Sunday, February 10, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Comes?

In a back hall of parliament, CHP leader Deniz Baykal caused a firestorm of criticism when he was took a question from a reporter during the first round of voting on the headscarf amendments.

When asked by a reporter whether or not an entirely new constitution can be drafted, Baykal said: “Of course it can: You chase away the enemies and found the country from scratch. You erect your flag. It has already been done. … You can stage a revolution, risk being hanged. And after that the entire constitution can be changed.”

“We have been elected to implement the constitution, not to draft it. It would be wrong if we attempted to cancel the current one and make a new constitution,” he said, reiterating that his party will appeal to the Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the amendments that lift the headscarf ban.
AKP politicians have already denounced the remark as terrifyingly irresponsbile, but it raises an important question as to just how far AKP can go without the political establishment intervening á la the military. After last April's stern warning to AKP delivered via email, 'coup' by memorandum some say, AKP should feel itself treading on delicate political ground. General Yaşar Büyükanıt, chief of the Turkish Armed Services, shares Baykal's scorn toward the new constitution and although keeping quiet following Gül's election and, so far, throughout the opening days of the türban legislation, military intervention cannot be dismissed.

In a wonderful article that came out two months before I came in the New York Review of Books, Christopher de Bellaigue warns of three potential dangers that could destabilize AKP. The first of these is an increase in PKK activity that could rally nationalist support in Turkey. The second is a disproportionate response by the Turkish military that would rally Kurds toward the PKK and endanger European Union membership. The third is that the AKP will do something feckless like lift the türban ban at university. Of the third possibility, Bellaigue writes "there will be another crisis. It would be a mistake for the AKP to assume brazenly that the age of coups is over. " It seems the third has come to fruition and could possibly be complicated by the first two. As things heat up in the east with renewed engagements between the PKK and the military, the potential of an antagonistic Europe should the conflict enlarge is a grave threat. In the face of the much hated PKK, European denunciation of Turkish military and police actions would no doubt weaken the lure of EU membership and its influence on Turkish politics. As this influence might prove pivotal to keeping AKP in power and avoiding another coup, be it post-modern or traditional, we should all be paying attention to what is going on in the east.

Is Turkey headed for a crisis? The angst is already being felt as scores of protestors take to the streets to protest the türban legislation. Recent unrest recalls a column a melancholic Elif Şafak authored during the crisis last July. Şafak asks if Turks are always to live in the shadows of unrest, always anxious about what political development the next month will bring.
It is not easy to be a Turk in a world that is becoming more and more polarized. A world where the number of people who believe in a “Clash of Civilizations” escalates each day. A world in which more and more hardliners claim that Islam and Western democracy cannot coexist. At first glance, Islamic fundamentalists and Western Islamophobics might seem to be poles apart. But they are not. They share the same prejudice and narrow-mindedness toward the Other and the same desire to exclude everyone who doesn't echo their views. Hardliners in one country produce more hardliners elsewhere.

“East” and “West” are relational categories, and yet, they are often used as if they were mutually exclusive. The world we are living in regards gray areas with suspicion as if life is solely composed of two colors: Black and white. Today, there is a considerable degree of fear of Islam in the West and a considerable degree of dislike of the West in the Muslim world. Biases are produced mutually, and they keep breeding one another.

No comments: