[UPDATE: Let me alert you to an exceptional piece by Chris Trotter on the events of the weekend, and how Erdogan has used them since: Erdogan Lives - And Secular Turkey Dies.]
In Turkey over the weekend there was a military coup against the democratically-elected leader. Naturally, there was a knee-jerk reaction around the west to oppose the coup, and uphold the democratically-elected leader.
But in a country where the majority votes Islamist, this would be a mistake. In country likes this, democracy can beome almost wholly the lethal description of it: like three wolves and a sheep voting for dinner – with the Islamists ready to tuck in. Just another reason to support the checks and balances of a constitutional republic over the lack of real checks in an unlimited democracy. [See: Why the United States was Designed as a Republic: to prevent the tyranny of the majority]
In Turkey, in Egypt and right across the faith-based Middle-East, the military is often the last vestige of any secular check on rising Islamism. There is some evidence from the weekend that was the major motivation for the military rising against Erdogan.
As far ago as 2007 it was becoming clear Turkish secularism would need support. "Turkish secularism is gravely threatened,” said Robert Spencer, “and millions of Turks are deeply concerned that their country could become an Islamic state."
The only response that has ever gained traction in the Islamic world has been not just a de-facto laying-aside of Islam's political and social character, but a self-conscious elimination of that character – and [Kemal] Ataturk's Turkey has been the site of the greatest success of this approach. Ataturk realized that there would be a recrudescence and reassertion of political Islam whenever there was a revival of religious fervour. Thus Kemalism presented itself not as "moderate Islam," nor as an Islamic construct at all, but as an explicit rejection of political Islam in favor of secularism. That is, it was never presented as an Islamic construct or justified by Islamic teachings, but was an explicit rejection of certain traditional aspects of Islam.
As historian Scott Powell noted just a few years ago, the tension was already simmering. “The AKP party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, though democratically elected, has a platform that contradicts the secularist tenets of Turkey’s constitution. If it isn’t stopped by the court, another military coup is likely to occur.” A military coup because “the Turkish military have long been defenders of the secular Kemalist tradition.” Which is the reason, in reverse, that
Late on Saturday night, just 24 hours after the attempted coup, hundreds of supporters of President Erdogan swarmed into Taksim Square – the pulsating heart of secular, modern Turkey – to celebrate their victory with shouts of Takbir – ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning ‘God is Great.’
How has the country of Ataturk become the country of Erdogan? Because “Turkey reflects a Middle East in cultural regress.”
Turkey once seemed to be moving towards liberal democracy. It enabled a secular culture to flourish. It joined NATO. It was an ally of the West in a Soviet-dominated region.
But today Turkey is moving towards Islamism and nationalism. Its president suppresses protest and press freedom while increasing his own power. It has been ambivalent over the crisis in Syria unfolding on its borders.
Turkey's retreat into illiberalism is sad. It's also alarming. Another Islamist power in the Middle East won't just make that region even less safe, but ours too.
So it you found yourself over the weekend on the side of someone who has suppressed free speech, where they still selectively enforce the jizya tax, where they murder people for apostasy and are still beheading people in the name of Islam -- and to protect their "honour" – where “Erdogan has unleashed the Islamist mobs,” then just consider it possible you may be mistaken.