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Islam and Politics ( 1 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Europe’s Unseemly Haste to Embrace Tehran: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 01 September 2015

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

01 September 2015

 Europe’s Unseemly Haste To Embrace Tehran

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

 Peace Has No Chance In Climate Of Intolerance

By Asha Iyer Kumar

 Malaysia's Democracy Is In Worse Shape Than We Thought

By Anneliese Mcauliffe

 Child Soldiers Of Iraq, Yemen

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

 Palestine’s Leadership Crisis

By Ramzy Baroud

 Democracy And Secularism

By Ali Bulaç

 Why Ankara Is Under Pressure Over Isil?

By Murat Yetkin



Europe’s unseemly haste to embrace Tehran

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

31 August 2015

The ink hardly dried on the Iran nuclear deal before European countries were racing to seal trade deals and reopen embassies. The mullahs have gone from zero to hero in the blink of an eye. Forgotten are Tehran’s links to terrorists, attempts to overthrow Middle Eastern governments and mass gatherings organized to hurl insults and threats at the West.

Cast aside are concerns about Iran’s suppression of minorities, its dismal human rights record or its practice of stoning women. I believe Iran has made no substantial statements to the effect it is willing to change. On the contrary, its message throughout has been one of defiance. It has not been required to denounce terrorism let alone its participation in terrorist acts.

Iran’s crimes are suddenly of no consequence to Europe’s democracies; I believe they have purposefully put their blinkers on and are literally queuing with their hands out to beat down Tehran’s golden doors. All they see now are flashing neon dollar signs. The Islamic Republic, soon to be flush with an $80 billion plus bonanza, is destined to become Europe’s latest cash cow.

I was extremely disappointed and saddened at Britain’s rush to reopen its Tehran embassy that has been closed for four years subsequent to coming under mob attack in November, 2011. I have always had great respect and admiration for the UK that I consider my second home, based on my homeland’s historic ties and the principled stances taken by great leaders like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, who kept the ‘Great’ in Britain, politically, militarily, industrially and economically.

An enemy five minutes ago…

I cannot imagine that those prime ministers, whose names remain engraved on world history to this day, grovelling before a country that five minutes ago was their enemy, just to get their clutches on a fistful of dollars.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, was the first to beat a track to Tehran since 2003. Naturally, he arrived with a trade delegation and took the opportunity to stress the “huge appetite” shown by British business to invest in Iran as well as the readiness of British banks to finance deals.

As the Iranian network Press TV has reported, Iran has recently hosted “a delegation of government ministers from Italy,” who has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to fund industrial, construction and infrastructure projects worth over 3 billion euros. This comes on the heels of a visit by Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, with a team of manufacturers, as well as visits from Austrian, Serbian, Swiss and Azerbaijani government officials. Spain is also champing at the bit to board the gravy train.

Moreover, President Hassan Rowhani has been invited to visit Rome “in the coming weeks”. Rowhani’s red carpet travel schedule is getting fuller by the day. Following a visit to Tehran by France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, accompanied by business leaders, he has been invited to visit the Elysees Palace in November. Russia and China, which have always been cosy with Tehran, are waiting in the wings with lucrative energy and weapons contracts at the ready.

No doubt President Barack Obama is rubbing his hands together awaiting his turn to get in on the action, delayed by pesky lawmakers who refused to take his word that his deal is the best thing that has happened since the invention of the wheel.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, have not changed. Nevertheless, America inexplicably saw it fit to remove those entities from its terror threat list even as it is fighting to preserve Syria’s Killer-in-Chief and supporting a Houthi takeover of Yemen.

At least one senior Iranian official has gleefully announced his country’s continued support for “resistance” groups, which translated means their armed minions and spies targeting Arabian Gulf States. Who can blame Iran’s Arab neighbours for being rattled when a massive cache of weapons were recently discovered in Kuwait in the hands of a Hezbollah cell poised to create mayhem and bloodshed!

Where are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that relentlessly points fingers at Arab states for taking measures to protect their peoples? They have become so politicised that it appears they are willing to give Iran a free pass so as not to spoil the party.

