Tuesday, July 24, 2007


(If you arrived here; you also might be interested in the story about my volleyball match with Abdullah Ocalan, Apo. Please click here)

So it is official now - Over 46 percent of Turks voted for the Islamists. Call it a farewell to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the greatest Turk ever. The end of Secularism. The beginning of the end. Death to the president, long live the sultan!

Turkey might have been an example for millions of oppressed progressive Muslims in Islamic countries - but no longer. One of the few truly secular Muslim countries (together with Bosnia and Albania) chooses - voluntarily - for mixing politics with God. Give me one example of a successful country where politics and religion aren't separated? Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, The Sudan, Lebanon? Good luck Turkey.

And isn't democracy a great system?!

Especially if it works like this:

Progressive secular Turkish families (Mostly city people) all have one or two children. Logically - because if you are progressive, not terribly religious and you care about a future for yourself and your children, it is rather obvious that you don't want 20 children.

Now here comes the countryside: Schooling is wanky, future not that rosy, conservative village mentality, religion very important and the result of this all is: Large families.

First - religious people in the Turkish countryside want sons, not daughters. So in order to get at least three sons, there is a very fair chance that you have to get at least six children, or more of course.

Second - religiously conservative people everywhere in the world are fond of large families. Pope adoring catholics, loony protestants, Prophet loving Muslims - it is all the same. I was raised in Hollands Bible Belt, so I know how this stuff works. Luckily my parents were (and still are) progressive. But I can assure you: Our first 600 neighbours to the right and our first 400 neighbours to the left weren't.

So this is what happens when the countryside takes revenge by using democracy:

Just take a look at two imaginary Turkish families:

Family Kemal: A secular man and a secular woman marry and get two secular children, who both marry secular partners and each secular couple gets two secular children etc, etc, etc.

Family God: One religious man and a religious woman marry and get eight religious children. Each of them finds a religious partner, marries and gets eight religious children etc, etc, etc.

Let's look at the differences after five generations:

Family Kemal:

First generation : 1 couple (2 persons) has 2 children

Second generation : 2 couples (4 persons) have 4 children

Third generation : 4 couples (8 persons) have 8 children

Fourth generation : 8 couples (16 persons) have 16 children

Fifth generation : 16 couples (32 persons) have 32 children

Family God:

First generation : 1 couple (2 persons) have 8 children

Second generation : 8 couples (16 persons) have 64 children

Third generation : 64 couples (132 persons) have 512 children

Fourth generation : 512 couples (1024 persons) make 4096 children

Fifth generation : 4096 couples (8092 persons) make 32.768 children

What an enormous difference! Of course, the above figures aren't entirely correct, because it is practically impossible for every couple to get all the time eight children. And I exaggerate by counting eight children all the time. A large family in Turkey consists, realistically, of five children - not eight. This would make the above figures less dramatic. But still - you get the point.

Turkish fertility rate stands at 1.89 children per woman (for example: Holland's total fertility rate is 1.66 child per women, but the USA has 2.09 children per woman - which is much higher than Muslim Turkey).

Anyhow - my point is this: If in a democracy (where every person has the right to vote) every segment of society produces about the same number of children, everything will stay in balance. But when there is a discrepancy - whereby the city folks have no or only one child, while the countryside really bangs like there's no tomorrow - well, Houston (Or Antalya), we've got a problem!

Ataturk came to power in 1923. That is 84 years, or roughly put, four generations ago. Before that, almost all Turkish families (progressive or conservative) were large. Since Ataturk's revolution, progressive and secular families went down to an average of one or two, even none - while large chunks of the religious and conservative countryside didn't.

So it isn't a coincidence that after four generations Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is being defeated by a mix of democracy and high birth rates among religious conservatives. Don't expect anything better during next elections. It only gets worse.

By the way, Turkey isn't the only country with this 'problem'. Conservative Christians in the US are as well gaining power this way. At one point there is a fair chance that because of low birthrates among progressive people and high birthrates among conservatives any republican candidate will automatically win any presidential election. Thank you very little.

But at the end of the day - we, progressive people - should not wank. It is our own 'fault', our own choice not to have that many children. I might not like it that religiously conservative people go for large families, but they don't break any law since in most societies (except for China) it is perfectly legal to have as many children as you want.

And just because progressive people tend to see children as "extra baggage" instead of a blessing, we can't blame others for choosing a 'dull, conservative and predictable' family life. And smart they are, these religious people. Because in a democracy all their kids will vote, and their kids will, and their kids will. Well, you know now where this will lead to. Remember the figures from above?

