The idea of Democratic Islam

Cihan Eren

Translated from Yeni Özgür Politika

Muslims face criticism from many quarters in light of recent events: the beheading of people in the name of Islam in the centre of Europe, some being targeted through Islamophobia and some attributing particular acts of violence to ‘Islam’.

The persistence in calling ‘power-oriented Islam’ – which was founded by Omayyads and revived by Turkish adherents – the ‘true Islam’ and ‘the true religion’ is the main reason for the many tragedies we witness. We have to stop calling ‘power-oriented Islam’ the ‘real’ and ‘only true’ religion, when one has to appreciate that it was formed and advanced in favour of tribal aristocrats and dynasties 1,300 years ago: its name should not be used to mask crimes against humanity that take place such as the beheading of people or various incidents which hurt the sentiments and beliefs of many Muslim people.

We need to see that it makes no sense to express and promote these dogmas over and over again. We need to declare that it is more Islamic to constitute a new and moral-based opinion of Islam that adopts democratic Islam’s ‘Other Islamic’ tradition and culture rather than ‘power-oriented Islam’. To realize that aim, discourses which do not promote propaganda and which can lead to fundamental shifts away from ‘power-oriented Islam’ are needed. It should be clearly seen that there is no way out of developing a democratic and rational interpretation of Islam which considers the sociological, cultural moral wealth of Islam and its current reality.

A group of capitalist Muslims, led by such people as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have made honest Muslims defend ‘power-oriented Islam’ in recent years by suggesting it is in response to Islamophobia. That discourse had been submitted as a new trap within which the Great Middle-East Project (BOP) is advanced. And it is used to stop Muslims from moving towards promoting more democratic initiatives. That discourse was invented to use Islam to drive conflict between capitalist Muslims and capitalist Christian factions. We should not forget the way in which the discourse of ‘Islamophobia’ has been exploited. If we look closely into matters, we will see that Erdoğan’s Turkey first exploited the Islamophobia discourse to promote certain agendas. This is because Turkey’s rulers chose to live and market a particular kind of Islam that has nothing to do with philosophy, culture and arts amongst its drive to advance agitation and war cries.

In exploiting the Islamophobia discourse, Turkish rulers have tried to cover up the reality in which Muslims live and have tried to prevent the constitution of a democratic opinion of Islam by advancing a conflict with the ‘Christian West’ using and referring to the discourses, politics, society, knowledge, philosophy, architecture and economy of the period of 800-1200.

A democratic type of Islam that gains power through its ability to challenge and scare the rulers does not yet exist. The form of ‘Islam’ that causes and helps to provoke and support Islamophobia is precisely the type of Islam which advocates the beheading of people. And if we choose to call that form of Islam ‘un-Islamic’, we should consider that Islamophobia will be less able to legitimise its discourses against those who live and practice Islam in a cultural and moral way.

It has become an obligation that Muslims, who choose to live Islam through a cultural and moral basis, have to keep themselves totally at odds with the interpretation of ‘power-oriented Islam’ which has been developed by certain states. For instance, it would be correct to hold huge protests to indicate that a person’s act of beheading a teacher in Paris a short while ago does not ‘represent true Islam’ and that issues cannot be not solved in that manner. And people have to protest in Europe, telling Western governments that: “You should not support fascist government administrators such as Erdoğan who you support for your interests” to solve the problems that ‘power-oriented Islam’ causes.

It would be far better to appeal to a ‘democratic Islam’ than a ‘power-oriented Islam’ to address and resolve these issues and concerns. But forcing discussions and discourses which even honest and democratic Muslim intellectuals cannot argue among themselves on the agenda improperly and unrealistically may place many Muslims in trouble. That kind of approach may turn them into conservatives. Because fascists such as Erdoğan,who has been supported and strengthened by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), knows well how to use these kinds of situations to their advantage.

We should keep in mind that representatives of ‘power-oriented Islam’ are masters of that kind of strategy. For example, Erdoğan dropped a hint that the murdered teacher deserved to be killed by addressing the feelings of millions of Muslims who supported the beliefs of ‘power-oriented Islam’. He targeted French president Emmanuel Macron harshly to suggest that he got the teacher killed. This approach succeded in depicting France as the responsible one for the killing, not the ‘power-oriented Islamic’ mindset. Those advocating this ‘power oriented Islam’ could portray themselves as the last caliph of the Muslims and the protector of Turkishness to nationalist Muslims who were ready to accept this kind of discourse.

We should never forget that the Turkish state has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims. The main reason of the demagogy taking place in recent times is to cover up for the defeat in Libya and to supply moral support for the jihadist gangs there; to mislead the Salafist jihadists in Idlib who they are preparing to dispose of, and to motivate the ‘religious’ gangs they sent to wage war to support the government of Azerbaijan. As for internal politics, their aim is to stop losing their potential vote-base. Anything which gains favour for Erdoğan and his team is the ‘real and correct’ Islam. The only thing that Turkish rulers understand from ‘Islam’ is its capacity to reinforce their power, build palaces and recreate a sultanate. Because they are the ones who endorse and use ‘religion’ to cut off people’s heads.

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The idea of Democratic Islam

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