Liberal Islam the Loser in Turkey’s Power Struggle
By Saif Shahin, New Age Islam
December 23, 2013
For nearly a decade, Muslims have hoisted Turkey as an illustration of Islam’s compatibility with modern liberalism. Never mind anachronistic Saudi Arabia, we said. Forget volatile if syncretic Indonesia too. It was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey that exemplified Islam’s liberal credentials: peaceful and democratic even as it veered away from a century of coercive secularism. That Turkey is under threat, and not just because of Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian stance. A widening feud between him and his erstwhile ally, the recalcitrant Islamist Gülen movement, can put paid to claims that Islam can coexist with liberal democracy.
Until quite recently, Erdogan was an extremely popular leader in Turkey. His AK (Justice and Development) Party won three successive general elections after forging a remarkable alliance of the business class, the working class, and the religious class. Riding on this wave, Erdogan began to wean Turkish politics from its dependence on the will of the armed forces and Turkish society from coercive secularism. New laws weakened the military’s political clout and made adherence to secular or religious values a matter of personal choice. Turkey’s many Islamic orders, which had long suffered under the military, were particularly pleased, and they all pulled their weight behind Erdogan.
But something else changed along the way, as it often does.
Sultan Erdogan the First