Benhabib on Turkey, Secularism and Hirsi Ali

Also in Dissent, an interview with political philosopher Seyla Benhabib on Turkey, mosque and state, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

[Daniele Castellani Perelli]: Ayaan Hirsi Ali has recently written about Turkey in the Los Angeles Times. She writes: “The proponents of Islam in government, such as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and their Justice and Development Party, have exploited the fact that you can use democratic means to erode democracy. After an initial attempt at Islamic revolution failed in 1997, when the military engineered a ‘soft coup’ against elected Islamists, Erdogan and his party understood that gradualism would yield more lasting power. They surely realize that Islamicizing Turkey entirely is possible only if they gain control of the army and the constitutional court. Well-meaning but naive European leaders were manipulated by the ruling Islamists into saying that Turkey’s army should be placed under civil control, like all armies in EU member states. The army and the constitutional court are also, and maybe even more importantly, designed to protect Turkish democracy from Islam.”

[Seyla Benhabib]: Miss Ayaan Hirsi Ali has now assumed a public role of exaggerating and driving Islam and everything related to Islam into the corner of fascism or a kind of theocracy. Her statement is simply uninformed. It is not a statement that can be taken seriously by anybody who is a democrat. First of all, there is no danger of Islamic theocracy in Turkey. I can assure you there will be a civil war in Turkey before there will be a theocracy.

Anyway, I don’t think that the AK Party wants a theocracy. They are carrying out an incredible experiment and it is unusual for some one who is a democratic socialist like myself to be supporting, and watching very carefully, a party like them. But we are all watching carefully because they also represent a kind of pluralism in civil society which is absolutely essential for Turkey.