Monday, April 30, 2007

Confusion Over The Next President Of Turkey

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 30 April 2007

By Saturday 28 April it seemed clear Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would not be the next President of Turkey. Instead he forwarded his Foreign Minister Abdulla Gul; an attempt by PM Erdogan to remain head of an AKP majority government with a more sympathetic President to pass the new laws and policies previously vetoed over recent years by staunchly secular President Sezer. On the night of Friday 27th there was a vote in parliament leaving confusion on how many members of parliament are required to be present for the vote to elect the President. It seems remarkable that such details had not already been laid out and agreed, but Turkey woke up Saturday to further uncertainty regarding the next President of the Turkish Republic. On the same Friday night, the head of the Turkish Armed Forces issued a strongly worded statement reminding one and all that no one will be allowed to undermine the secular constitution. In 1930 Ataturk stated: "The Turkish state is secular. Every individual reaching majority is free in choosing his or her religion."
However, in 2007 this principle, which seems fair and reasonable, apparently does not satisfy everyone.

The BBC reported: Army 'concerned' by Turkey vote:
The New Anatolian reported: The first round inclusive CHP goes to court:
(though it appears links to The New Anatolian suddenly no longer properly function, but never mind)
While The Turkish Daily News reported: Military issues harsh warning over secularism :

At the same time an on going debate bubbles beneath the surface in the UK regarding faith and secularity. For example, read this article about a Racial 'time bomb' in UK schools:
Both Turkey and the UK are addressing similar basic fundamentals: to what extent should religious doctrine be permitted to influence our daily lives? As an Englishman I grew up in a society indoctrinated at school with Christian beliefs rather than being introduced and educated widely in all spiritual options. In Turkey I found the secular constitution a personal liberation whereby I feel free to believe in whatever I choose. I found Ataturk's principles a revelation. As a foreigner observing Turkey I remain suspicious that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his power base do not share the same appreciation for Ataturk's secular principles. Erdogan was imprisoned for saying: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers..."
Of course, he should not have been imprisoned for expressing his point of view and prison merely further empowered him with his religious power base. Erdogan says he has changed. Secularists cite the AKP government's unsuccessful attempts to criminalize adultery, restrict alcohol sales and lift a ban on Islamic headscarves in government offices and universities as evidence that the party has not changed.

The EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said the current row in Turkey was "a clear test case whether the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularization and democratic values". Well Mr. Rehn, if the religious lobby get their way, democratic and secular values may well become a secondary concern after the interpretations of Allah according to self appointed holy expects. How will that fit in with the EU Christian Club? Do the Turks even heed what the EU thinks? The EU appears to have lost influence in Turkey as public opinion has turned euro sceptic amid rows over Cyprus and other issues. Many Turks feel the EU simply does not want to admit Turkey, so why should the Turks concern themselves with the views of the EU? There is suspicion that the Islamic AKP government encourages EU support because by implication it gives the AKP leverage against the secular military.

The military have complained about a series of public events where it said Islam had encroached on secular traditions. In particular, it mentioned a competition for children to memorize the Quran during the April 23 Children's Day, a festival initiated by the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a secular event. The competition was canceled after the program was publicized. The military statement also said girls dressed in Islamic outfits were seen reciting prayers at an Islamic event in the south-eastern city of Sanliurfa on April 22, as the organizers attempted pull down Turkish flags and pictures of Ataturk.

Parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc declared there was "No need for speculations". This is a man apparently yearning to be President; of whom I have heard is referred to as "Hoja" Arinc because of his religious convictions; whose commitment to the principles of Ataturk or secularity appear suspect. Read his latest comments here:
(though it appears links to The New Anatolian suddenly no longer properly function, but never mind)

Meanwhile Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Council of Europe has commented that the Turkish military "should stay in their barracks and keep out of politics." Read here:
(though it appears links to The New Anatolian suddenly no longer properly function, but never mind)
Why do EU politicians think they know better? There is a debate in the UK concerning secular values and religious influence, especially with regard to schools. The church has a huge influence upon the UK's infrastructure will no doubt do its utmost to maintain that influence. I recommend the public of the UK to be aware of these issues addressed by Ataturk decades ago and judge the Turkish military with an open mind. Would a religiously inclined Turkish government adhere to the structures of democracy more than the Turkish military? I am tempted to tell Ollie Rehn and Terry Davis to mind their words. The Turkish military may not be perfect, but is consistently touted by the Turkish people as the most trusted organisation above politicians or the business community. What if the Turkish military stood for democratic election? In Turkey they could even win!