I am starting to wonder whether there is more to the nuclear deal, which permits Iran to carry out self-inspections of its suspect Parchin Military Complex, than meets the eye - especially when there are other secret agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency which the nuclear watchdog is legally bound not to disclose, even to the U.S. and the other P5+1 countries. Believe that if you will!

In this case, one can only speculate about the existence of other secret arrangements between Iran and the Obama administration that has displayed unprecedented determination to ensure the deal passes muster with Congress and has gone to extreme lengths to persuade America’s longstanding Middle East allies to come on board, including invitations to the leaders of Gulf States to weekend talks at Camp David. Likewise, President Obama is trying, unsuccessfully, to bribe the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into silence with a massive “military compensation package.”

A ‘Grand Bargain’

The Shah of Iran may have sat on the Peacock Throne, but it is my bet that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei is strutting around like a peacock these days, his feathers plumped up by European sycophants and endless praise from U.S. officials. He is getting everything for nothing. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure remains intact, uranium enrichment will be ongoing. Opening up some of the country’s nuclear facilities, barring military sites, to intrusive inspections for 10 years is just a mere inconvenience paling by comparison with the glittering rewards.

I warned again and again of the potential of a ‘Grand Bargain’ being struck between the West and Iran many years ago and now it is unfolding before our eyes. I recall President Obama saying the nuclear deal could possibly lead to normalisation of relations with Iran way into the future provided it sticks to its commitments. What is happening now makes a mockery of those cautious words.

Here is another prediction. Those Western leaders prostrating themselves before the Iranian leadership will live to rue the day. Enriched and emboldened, I believe it is only a matter of time before Tehran strikes at their countries interests because its ideology and hatred for all things western are immutable.

The Arab World, in particular Iran’s closest neighbours, the Arabian Gulf states, must not only be alert to the coming danger, but should take a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book by erecting an impenetrable wall in terms of military, surveillance and intelligence capabilities, to keep Iran, its mercenaries and proxies far from our shores. If we are not careful, the West’s lust to bolster their failing economies will leave us hung out to dry.

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.


Peace has no chance in climate of intolerance

By Asha Iyer Kumar

eptember 1, 2015

Patience and tolerance are now considered synonymous with weakness.

The month was anything but 'august' when the US dropped the bomb on Japan in 1945. The justification of the horrific act as the only way to end the war still seems untenable, not only for the human tragedy it caused, but also for the ghastly example it set to the world thereafter. The nuke has since been a coveted asset of any nation that has the might and pluck to flaunt it, the most recent verbal assertion coming from Pakistan's NSA, Sartaj Aziz close on the heels of the failed talks between India and Pakistan. That the two countries tossed diplomacy to wind was disappointing enough, but what added pain to it was the fact that the 'N' word can be so easily used against one's adversaries to either bully or neutralise them psychologically.

It was distressing that on a human level, we as people have lost our ability for discourse, and have found recourse to sterner means, whether in words or action, to deal with our differences. We have literally taken the aphorism of 'might is right' to heart and have started to believe that vehemence lies in violence. Human nature today is so devoid of finesse and tact that we leap into extreme action to inflict harm at the slightest provocation. Patience and tolerance are now considered synonymous with weakness and an invitation to abuse, making offense legitimate and par for the course.

Every time India's late president, APJ Abdul Kalam voiced his philosophy of 'strength respects strength' to justify India's nuclear policy, I wondered if it meant just flexing muscles or if it really meant packing a punch on the enemy's face and decimate him at some point in time? Considering the man's amiable nature, he could not have meant the latter. To have power up one's sleeve and use it as a bogey to keep harm at bay sounds more reasonable than actually using it, but human tendencies have become too imprudent and fanatical to merit caution and control, attesting Herbert Spencer's 'survival of the fittest' theory in no uncertain terms.

That countries around the world are hiking their military budgets with each passing year doesn't augur well for our future. It is hard to ascertain whether the money is spent to deter aggression or to augment it in the face of perceived threats. But the fact remains - we are arming ourselves at an alarming pace, ready to launch assaults.

