Stealth Islamism in Turkey

Article Date: 13/06//2011

Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them; the Islamist AK Party ( Justice and Development party) in the government in Turkey has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

The elections in Turkey mark a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what’s going on.

Now we are at a turning point – an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt. Of course, it will take time, but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.

The AKP’s percentage of voters keeps rising. Most of the people who back the party don’t want an Islamist regime, and don’t think of the AKP in those terms. It rather seems to them to be a strong nationalist party respecting religious tradition that is making Turkey an important international power and is doing a good job on the economy.

The AKP got almost – remember that, almost – everything it wanted. It increased voter support more than any other party, and will be in power for four – and perhaps many more – years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy.

In short, the AKP is entrenched in power, and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

THE AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguising itself as a “center-right” reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support – Turkey has demonstrated this – it becomes more ambitious, daring and extreme.

This would include:

• A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist society.

• A more presidential style of government, empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become chief executive.

• A government that can infiltrate, take over and transform the remaining hold-out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists • A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hezbollah and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is hard to state these unpleasant realities, and many will not want to face them. There will be no shortage of soothing analyses and encouraging talk about Turkish democracy succeeding, moderate Muslim politics, and how “great” it is that the army’s political power is destroyed.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a disastrous day for Europe, as well as for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn’t great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either.

It is the end of the republic as established by Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what’s happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them.

The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

This is an extract from Barry Rubin's article which can be read in full at

The writer, Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center ( and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at

No comments: