By Nuray Mert
July 22 2013
‘Towards the end of post-Islamism’ was the title of my column in this daily, just a year ago (July 23, 2012). ‘I think that the model or idea of post-Islamism had already started to crumble a very short time after it began to ascent. Most of you may think that it is too early to suggest…’ I wrote. My references were the failure of Islamist governments after the Arab Spring and of the AKP in Turkey to deliver more democratic rule. Unfortunately, my suggestion proved true, especially after the turmoil in Egypt, on one hand, and because of the culmination of AKP’s authoritarianism after the Gezi protests in Turkey, on the other.
AKP is giving full support to Morsi and the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) and moreover using the coup in Egypt to discredit the Gezi protests and to whitewash its authoritarian politics. In fact, the military coup or intervention in Egypt really overshadows the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood and hinders criticism. Nevertheless, one year the MB rule proved to be politically controversial not only because it failed to be inclusive, but also because of the MB’s cooptation with the previous system if it is in their interest. For instance, the MB and its supporters turned against Tahrir protesters right after Morsi was elected and accused protesters of being “anarchists” despite the fact that, at the time, the protests did not target him but were just against the old political system. In short, from the beginning the Egyptian experience has been quite disappointing concerning the thesis which suggests that the moderate Islamists would pave the way for more democratic societies in the Muslim world. Instead they turned out to be “aggressive majoritarianism’s” motivated by Islamist aspirations.
The cases of Turkey and Egypt differ considerably from each other in many respects. Yet, Turkey was thought to be “the model” for other moderate Islamists and presented as such, therefore its failure has been more dramatic although more subtle. I am someone who expressed concern for possible rise of civil authoritarianism to replace the previous status quo, as early as 2009, but I could not foresee that Turkey would slide so deep into authoritarianism. Besides, I could never foresee that Islamists, who reinvented themselves as “conservative democrats” under the roof of the AKP, would turn to back to Islamist ideology and politics. On the contrary, for a long time, I had even been apologetic for the AKP, and critical of those who had been sceptical of the AKP’s self-definition as “a centre right party.”
Until very recently, I thought that the problem with AKP’s authoritarianism had its roots not in the Islamist political tradition, but that it was all about the centre-right wing tradition in Turkey. I still tend to think so, but now I am not as confident as before concerning the impact of authoritarianism of Islamist ideology on PM Erdoğan and the AKP. For some time, AKP politicians no longer need to hide their intolerance of difference and they tend to be more explicit concerning their reservations against liberal democracy.
Under the circumstances, it should not have been surprising what happened in Gezi during and after protests, but after the events it turned out that this is not a safe country for dissenters or even for ordinary citizens if they are not the supporters of the government. Besides, ever growing political and social polarization gains more religious overtones, as ruling conservatives turn more and more back to their Islamist identity and convictions. As a result, the political debate turns into a space of religious battle. That is why Erdoğan and his party do not bother to further polarize the country, since he considers himself as a man of a “grand mission” rather than an ordinary politician.
Only in his last Friday speech, PM Erdoğan advised his audience to report their protester neighbours to security authorities. It turned out to be so, since the PM and his party consider anybody who is not a government supporter as a threat. Finally, Turkey ended up being ruled by authoritarianism, xenophobia and conspiratorialism, since they come together.
No matter how Egypt and Turkey differ, they both need to overcome their democracy deficit and neither the MB nor the AKP (or the “pupil” and the “master”) promise bright prospects for their societies. This is what we call the demise of the politics of post-Islamists and post-Islamism as the democratic prospect for Muslim countries.