Even at a personal level, we have begun to believe that aggression is the only means to disarm our opponents, and are investing heavily in belligerent behaviour. Rage is becoming contagious, and endurance, unfashionable. Stand up or you will be taken for granted, we teach our children. The system will not support you, so thrash the offender with your own hands, we tell ourselves, and out of frustration resort to violent means of tackling trouble. Defenders of law go on a rampage against grievance holders, governments crush dissidence using mean methods, and aggression suddenly seems to be the new mantra for surviving the modern times. Whatever happened to the good old art of discussion over the table? Where has amity disappeared? Are there no peaceful ways to settle discords and solve issues in this world?

Given the manner in which human species is conducting itself, it doesn't seem like we are evolving to be anything better than what we were at the beginning. Our progress is proving to be self-defeating and regressive. What a paradox that we claim to strive for peace on both private and universal levels, yet make no credible move towards actualizing it!

One can only hope that the fire power we so frequently flash is only a bugbear and will not be used to eventually raze the entire forest. Alas! History belies any such wishful thinking. The nuke was used once, it could be used again. God save the human race from its self-destructive ways!

Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based writer.


Malaysia's democracy is in worse shape than we thought

By Anneliese Mcauliffe

31 Aug 2015

The human sea of yellow swarming though the streets of Kuala Lumpur on the weekend looked, at first glance, like an overwhelming show of people power directed against a government and a prime minister deeply imperilled by political and financial scandals.

But the rally, smaller in number than hoped for and lacking a representative ethnic mix, served only to show that democracy in Malaysia is more troubled than many previously thought.

A splintered opposition failed to mobilise supporters on the scale hoped for and those who did turn up - and without a doubt, there were tens of thousands of them - were predominantly from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

That these groups have legitimate concerns is a valid reason to protest. But to the large ethnic Malay support base of the beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak, this was a startling show of opposition towards the status quo and the rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition. This, of course, is exactly what Najib was hoping for.

Malay culture under threat?

The paucity of Malay protesters played directly into Najib's hands, strengthening his core Malay support base with a mass visual display claiming that ethnic Malay heritage and culture are under threat.

The prime minister, who was not in Kuala Lumpur during the protest, deemed the protesters "shallow and poor in their patriotism and love for their motherland". Malaysia's ethnic groups, and thus Malaysia itself, are looking more and more divided.

The timing of the rally, which was the fourth held by the Bersih civil society group that campaigns for free and fair elections, is also no coincidence.

On Monday, Malaysia will celebrate Merdeka Day, the annual celebration marking its independence from Britain in 1957.

Public dissatisfaction has been brewing in Malaysia for the past months as the economy slows and political scandals escalate.

For those taking part in the rally, this patriotic holiday is a chance to look back at the past and focus on what kind of Malaysia people want for the future. For the government that has been the sole holder of power since independence, however, patriotism means a chance to display their Malay identity and reinforce the nationalist narrative that surrounds independence celebrations.

The street protests come amid allegations of Najib's mismanagement of the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development fund (1MDB), a faltering economy with a plunging currency, and allegations of impropriety over a 2.6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($700m) "donation" deposited into Najib's personal bank accounts. Najib denies allegations that he used public money for personal gain.

Colourful symbol

In the lead-up to the protest, the government used almost every lever available to deter protesters. They ruled the rallies illegal, saying correct permissions had not been sought, banned internet sites that mentioned the protest, and even tried to ban the yellow shirts that were to become the colourful symbol of the protest.

These heavy-handed scare tactics may have served to keep some protesters away. But the rally's failure to mobilise a crowd representative of Malaysia's ethnic groups highlighted the widening religious and ethnic polarity in Malaysian politics, as well as the weakness of opposition groups plagued by infighting and disagreements over the place of religion in multiethnic Malaysia.

In the past, Bersih rallies could count on numbers mobilised by opposition parties for a good turnout. The Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), with one million members nationwide, is no longer part of the opposition after a fallout with former opposition allies, who represent mainly ethnic Chinese and Indian interests.

Perhaps the best result in the aftermath of the Bersih 4.0 rally is to instil in the ruling UMNO leadership a sense that the prime minister is no longer electable. But the UMNO party leadership conference, the forum that could vote him out as leader, has been delayed for 18 months.

Patronage politics

The other hope is in a vote of no confidence that could be moved by opposition politicians when parliament resumes in October. However, it seems unlikely that it will garner enough support.