I wouldn't be surprised when in the year 2075 the UN Secretary General will be some pope, reverent or ayatollah. Luckily I will be dead by then.

The lessons learned from the Turkish election debacle are the following: Move to China or 'Make love, not condoms!'

Harald Doornbos


Bart said...

Sterk stukje. Zo'n land wil bij de EU, maar ze kunnen niet eens verkiezingen houden zonder dat er rellen uitbreken. En dan gaan ze nog eens terug in de tijd door de religieuzen te laten winnen.

Ik hoop 2075 ook niet meer te halen...

Riemer Brouwer said...

What about Iraq as an Islamic country that successfully separated religion and state under Saddam's leadership? It goes to show that with a strong enough dictator, anything's possible:-)

ella said...


Iraq did not separate religion and state under Sadam. Did you know that Sadam supported religion, only not shii'a but sunni, that mosques in Iraq conducted prayers for Sadam on Fridays and that Sadam compared himself to Saladin (Salah al Din), a great muslim warrior ? That "separation" between church and state was nothing like the one in Europe or in USA.

Harald Doornbos said...


I have to agree with Ella. Saddam's passion to 'liberate Jerusalem' was very, very much inspired by sunni islam. Saddam was just a simple minded village boy - a scummy who became president and would use whatever ideology to stay in power. Flirting with communism, fascism, religion - this guy really didn't care. You can't compare Saddam to a visionary like Ataturk. His Turkey is more secular than the Netherlands!

Holland is ruled by the Christian Democratic Party (CDA) and the state funds religious schools (As a child I went to a protestant one - four times praying a day, collecting money for bibles etc). Impossible in Turkey!

But I agree with you on this point - Ataturk's revolution from above (call it a mild dictatorship) proves hard to be maintained the moment democracy is being introduced (and the high brth rate among conservatives doesn't help either).

And something else: A country - as such - can not be islamic. A country with Muslims in it can be called a Muslim country or a country with a majority Muslim population. Only when the political system inside a Muslim country changes into a theocracy the country becomes Islamic. So, for example, Iranians are Muslims, the government is Islamic and supporters of that state are Islamists.

cheers, and please check my comment on your blog regarding your story on advertising in Lebanon.

Cornelis said...

But at the end of the day - we, progressive people - should not wank.

O yes you should - spoil it lest you get children!

Harald Doornbos said...


that is funny.

Anonymous said...

It is ok and well if one considers the assumptions made in this article. First, the author says the birth rate stands at 1.89, the population is actually shrinking. Second, in 84 years you would have only 3 generations that are eligible for voting (each generation is only 30 years apart). Lastly, if secularism was so good for 84 years, then what an earth is the reason for so called countryside? The poor has god and many children because they have no other assets to rely on. It is easy to preach from a high stand, I challenge the author to live in such a squalor condition and remain "progressive".

Ingmar said...

So, if i am not wrong, the progressife people will have only four to five generations of "fun", and then the conservatist wil take over again because they have not changest at all...

bykeR_tr said...


the word progressive, may explain the secular idea. one is not relying on predefined ideas, but also adding/ redefining ideas to make his life better in many ways: this is what i call making progress..

Riemer Brouwer said...


Well, obviously Saddam supported religion and people prayed for his health. But does that make it a Muslim state? Would you consider America a Christian state (as opposed to secular) because people pray for their president and he goes to church regularly?

Iraq was the only Gulf state where the official line was secular, mostly due to the influence of the socialist Baath party. Also, Saddam canceled the Sharia courts in Iraq.

Most people would say that after Saddam's removal, Iraq has become increasingly religious: women's freedom is limited, alcohol hardly available anymore and so on.

Taner Ertunc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tata said...

There must be something wrong with this theory. If it is true then there would not be any progressive left.

Bruce Almighty said...

The issue here is not having a lot of kids or not, the issue is how are you teaching those kids. If the education system is fair and secular then even the children of village people will have a wider range of point of view.

Harald Doornbos said...


thanks for all the comments. I'm currently in London, attending a funeral of a very dear friend. So currently i cant respond to most comments. Give me a two, three days. Harald Doornbos

ella said...


