Piety and Pluralism?

Mustafa Akyol’s new book, Islam Without Extremes, was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by Matthew Kaminski. Click here for the full review. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the book, but I hope he also discusses the abysmal record of women’s status in Turkey under both Kemalist and AKP regimes and, as demonstrated in every poll, the increasing intolerance throughout the nation of anyone who is different. That doesn’t sound like liberalism or pluralism.

Modern Turkey dazzles the eye and addles the mind. With growth in double digits and shiny new buildings everywhere, the old “sick man of Europe” looks more like a Eurasian China—though with minarets, an aggressive media and free elections. The man who oversaw this rebirth, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began his political career from within Turkey’s Islamist movement. He won a third term in June in a landslide, campaigning with an iPad in one hand and prayer beads in the other. In recent years he has sidelined the powerful Turkish military and sought to loosen decades-old restrictions on traditional Muslim dress. Some of his opponents are in jail on treason charges. Critics call him a dictator and an Islamist. His supporters credit him with the country’s economic miracle and its new openness to democratic principles.

So which is it? To find an answer, a good place to start is Mustafa Akyol’s “Islam Without Extremes.” A columnist for English-language papers in Turkey, Mr. Akyol offers a delightfully original take on Turkey and on the prospects for liberal democracy in the broader Islamic Middle East. Throughout the 20th century, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries were offered a choice between secular and religious authoritarianism. What the Muslim world needs, he says, is a “synthesis of Islam and liberalism.” Today’s Turkey comes closest to that ideal…

3 Responses to “Piety and Pluralism?”

  1. liberalism and neo-liberalism are not interchangeable terms.

    as for way the word ‘liberalism’ is being used in analyses of Turkey under AKP/Erdogan, brings to mind the following quote:

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    but then again, i feel the same way about ‘secularism’.

    and am so pleased to see a new trite and superficial metaphor for Turkish society: ipads and prayer beads! how WITTY! because the miniskirts and minarets thing was getting tired.

    (sorry, am a little grumpy today)

  2. Meliz, grumpiness is good in face of this kind of, um, marketing effort. As far as ‘miniskirts and minarets’ kind of stuff goes there’s also this bit from years ago. Apparently there’s an audience and a market for this stuff in the US,.and, as we are constantly finding out here, volunteer marketers for such prose and books. Not that I get a say but I’d sooner have you or others be grumpy about all this than happy or indifferent.

  3. Here is one piece from the Turkish Policy Quarterly on why Turkey is not a good model for the Arab world. Jenny White’s blog is mentioned:


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