Malaysia has shown repeatedly that the prime minister does not need the people's support to survive. Patronage politics is deeply ingrained, and the recent sackings of senior politicians are a stark reminder of what lies in store for those whose loyalty is questioned. For now, it seems Najib is likely to survive and lead his party into the next election.

Despite the show of force, with military hardware and armoured water cannon trucks lining the protest route, there was little violence and few arrests. Previous rallies saw street scuffles, the use of water cannon and tear gas along with hundreds of arrests.

Whether intentional or not, the Malaysian police have managed this rally with a light hand, perhaps driven by a belief that the protest is essentially harmless. After cracking down hard before the rally, the authorities seemed content to sit back, show the world that they can effectively manage public discontent - and then do nothing.

Democracy in Malaysia is the poorer for it.

Anneliese Mcauliffe is a journalist who has worked across Asia and the Middle East for the past two decades for the BBC, Al Jazeera, ABC and the Associated Press. She has worked extensively in both Indonesia and Australia.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Anneliese Mcauliffe is a journalist who has worked across Asia and the Middle East for the past two decades.


Child soldiers of Iraq, Yemen

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

1 September 2015

International law forbids recruitment of children. This prohibition is found in Protocols I and II of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international agreements. The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) considers “conscripting or enlisting children” a war crime, whether it took place in international or local armed conflicts.

Despite this clear ban, reliance on child soldiers has been on the rise, especially by terrorist groups and militias, reaching dangerous levels in Iraq and Yemen, where in the latter children account for one third of the fighters, according to UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and media reports.

Today, I will focus on the recruitment of children by the Houthis in Yemen and Popular Mobilization militias in Iraq.

In Iraq, Popular Mobilization militias are increasingly relying on children. And just like the terrorist group Daesh, which recruits and brainwashes children to carry out unspeakable atrocities, the Popular Mobilization militias employ similar methods. Their model is Iran’s Basij militias, which played a key role in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and Basij children bore the brunt of that war.

A recent report by Iran Pulse quoted an Iraqi academic as saying, children fighting with Popular Mobilization militias “are trained to fight against the Sunni opposition, western countries and Israel; and to establish Imam Mahdi’s universal government.”

They are indoctrinated by clergy at their camps to fight ferociously and to “seek vengeance” for past injustices.

Iraq’s Minister of Transportation Hadi Al-Ameri heads the Badr Organization, an especially brutal militia that was established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and fought alongside Iranian forces against Iraq. IRGC recruited child soldiers on a massive scale in both Iran and Iraq. The Basij (Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed) was established in 1979 and charged with training and deploying child soldiers.

Al-Ameri has been made commander of all Popular Mobilization militias. His lieutenant Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis is on the United States wanted terrorists’ list.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization militias are modeled after Iran’s Basij in organization, objectives, fighting methods, propaganda and political activism. They share religious orientation and beginnings. Just as the Basij were founded on Ayatollah Khomeini’s orders, Popular Mobilization militias were encouraged by Ayatollah Sistani. Both rely on clerics who indoctrinate children in sectarian religious dogma, including the pernicious principle of (Velayet-e faqih), dictating complete obedience to Iran’s Supreme Leader and other clergy, not civil institutions of the state.

They are also similar in their use of child images in war propaganda. They glorify “child martyrs,” as in the story of Mohammed Hossein Fahmideh, a 13-year-old boy from Qom, who ran away from home to join the army and was killed in a suicide attack against Iraqi tanks in 1980. He was considered a national hero in Iran and frequently used to mobilize young recruits.

Houthi militias in Yemen are similar to Basij and Popular Mobilization militias in goals, organization and fighting methods, with some minor differences, and like them rely increasingly on children, who now constitute about one third of their troops.

Human Rights Watch’s detailed report (Yemen: Houthis Send Children Into —Using Child Fighters Violates International Law) relied on eyewitness accounts and interviews with the children and their recruiters, trainers, and minders, concluding that Houthis have increased their use of children after their takeover of Sanaa in September 2014. Children as young as 12 were used as soldiers, guards, scouts and runners, transporting weapons and ammunitions.

HRW also concluded that children were first indoctrinated along sectarian lines, followed by military training. Militias provided food, Qat and ammunitions.

