned East’. This is in respond to Turkey’s political, economic and strategic alliance with the Middle East and beyond. Not only they ‘have turned east’, they are forging ties with regimes that are not in the good books of the west. Erdogan’s positive remarks on Ahmadinejad and Sudan’s Omar basher are indications of these political inclinations.

According to one analysis, the developments in Turkey is not an indication that Turkey has turned it’s back against the west and now is more interested in identifying itself with the east. The reality is Turkey has become a centre in it’s own right and it is the west and the east that has to forge alliance with this new emerging economic and political centre. With the current turmoil that has brought down European economies like Greece and Spain to their knees, Turkey is experiencing an economic boom. In recent years we have seen the birth of big corporations dubbed the ‘Anatolian Tigers’ in the deep East that have won contracts to build new airports in Doha, Cairo and in the Georgian State. Turkey’s construction companies are building stadiums, convention centres, opera house and a University in Kazakhstan. Turkey’s investment in Iran has topped USD10 billion and set to reach USD30 billion this year with the construction of gas pipelines from Iran to Europe that passes through Turkey. Little wonder that Turkey has gone against the sanction on Iran by the United Nation, and the US response was unusual – low keyed. Again in the wake of the Mavi Marmara tragedy, Turkey’s strong word against Israel was only met by a meek response by the US. Why the sudden softening of the US position on Turkey? The US doesn’t have much choice in the face of the new emerging Turkey as the economic powerhouse in the region. They used to say Turkey has ‘a strong muscle, a weak stomach, a troubled heart and a mediocre brain’, but this may no longer be the case. Turkey now has the brain and the brawn, the courage and the will, the determination and the resolve to provide an alternative leadership as a challenge to the traditional dictates of the west. The strategic positioning of Turkey perhaps can be seen by the appointment of a Turkish national as the deputy head of NATO. Despite US wariness and criticism and urging Europe to backtrack on Turkish application for a full membership in EU, Turkish role in the counterterrorism efforts in the volatile Kurdish areas is crucial to the American interest in Central Asia.

Despite of the strong objections by Germany and France for Turkish membership in EU, the pace of reforms in the judiciary, labour and human rights conditions in Turkey has left Europe with no choice but to let Turkey in. There are a number of obstacles which were actually relics from the military rule that the present AKP government has to deal with. The most obnoxious of these is the immunity of the army from scrutiny of the law and prosecution. The army in Turkey is actually above the law and this is the biggest stumbling block for Turkey to nurture a democracy compliant with the EU standard. However a national referendum will be voted on in September this year, and this undoubtedly will bring Turkey a step closer to EU.

It was the unlimited powers of the military that has earned Turkey a strong diplomatic ties with Israel. It will take more than just a diplomatic row for Turkey to break-off relations with Israel. For an islamically inclined Raccip Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party, he will have to tread the line carefully so as not to evoke the anger of the secularist-kemalist military wing. However, the tragedy on the highseas onboard Mavi Marmara has given the government a good national cause for everyone from different political and ideological shades to rally behind the government. Even the army joined in the possessions of the matrys to their resting place alongside hundreds of thousands that thronged the streets of Ankara.

We are seeing a revived Turkey, a Turkey that will speak for the oppressed and the dispossed. We have been waiting for this since the downfall of the Ottoman Khalifate in 1924. We are beginning to see the greatness of Islam in the likes of Muhammad al-Fateh. It was Erdogan who pointed his finger at Shimon Peres at Davos economic forum in the wake of the Gaza attack, ‘You killed people’ and walked out on him as a sign of protest. It was a great moral victory for the Islamic world and the Palestinians in particular. It was Erdogan who penned a poem that likened the minaret as the lancet, the dome of the mosque as the helmet, the azan as the battle cry and the congregations as the army, and which has landed him in prison for a couple of years. We have not seen so much humbleness that is so wanting in the leaders of the muslim world. We have now seeing that in the personality of the President Abdullah Gul. His wife adorned the headscraves, which is illegal according to the Turkish law. When he held a wedding reception for his daughter, dignitaroies turned up with expensive wedding gifts. Abdullah politely turned down those gifts and instead asked them to use the money to plant trees in Turkey as a mark of support for the national greenery project.

PACE would like to reminisce the glorious days of the past. Five hundred years ago, Turkey was a reliable protector of the ummah. Being derided as the ‘Sick man of Europe’ did not stop Turkey from sending her troops to far away places in defense of the ummah. They fought alongside the Achenese people to dislodge the Portuguese in Malacca. They fought valiantly alongside the Achenese warriors when the Dutch stomed the beaches of Aceh. They were there to face off the conquistidores in Goa, Aden and Socotra. Their fleets even though dwarfed and stymied by the Portuguese galleons managed to put up a credible fight in the Persian Gulf, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

And it was Sultan Abdul Hamid II that has frustrated every attempt by the Zionist lead by Theodore Hetzl to own a piece of Palestine. They were only successful when they took it by force during the first world war and at a heavy price. Hundreds and thousands of the allied service men lost their lives in Gallipolii, in Beersheba before they overran Jerusalem and wrestled Palestine to this day.

Ya Allah! Return this ummah to its great condition in her heydays. Ya Allah! We invoke your name as Ramadhan approaches to give us strength to overcome our own weakness and to help deliver our brothers and sisters from the clutches of terror, oppression and presecution by our enemies and your enemies. Ya Allah. Grant us a leadership that can deliver this ummah from its abject and sorry state. Ameen Ya Rabbal alameen.

Assoc Prof Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor


PACE (Palestine Centre of Excellence)

A day before Ramadhan 1431H



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