You are writing that "obviously" Saddam supported religion. That is not what separation of church and state means. He supported religion in his official capacity as a president of Iraq and that means something quite contrary to what you claimed Iraq under Saddam was. It is quite different if support comes from the president or premier or whatever in his or hers unofficial capacity, it is different matter if the support is official, enshrined in the laws of the country. It is also a major difference if he/or she goes to church/mosque/synagogue/whatever as a head of state.
Separation of church and state also means that all believers, regardless of their religion, have a right to be free from prosecution (I am talking about official stuff because racists, unfortunately, are everywhere) on account of their beliefs. That means that they can freely pray and go to church, mosque, synagogue or husainiyat. That was not true under Saddam Hussein, jews and later shi'a were persecuted on account of their religion, and shii'a could not even conduct ceremonies connected with Ashura.
You write that praying for the health of Saddam was not different from praying for the health of, say, Mr. Sarkozy. It is, if the believers have to pray for his health, as they HAD to do it under Saddam.
Your claim that Saddam cancelled shari'a courts in the country is, of course, true. However during the last 10 years of his rule Saddam re-introduced some elements of shari'a as well as other important elements of religion back into the system.
As for the increasingly religious Iraqis, they have been religious before but they have been prevented from showing their religiosity, some of the present increase in fundamentalism is simply a backlash against imposed from above secularity. Of course there are other reasons for increasingly religious Iraqis, one of them is fight for power between sunni and shia, another one is lack of security, still other is increasing interference of other countries in Iraq (KSA, Iran and Turkey come to mind).
As for calling Iraq a muslim state, Iraq was a muslim state, USA is christian country.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to Turkey or have you seen the developments it has gone through over the past 5 years, or is it just looking from your side only a matter of how many children people in villages will have or not. If Western world can vote for christian democrats or republicans in usa as radical as we know they are, what right does the western world have to judge every country in the islamic world without actually giving it a try to get to know and understand better the country its people , history and dynamics.
Please let's try to educate ourselves more before submitting such one sided views on issues we don't know much about.

gurkar gunaydin said...

Oh my god!
What a oriantalistic view! What a cursory view! Whose business to determine greatest Turks or secular family, religous family. All of these bullshit. Author does not know anything about Turkey and Turkey's history. First of all Turkey is not a secular! Turkey is a laic country. There are many differenties between them! And shame on you! Because you say being "civilized" means being occidental. So you are illegal alien in Turkey and east. You don’t fool me! Say new things! Please dont’t fake.

Türkekırgın said...

Hi. I just want to challange the idea of "Atatürk's secular state has been defeated" type of arguments. The fact that islamist AKP(Justice and Development Party) won the elections does not mean secularism will be done away with. Many people of the center-right and free-market oriented Kurds lent their votes once again to AKP. So these are people who do not have secularism as number 1 priority, but think it is still important. So roughly 16 milion of the 35 million electorate voted for it. My assessment is that 60% of that were swing votes. AKP has stabilised financial markets and so on. But I must say it has not been able to create enough employment. Especially unemployment among university graduates or higher stand at a record 26%!

The core of party leadership is ultra-conservative and dreams of a theocratic state. However they deny that idea because they represent an awful lot of people who are secular. Its leadership has extraordinary genius and professional advisors who know what people emotionally want. So the AKP have so hideously presented themselves as "victims of the secular establishment" and "leftists-support-the-military" type of propoganda that the stain of that could not be removed by opposition parties. They have plans, strategies, very sistematic. And one think I know is that they cannot afford to go theocratic. However its closely knit leadership will once again do anything to further erode the idea of secularism, our secular judiciary and the memory of our leader Ataturk. Please watch carefully: If Erdogan manages to have his ideological twin Abdullah Gul as President, then the erosion of secularism will most likely deteriorate. Because the President appoints judges, it can appoint the members of the Board of Universities, appoints Governors, so virtually most of the state apparatus. This is the threat. But I am quite hopeful that the parliament will find a mid-way through.

ella said...

Anonymous at 10:21 and Gurkar

I think that you attack what our host writes not because his facts are wrong but because you don't agree with his overall assessment of turkey . But you see his facts are are correct. The religious people ( whether religious catholics in Poland, protestants in deep south in US, ultra orthodox jews in Israel or fundamentalist muslims in Turkey) do have more children than secular people. So say what you want, interpret this fact in whatever fashion you want but do not say it is not true.