Numbers of child soldiers are staggering: In an internal document made public recently, a senior Houthi leader instructed the deputy minister of education to exempt child soldiers from final exams, demanding that all 4,840 children listed by name were passed to the following grade without exams, “due to the circumstances that forced them to defend the country.”

Qat (aka Khat) is an important weapon in Houthis’ arsenal. They have removed the social stigma about giving it to children, and instead distribute it freely and encourage them to use it. Once hooked on the stuff, the children would not run away, Houthis seem to believe.

In addition to earning child soldiers’ loyalty, Qat affects their behavior to become daring and fearless. Similar to speed or amphetamine, Qat users could experience feelings of euphoria, hyperactivity, confidence and illusions of increased strength, endurance and alertness. Qat frequently impairs inhibition (similar to alcohol), and induces thought disorder, hallucinations and psychoses in some cases. Those feelings could make the addicted child brutal and reckless.

Abuse of children in this fashion and exposing them to war and drugs demonstrate the cynicism of those sectarian militias and their Iranian handlers, in violation of all international agreements about protecting children.


Palestine’s leadership crisis

By Ramzy Baroud

1 September 2015

The crisis of leadership throughout Palestinian history did not start with Mahmoud Abbas and will, regrettably, be unlikely to end with his departure.

Abbas’ unforeseen announcement on Aug. 27 that he, along with a few others, will resign from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee and his call for an emergency session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) is a testament to his poor management. More, it shows his utter disregard for the required threshold of responsible leadership.

Now, at the age of 80, Abbas is obviously concerned about his legacy, the fate of the PLO and his Palestinian Authority (PA), once he is gone. Whatever political maneuvering he has planned for the future (including the selection of new Executive Committee members, which will be overseen by him and by his allies) is hardly encouraging. According to the Unity deal signed between Abbas’ faction, Fatah and Hamas, the restructuring of the PLO as a pre-requisite to include both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in one unifying and relatively representative Palestinian body was a top priority.

Well, not anymore. Hamas is furious with Abbas’ call for reconvening the PNC, a two-day session scheduled to be held in Ramallah, West Bank next month. The Gaza-headquartered Movement is calling on Palestinian factions not to participate. Either way, further Palestinian disunity is assured.

Now that unity remains elusive, Hamas is seeking its own alternatives to breaking the Gaza siege by conducting what is being described as “indirect talks” with Israel, via the notorious former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The latter has reportedly met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on more than one occasion. The discussions included a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in exchange for the permission of a safe sea passage where Palestinians in Gaza can enjoy a degree of freedom.

Needless to say, if the reports regarding Blair’s role in the indirect negotiations and Hamas’ intentions are accurate, it would indeed be a great folly. On the one hand, Blair’s pro-Israel record disqualifies him from the role of any honest mediation. On the other, resistance or truce is not a political decision to be determined by a single faction, no matter how great its sacrifices or how trustworthy its intentions.

In addition, Abbas is in no position to criticize Hamas for its talks with Blair. It is particularly disingenuous that Abbas and his party are accusing Hamas of flouting Palestinian unity and consensus, while both — Abbas and Fatah — have contributed to Palestine’s political afflictions more than any other leader or faction in the past. In fact, while Gaza subsisted and suffered terribly under a protracted Israeli siege and successive wars, Abbas operated his PA outfit in Ramallah with the full consent of the Israeli government. The so-called “security coordination,” chiefly aimed at crushing Palestinian Resistance in the West Bank, continued unabated.

This is what Israeli political commentator Raviv Drucker wrote in Haaretz in an article that reprimanded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to appreciate the value of Abbas:

“Our greatest high-tech geniuses working in the most sophisticated laboratories could not invent a more comfortable Palestinian partner. A leader with no one to the left of him in the Palestinian political arena and one who, when his enemy, Israel, bombs his people in Gaza, comes out with a statement criticizing those who kidnap Israeli soldiers.”

Abbas has shown little compassion for Gaza. Neither has he demonstrated any respect for the Palestinian people nor has he invested sincere efforts aimed at making Palestinian unity his top priority. It is rather telling that he is activating the PNC, summoning its nearly 700 members, not to discuss the intensifying Palestinian crises — from Gaza to Jerusalem to Yarmouk — but rather to concoct another cozy arrangement for him and his cronies. Yet, this crisis of leadership precedes Abbas.