The President of the Republic of Turkey and his wife are intended to portray a neutral religious image and the headscarf simply does not convey neutrality. The wives of Parliamentary Speaker Arinc, Foreign Minister Gul and PM Erdogan all wear the Islamic headscarf. What if a Jew or a Christian or a Buddhist was one day nominated for President? Technically it should be possible since as President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated in November 2004: "Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk"

Surely, the best solution for the future security of the Presidency is to maintain neutrality and ensure no one spiritual doctrine is given precedence. The AKP will argue Turkey is Muslim by an over whelming majority, but should then the UK insist only a representative of the Christian majority be allowed to stand as Prime Minister? As for the headscarf, if the UN could organise all nations to an agreement whereby each person is entitled to wear whatever religious or non-religious regalia they wish, perhaps the headscarf would cease to be such an issue. But, the likes of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are unlikely to sign up to such a policy in theory or practice in the near future. Hence the headscarf remains a religious political symbol and Turkey, caught between the East and West, maintains a compromise solution: no headscarf in schools nor government departments, but wear what you wish in the street.

Why can't our children be free to grow and develop their own sense of faith? Why more often than not, are children indoctrinated with a faith before they are even old enough to better comprehend the subject and the options? Parents and the immediate adult social structure tend to encourage children to believe in what is deemed fit and acceptable.
(though it appears links to The New Anatolian suddenly no longer properly function, but never mind)

I wonder with whom Blair, a beacon of the Catholic faith, best empathises with? Erdogan or Ataturk? One suspects neither the Pope, Bush, Ahmadinejad or any other party inclined toward organised religion will ever entertain Ataturk's principles. I suspect I am in a minority in today's religious world and Ataturk's visionary principles will be eventually over ridden by the church. This makes me sad. What not ask Turkish speaking President Musharraf, what he thinks of Ataturk? I suspect if Musharraf were to relinquish power in Pakistan, the democratic door will open to theologically influenced doctrine. Democracy can elect limited minds to the top if an electoral majority is kept in hope and ignorance. As Churchill stated: "Democracy is the worst system devised by the wit of man, except for all the others."
'All the others' must surely include constitutions based on religious theology.

The New Anatolian reported on the "Sea of red flags" at a rally on Sunday 29 April.
(though it appears links to The New Anatolian suddenly no longer properly function, but never mind, try this one )
Here are some example quotes from the article:

"In a country like Turkey, which is not fully a democracy, the role of the army is a little different," said Haydar Kilic, a 50-year-old civil engineer. "The army here likes democracy, we know that."

Mehmet Gunes, 39, came with his wife, who wore a headscarf, and his two young children. "We support what the army said. It's a warning," he said. "My wife wears a headscarf - we're not against that. We came here to stand up for a secular, enlightened Turkey. Our children's future is important."

Many also said the crowd came to show that the ruling party, which came to power with around 30 percent of the vote but holds more than 60 percent of the seats in parliament, did not have a mandate to do as it pleased. "The government have to hear us, because we are the majority of the country. We are 70 percent," said Emine Hacioglu, 35.

"We don't want a covered woman in Ataturk's presidential palace," said Ayse Bari, a 67-year-old housewife. "We want civilized, modern people there."

I urge readers to appreciate the Turks have faced tremendous changes and challenges over the years and continue to do so. I understand there is a religious community in disagreement with me, but here are a few quotes from Ataturk which outline the principles set down in Turkey and with which this Englishman can relate:

"Freedom consists of man's ability to do what he thinks and desires without any influence or intervention by others. This is the broadest definition of the concept. Mankind has never attained liberty to this extent and never will because as is known, men are creations of nature and nature itself is not absolutely free either; it is subject to universal laws." c.1930

"Religion is an issue of conscience. Everyone is free to conform to the commands of their conscience. We show respect for religion. We are not against a way of thinking or thoughts. We are only trying to not to mix religious affairs with the affairs of the nation and the state. We are avoiding reactionary actions that are based on evil intent and deeds." c.1926

"Every individual has the rights and freedoms to think what he wants, to believe what he wants, to possess a political opinion that is unique to himself and to undertake or not undertake the requirements of the religion he has chosen. No one's ideas or conscience can be dominated." c.1925

"Our religion is the most reasonable and natural of all, and that is the reason why it is the most recently established religion. For a religion to be natural it must conform to reason, science, technology and logic. Our religion fully conforms to all of these." c.1923

I conclude with two beautiful messages from Turkey:
Rumi Mevlani: Come, come, whoever you are, however you are, just come!
Ataturk: Peace at home, peace in the world!

Does anyone outside of Turkey give a fig? They should!

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 30 April May 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Woof! Woof! Meow!

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 17 April 2007

It is looking increasingly likely that Mr. Tayip Erdoğan will be Turkey's next president. This is the man who has aligned politics with religious belief whether he likes to admit it or not. He declares a support for freedom of expression, yet becomes upset over cartoons about him and takes artists to court to order them to pay for their freedom of expression.
See The PM's Least Favourite Cartoonist and
So, here is NPP's version of that "offensive" sketch: the cat cartoon.......
The question now is should NPP take NPP to court for this disgraceful impression of artist Ned Pamphilon who has insulted himself with this self portrait?

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 17 April 2007