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

Harald. Interesting article for debate. But secularism is not and will never be defeated at all.
Its in Turkish soul.
2% of the Turkish people voted for the Islamist Saadet party, which is really conservative.
AK party, as Turkey comes closer to the EU, will become more secular than it is. Its a requirement for EU membership.
Greetings from Istanbul

emirio said...

not bad but you need to look deeper into the facts. How would you explain that the DSP (Democratic Left Party) were on power before 8 years.
All of a sudden people has changed their mind or simply the needs of people without making any classification has changed so that they dont bother of the party and the philosophy behind them... What if the next election wins a left party... really, so many people has changed their mind in fact:)

Anonymous said...

Mustafa Sevki says,
I thank you for your careful and most correct statements. However, the negligence of education, public health and many other issues by those who claimed that they were defender of secularism or laisism led to this catastrophic end.The party leaders, who tehmselves were not democratic from the left and center had also been another reason.

Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...

I like your theory. But this theory is very well known amoung us the 'white turks'. One day this country will become Kurdish due to their birth rate. Not only that but also Europe will become muslim due to the muslim families birth rate ;)

Sava$ Manco said...

Message from Hans A.H.C. de Wit at 11:58 AM

Dear Hans;

You mentioned EU, you made me remembered a fact. An Turkish proverb says "Hope is bread for poor people" and nearly 70 million Turks eat this bread for about 50 years.

Peace and Love wishes from Belgium

Sava$ Manco


ella said...

@oziem isil bankal-dewit

Well, i think turkey will not become kurdish because the kurdish birth rate is not higher than poor turks birth rate. If "white turks" think that their theory is right they should allow kurds to separate from Turkey then the "problem" will disappear. On the other hand there is something in theory that couple of countries in Western Europe might in future become muslim.
Fortunately Europe does not consist only of Western Europe ;-)

Ingmar said...

wow, good job harald, this must be the artikle that is having the most respons ever(at least since i'm following your blog).

Keep up the good work and hoopfully we soon can read more of you work/adventures and observations.

Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...

Ella what a brilliant solution but one small detail if it becmoes kurdish I guess there is no need to separate or not ??? :)))))))
East or West it really doesnt matter!!!!! In East Europe there are not only muslim minorities but muslim countries another small detail you forgot about :)))))))

Harald Doornbos said...

Thanks to everybody for the responses...will for sure touch this topic again. Anybody who thinks demografic developments do not play a role in societies - please wake up. They always have done, and always will do. The only thing is this: Am not impressed by the racist undertone in some responses. I don't like generalisations based on ethnicity or faith. If you don't like Muslims, Kurds or whatever - dont post responses here, that is entirely besides the point. If you want to comment on islamists, secularists, silly Kurds or nice Kurds...you are more than welcome.

Anyway - A looooong time ago, I played volleyball with Abdullah Ocalan (APO), the leader of the PKK. So soon a very funny and rather silly story about me and Apo...playing volleyball in Mai 1992, during my visit to the PKK guerrilla camp in the Beka'a valley, Lebanon. I've actually never wrote the story down before. So very much a world premiere...lol
Cheers, Harald

ella said...

@ oziem

I think you are mixing eastern Europe where muslims are in minority (small minority) with southern europe. In southern Europe (Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania) what you said is certainly true. Some of these countries are certainly muslim.
Of course some people include countries of former Jugoslavia in the name "eastern Europe", but it is only because Yugoslavia was communist.

A looooong time ago, I played volleyball with Abdullah Ocalan
WOW. I envy you !!!

Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...

Ella it is not some people some multinationals also include Turkey as Eastern Europe. Still I am curious about which countries you take as eastern europe?

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

There is a map of Kudristan somewhere on my blog. It includes Turkish, Armenian, Syrian, Iraqi land. Do you think that PKK who made this map, is genuine in their approach?
I refer to a Well known writer and friend of, he himself is a Kurd:
www.thewhitepath.com is his blog.
His articles are published worldwide, including NRC

ella said...

@ Oziem
which countries you take as eastern europe?
The majority of countries which were under Russian occupation........... ups, sorry, I mean "the former communist states of Eastern Europe ;-)
That is: Latvia, Estonia, Lituania, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania.

@ Hans a.h.c. de Wit
Well, Kurds do live in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, they have their own culture and traditions different from their hosts', so I think that Kurds claims to these lands are genuine. I understand from what you wrote on your blog that you thought their claims are too grandiose but if you look at a map in wikipedia showing where the Kurds live and compare it with the map from PKK similarities are striking.

Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...