The PNC’s first meeting was held in Jerusalem in 1964. Since then and for years now, despite the parliament’s many flaws, it serves an important mission. It was a platform for Palestinian political dialogue; and, over the years, it helped define Palestinian national identity and priorities. But gradually, starting with Arafat’s elections as the head of the PLO in February 1969, the PNC ceased being a parliament, and became, more or less, a political rubber stamp that validated all decisions made by Arafat’s PLO and, specifically, his Fatah faction.

This has been highlighted repeatedly throughout history with several prominent examples:

On Nov. 12, 1988 the PNC convened in Algiers to approve of a political strategy based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, the habitual US condition for engaging the PLO. At the end of deliberation and, based on that approval, Arafat announced an independent Palestinian State, to be established in the Occupied Territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Despite this, the US still argued that the PNC statement did not qualify for an “unconditional” acceptance of Resolution 242, hence pressing Arafat for more concessions. Arafat flew to Geneva and addressed the UN General Assembly on Dec. 13, 1988, since the US refused to grant him an entry visa to speak at the UN Headquarters in New York. He labored to be even more specific.

However, the US maintained its position, compelling Arafat, on the next day, to reiterate the same previous statements, this time, explicitly renouncing “all forms of terrorism, including individual, group or state terrorism.”

But unlike Arafat’s misuse of democracy and manipulation of the PNC — which is no longer representative or, with its current factional makeup is, frankly, irrelevant — Abbas’ game is even more dangerous.

Arafat used the Council to ratify or push his own agenda, which he mistakenly deemed suitable for Palestinian interests. Abbas’ agenda, however, is entirely personal, entirely elitist and entirely corrupt. Worse, it comes at a time when Palestinian unity is not just a matter of smart strategy, but is critical in the face of the conceivable collapse of the entire Palestinian national project.

There is no doubt that the moment when Abbas exits the scene has arrived. That could either become a transition into yet another sorry legacy of an undemocratic Palestinian leadership or it could serve as an opportunity for Palestinians, fed up with the endemic corruption, political tribalism and across-the-board failure, to step forward and challenge the moral collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the charade of self-serving “democracy” of factions and individuals.


Democracy and Secularism

By Ali Bulaç

August 30, 2015

We owe the participation of man in the course of modernization as a social puppet to the modern world and its main philosophical assumptions that have deeply impacted our daily lives over the last two centuries. Modernization is an ideology that seeks to transform the society through the main assumptions of modernity but is not based on a divine-sacred precept; but in the end, it is not anything other than the secularized form of the Catholic teachings. For this reason, just like the Medieval Catholic Church against which it emerged as a response, it is also totalitarian and authoritarian.

The disagreement between the church and the king, who wanted to consolidate his power in an absolutist setting in Medieval Europe, was also relevant to the control in the public sphere. The absolutist state that gained power vis-à-vis the church over time confronted the civil society; the bourgeoisie was the harbinger of the civil society. The bourgeoisie removed the absolutist rulers and regimes in the French revolution and the industrial revolution; on the other hand, it also settled the conflicts between the classes through constitutional movements. The limitation of the administration in the public sphere has become possible by the introduction of a multiparty system, evolution and the consolidation of democracy. This way, the civil society was partially recognized as an autonomous sphere. However, constitutions have never ceased to play a role in transforming the society through normative and peremptory rules from a traditional to a modern setting.

This means that secularism restricted the authority of the church and democracy limited the absolutist rule and stipulated pluralism in the public life in the West; maybe there was no other choice. If a society has a religious institution (church) that claimed a divine and sacred authority over state administration and politics and a religious class (clerics), secularism is necessary as an apparatus of the state to protect the fundamental rights of all and to liberalize politics because without secularism, civilian politics is not possible. In such an environment, it is also not possible to protect religious freedom and different interpretations and practices within a religion. Islam did not have such problems in that period. However, from the perspective of the main theological teachings and the experience in the history of Islam and the current Muslim world, the main problem in almost all Muslim countries is the democratization of the state which appeared in an absolutist, totalitarian and autocratic character.

