Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Turkey

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a rather strange opinion piece doing the rounds in which she comments on the current situation in Turkey and the ongoing tension between the elected representatives of the Turkish people and the military.

The idea of an army under civilian control doesn’t seem particularly controversial to us, but Hirsi Ali opposes it, calling on the EU to abandon the notion that, “Turkey’s army should be placed under civil control like all armies in the EU member states. ” This is, she contends, perfectly consistent with liberalism, with the Kemalist Turks who ban schoolgirls from wearing hijab and who stipulate prison sentences for men who chew gum in front of statues of Ataturk cast as ‘liberals’; the heroes in Hirsi Ali’s titanic struggle between a liberal/military alliance and the so-called “Islamists” with their hijabi wives. Never mind, of course, that the “bad guys” have the backing of up to “70 percent of voters”.

As Hirsi Ali explains, this “70 percent of voters” have been hoodwinked by “dawa“:

…a tactic inspired by Islam’s founder, Muhammad. Dawa simply means to preach Islam as a way of life, including a way of government, perpetually and with conviction. Every convert is subsequently obligated to preach Islam to others, which creates a grassroots movement.

The confluence of Arabic terms, mention of the Prophet and talk of “government” adds to the dramatic effect of Hirsi Ali’s piece and will certainly elicit the desired response in her natural constituency. However, the fact is that, in this context, all Hirsi Ali is really saying is that the so-called Islamist government better reflects contemporary Turkish values and aspirations and that this is then reflected in the polls. In other words, the government reflects the aggregate will of the people.

However, in Hirsi Ali’s view, liberalism or amorphous “Western values” are best served not by supporting democracy as it is understood in the West, but by supporting the armed enforcement of ideology by the military.

Other liberal democracies in the West must stand by Turkey’s liberals in this difficult time. It is only a seeming paradox that support has to start by recognizing that the Turkish army is not like any other. The military has the unique task of safeguarding Turkey’s secular character.

Safeguarding its “secular character” from what exactly? According to Hirsi Ali’s piece, it’s from seventy percent of the Turkish people.