Ella Ella Ella Ella thank you very much for misspelling my name ;))))
"That is: Latvia, Estonia, Lituania, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania"
I really liked your 'eastern europe' map it is very original or unique I should say. If I were you I would definitely place it on wikipedia and call it 'new map of Ella' ;)) I am pretty sure those multinationals would change their strategy based upon your new map right away ;)))))))
About the other map you mentioned, I am truely 'enlightened' what can I say, the puzzle is complete in my head. 'The Secret' is finally revealed :)))) I would love to see this 'passionate' approach of your for Romans in Europe as well. But let me warn you they are poor poor people, they are very nice but poor !!!
I would love to continue this very 'intellectual' and 'deep' discussion but unfortunately I dont have time. Thank you, you helped me understand why people like yourself are thinking what they are thinking :)

ella said...

To Oziem isil bankal-dewit

The map, which you think unique, is not. One only need to look at UN statistic division description of the countries of Eastern Europe.
(Belarus Bulgaria Czech Republic Hungary Moldova Poland Romania Russia Slovakia Ukraine.) Of course I did drop Russia from my description.
As for Turkey being part of Eastern Europe, which seems your main objection, neither UN, nor any other official body include that country in the name "eastern Europe". A pity that, don't you think?.
Now for misspeling your name.............if one sign with extremely long name, some people might shorten it. That is not misspelling.

Ozlem Isil Bankal-deWit said...

Ella ,
my name is not o-z-i-e-m but
o-z-l-e-m :)

ella said...


Sorry. I should use bigger fonts, I guess. I think it is all that hours I am spending on the internet trying to read some strange scripts. ;-)
Once again, I do apologise.

Mahmut Tolon said...

Dear Harald Doornbos
Read your blog with great interest and thank you for your concern though I dont agree with it. Incase you can bother to look at my website www.tolons.com and order a book called "Bias is beautiful" which was published in the USA last week you will see why I am optimistic. I feel people can understand what you have written have an obligation to people who cant and it is truly a universal problem not a local one. As far as Turkey is concerned not all the people who voted for AKP are islamists! Majority is not! What option did the voters have?
Vote for MHP ? "Turkish Nationalists"? . DHP? "Kurdish Nationalists"? CHP? "Party of Kleptocrats?" (borrowing the term coined by Jared Diamond) AKP was the only "central right liberal party" and believe you me if they insist on their "islamist" bias they will soon end as other islamist partys have ended in the 5% range.
Below is the press release of my book and if you can email me your surface mail adress will gladly send you a copy for review.
Booksurge press release

Provocative New Book Argues that Bias can be a Common Denominator in

Solving World Problems

Bias is Beautiful, or Swan Song for Common Sense by Mahmut Tolon discusses how shared experiences and biases can secure the survival of the species.

This book offers compelling solutions to help cultures come together and find answers to difficult global problems.

Everyone’s view of the world is biased by his or her own experiences. The wealthy can’t understand the poor. The sick don’t have much in common with the healthy. Different groups and cultures do not often understand one another. We all are capable of perceiving the world as self and non self. As each person is biased, what if people could use their biases to band together with other cultures, and agree on a population stop? That’s the unique thesis behind this thought-provoking new book, Bias is Beautiful, or Swan Song for Common Sense.

Dr. Tolon, a farmer, internist and nephrologist, has been working on intercultural communication, population and pollution problems for the last 30 years. He points out how the population is not only booming, but it is rapidly aging as well, which could create new groups with something in common. In an age of global warming, constant war and migration, it behooves people not to see the world in terms of a clash of civilizations. Instead, Tolon suggests that people should use common sense and realize the similarities. Only by doing this, can people discover how to solve basic problems. The book encourages readers to think about the age bias and how it is almost greater than religious bias, as it originates from the fear of death. Provocative and as entertaining as it is educational, Bias is Beautiful should be required reading for any forward thinker.


About the Author

Mahmut Tolon, M.D. and PhD was born in Istanbul. He has worked in Australia at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, in Broken Hill with the Flying Doctor program, and at the State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah.Currently, he teaches a postgraduate course on “Longevity and the Co-existence of Cultures” at the Dokuzeylul University in Izmir.

caty said...