There has been no religious institution or a class of clerics in the history of Islam and in the contemporary Muslim world that claimed divine and sacred authority over the state. There was no such institution in the past and there is no such institution now. If secularism guarantees civilian politics, the enjoyment of religious and philosophical rights by the people in a country and recognition of their rights to raise demands over their lifestyle, you do not need to have some special knowledge to argue that Islamic teaching sets objections to this.

So the problem is not that Islam has a church-like threat or raises a theocratic demand; it is a problem of making the political and administration better in terms of democratic principles. It is possible to ensure the liberalization of politics and enjoyment of religious rights that secularism achieved in the West by making Islam more effective and functional. Democracy is a process that changes and evolves over time. Today, it is evolving from the majority into plurality in the entire world. In this case, our question is this: Why is the Muslim world so reluctant to move to a pluralist democracy?


Why Ankara Is Under Pressure Over ISIL?

By Murat Yetkin


Last week, former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Eric Edelman published an article in the New York Times titled “America’s Dangerous Bargain With Turkey.”

This week, an editorial in the same newspaper skeptically described Ankara’s joining of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as “Turkey’s War of Distraction.” 

Both pieces made the same claim: President Tayyip Erdoğan has used the recent cooperation against ISIL as a cover for Turkey’s massive operations against the outlawedKurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The latter has been a key fighting force on the ground against ISIL via its sister organization in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), so Ankara’s attacks on the PKK actually weaken the fight against the notorious jihadist organization.

In another recent article, “Repeat Elections, Repeat Results?” Bülent Alirıza, the head of the Turkey program of the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), questioned whether the move against the PKK was related to Erdoğan’s dissatisfaction with the June 7 election results, ahead of the government trying its chances once again in the re-election scheduled for Nov. 1.

The interesting point is that Turkish jets (at last) joined coalition forces in actual raids against ISIL targets in Syria on Aug. 28 and 29 from Turkey’s strategic İncirlik Air Base, according to official sources. Those attacks came hours after a Pentagon statement on Aug. 28 saying that joint raids might take place “very soon.”

Meanwhile, security operations against acts of terror by the PKK are still ongoing - mainly within Turkey rather than against the PKK’s bases in northern Iraq as was the case in late July and early August. Perhaps it is worth mentioning at this point that thePKK is on the U.S. blacklist of terrorist organizations while the PYD is on neitherAmerican nor Turkish blacklists. It also worth mentioning that the rules of engagement given by Ankara to the Turkish military for the PYD are to reciprocate any fire but to not consider it an “enemy” - unlike the PKK.

Despite denials from U.S. officials that they have had any contact with the PKK, it is not hard to speculate that the PKK is telling the Americans that it cannot devote its full capacity against ISIL as it now has to fight against the security forces of Turkey, America’s ally. The Barack Obama administration now has access to İncirlik and the cooperation of Turkey (the only Muslim-majority member of NATO) against a terrorist organization calling itself the “Islamic State,” but it also gives all necessary messages to the media that Ankara is still not doing enough, which helps to assuage the PKK/PYD forces on the ground.

But the real reason to explain the amount of pressure on Ankara over its stance against ISIL - especially at a time when Turkey has actually joined the raids - must be something else, as it has continued to be applied even after the beginning of the joint raids. The reason could be the Obama administration’s rising level of distrust in the Erdoğan administration. If so, that distrust would extend to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government, now heading to a re-election in a cabinet alongside deputies (involuntarily, in accordance with the constitution) from the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which was recently denounced by Erdoğan as the “political extension of the separatist terrorist organization [PKK].”

Will the U.S.’s lack of trust continue after the Nov. 1 elections? It depends on the result. If the outcome of the snap election is similar to the June 7 vote, forcing the AK Parti into a coalition government and forcing Erdoğan to admit that his desire to concentrate all power in the presidency is unrealizable, the distrust could fade. But if Erdoğan pushes for yet another re-election after Nov. 1, or if the AK Parti is able to form a single-party government, the Erdoğan’s path may be clear for a super presidency and Washington’s distrust would continue.

All things considered, it seems that the current discord essentially boils down to the basic lack of trust between Obama and Erdoğan.