Ik woon al jaren lang in Turkije sorry als mijn Nederlands niet zo goed is. Ik begrijp echt niet hoe we deze resultaat hier hebben gekregen. Na de verkiezingen heb ik met heel veel mensen gesproken. Ik heb nog van niemand gehoord die naar AK partij heeft gestemd. Helaas de resultaat blijkt dat bijna 1 van de 2 mensen naar AK partij hebben gestemd. Wij zijn Ataturk kinderen en wij gaan ons best doen om niet terug te gaan in de tijd.

Anonymous said...

This is a less than thought provoking article in that it demonstrates the lack of the author's knowledge about the unique dynamics of the Turkish society and the military. It sounds more like an article written by a former communist or a current symphatizer who is frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Doornbos and other bloggers,
I have read the main blog and the comments, I assume that I understood the article, however, I'm being a Kurd in Turkey, dont understant why Doornbos mentioned the "volleyball game with Apo" in one of his comments?! He is the one who has fooled us for many years that he will bring us independency. He didnt bring us anything but war and disgrace from Turks.
Honestly I voted for AKP too and I was wondering if voting for AKP makes me islamist. I dont think so!! There are many people like me, very secular in heart, voted AKP.

Anonymous said...

you stupid idiot, this was not an election about islam vs Ataturk. it was just an other election of goverment. we ,turkish people (turks, kurds, lazs,...), voted for economics, social life, justice. CHP people said that this is an election for republic regime, thats why they lost. it is just a simple election for goverment.

Harald Doornbos said...

@ Caty
succes met de strijd!

@ Anonymous (Kurd who voted for AKP) - well I mentioned my volleyball game with Abdullah Ocalan because i'm planning a little story for this blog on this hilarious happening. I visited PKK camp in Beka'a valley, Lebanon and inteviewed Mr. Ocalan there. But during one of the days in the camp I was invited to play volleyball with Mr. Ocalan. Five minutes later, I was dragged from the field by his security people. Its truly a hilarious story. And it makes very clear how what kind of a dictator Mr. Ocalan was.

I'll publish the story the moment I find some time.

@ Anonymous (the one calling me 'a stupid idiot')
Well good for you if this was just a regurlar election. I sincerely hope you are right. But if not - Don't come crying at my doorstep in 20 years time when Turkey will be as crappy as Iran.

To all posters - thanks a lot for comments. Keep discussing these kind of topics. Arguments and counter-arguments are great. Only through discussion we get to higher levels and possible solutions.

cheers, Harald

Gcjerry said...

I cannot agree with this rather undemocratic article, which is based more on paranoia than reality. I always understood that reason, debate and compromise were the hallmarks of a stable democratic society, not a demographic game between supposedly irreconcilable and static struggle between opposing groups. If the latter is true, we are all in trouble... Anyhow, I would like to take exception to a series of assumptions stated in the main article. First, despite having higher levels of religiosity than most of Western Europe, American Christians are thoroughly secular (with the exceptions of very marginal, extremist elements - I can't even think of a single group like this, but I guess there must be a least one, no matter how insiginificant...). While American Christians support issues seen to be supporting public morality, and get angry about the fact that it seems that the “progressive” elements of America treat all other religions with a sense of respect while holding Christianity with a certain contempt. It is lack of respect that makes religion a bigger issue than it really is in America. But, I repeat, only so-called “progressives” in America believe that Christians are a threat, and an imaginary one, because absolutely no group of any importance asks for a combination of religious and secular power. None. Not even George W. Bush, who is devoutly religious, as everyone knows. Besides the fact that the separation of Church and State is a deeply-held American tradition, how would such a theocracy be set up? Which kind of Protestant denomination would it represent? There are dozens of them, none of which dominate the Protestant Christian community. Maybe a Catholic? Yet, Protestants wouldn’t go for that, since anti-Catholicism runs deep in their traditions. So, how would this theocratic state be set up? The diversity of Christian faiths was one of the principal reasons that we have a separation of Church and State in America. The writers of the American Constitution realized that, and knew that the only way to keep the country together after independence from England was not instituting a specific Christian faith as the official religion of the American state. Of course, there are other intellectual arguments for this separation, but at the time of American Independence, 99% of the American citizenry was Christian (and, moreover, Protestant), so the “threat” of Christianity – which was the moral basis of all the ideals they enshrined in the Constitution – was not apparent to them. Indeed, the thought of Christianity in general being a threat would have been seen as ridiculous to them, and rightfully so. Only so-called “progressives” group all Christians of all types and time periods together, as if we were all on the verge of being religious fanatics, and thus make this phantom threat seem like a real threat. American Catholics, for example, are known amongst the Catholics of the world as being the most liberal. Why? Because of our American political culture, not because of our shared religion. This is also true of the Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church and the Episcopalian Church). In Britain itself, and America, the Church is much more liberal than its branches in Africa. This has almost caused a break-up of this particular denomination, as the British and American branches have nominated gays as bishops, which their much more conservative African branches absolutely oppose, and have threatened to break away from the Anglican Church and form their own denomination. This is not because of religious doctrine, but of the culture of a society. Indeed, these same supposedly sophisticated “secular progressives” in America who always laugh at other people’s ignorance for confusing Sunni with Shia, cannot seem to make distinctions between a faith that they should be very familiar with given its importance in Western civilization.

Second, the article is misleading on its assumption of demographic trends. Western societies are increasingly urban/suburban, and this is something that we discuss in American politics: the states with the larger urban areas are the ones that are shaping American political culture – though the rural, farming areas do have some political voice (as they do in France – a completely secular country), not enough to determine American politics. Like I said before, George W. Bush, who was supposed to be the representative of this rural Christian group, has not done a single thing to increase the influence of a particular religious organization within the federal state. While he may support causes generally supported by most Christians (against creating stem-cells for research, limiting abortion – or at least trying to discourage it – and against gay marriage), this is not the same thing as destroying the separation of Church and State. If he had tried to institute his own particular brand of Christianity as more important within the state, for sure he would not have been re-elected, and Congress would have opposed it (as would have the American people). But he never tried to do this, and never would have thought to do so. The fact that some “progressives” were warning about this when he was first elected, and still talk as if he has done it, shows more about their own extremist thoughts than that of Bush or American Christians in general. At no point has Bush, or any other Christian politician, ever said – not even in joke – that “democracy is only a vehicle to political power”.

Now, following my argument, this would mean that the situation in Turkey is different, as it has different traditions and cultures (which is one of the reasons why, besides geography, I don’t think it belongs in the European Union). Yet, Turkey is, on the whole, more “progressive” then most of the Islamic world. While some may feel that Ataturk’s work is still not finished, it is not finished for the reasons often said. It will only be finished when Islamists are fully integrated into the political culture. Iran and Iraq are perfect examples of this. Despite secular dictatorships in both countries, and the fact that both countries possessed relatively advanced societies, they have not been able to eradicate fundamentalist Islam. Iran became a theocracy, and Iraq seems to be on the verge of becoming something similar. But this problem is not completely due to the particular situation in each country. It is part of a wider debate about whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy. This is something exclusive to Islam: Christianity had a very similar debate over the past 200 years. It is for this reason that I feel that it is important that Turkey remains outside the European Union (besides the reasons I stated at the beginning of this paragraph). As long as secular democracy is seen as an explicitly “Western” or “Christian” thing, its opponents in the Islamic world will be able to claim that it has no place in countries with Islamic traditions. Indeed, the fact that the Christian world is overwhelmingly democratic means that any country of Christian traditions that tries to set up a dictatorship nowadays will not be able to claim that it is keeping true to Christian principles. The more Muslim countries that are able to reconcile democracy and Islam, the better for Turks, and for the rest of the world. What is needed is a public, vociferous movement for such a reconciliation to counter the very public and vociferous movement for an increased Islamization. There are signs of this: in Turkey, in Lebanon. But few and much weaker (it appears) than their fundamentalist opponents. It is only when the movement pioneered by Ataturk spreads across the Islamic world can this reconciliation start to happen. But, as I said, it will always remain incomplete until Islamists are incorporated into a secular & democratic society. Ataturk's strategy is only the first, though crucial, stage. This reconciliation is possible, and will involve some short-term compromises with more traditional Islamic opinion, but the alternative – denying them a voice in the political process – would only bring disaster in the future, and mean that the Islamic world will be largely dictatorial, with the Army playing a political role such as it does in Turkey. That is no future.

I can understand the author of the article’s fears: the Islamic world still has a long journey to make before secular, pluralist democracy becomes entrenched. But his line of argument is mistaken, and one that will only lead to greater conflict and polarization, not the ideals that he champions.

Well, that is what I think. What do you think?

Bert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Harald Doornbos
I truly believe that you have really no idea about Turkey,Turkish families and AKP views.
I just want to say that The last election means: The winner is Populist policies like any countries across the world.
Thank you very much for all your efforts but you are wrong.You could not read the last election properly.
Best Regards