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The First Rational Islamists? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Will the Justice and Development Party [AKP] in Turkey be the first rational Islamist party? This is the question that is raised following the Party’s resounding victory under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Atatürk’s secular Republic of Turkey.

This gives the AKP the advantage of governing the country. It also gives it the right to amend the Turkish constitution. Accordingly, this could be, with the help of the voting public, the start of a revolution in the founding values of the Turkish Republic, despite that the Turkish military has warned that it will be on the lookout for any such activity.

Will the AKP let the opportunity of interfering in the Turkish military pass it by? Will it rationally govern the country or will the victory of “justice” amount to defeat for Turkey?

If the AKP abuses its sweeping victory and makes changes in Turkey’s core constitution as a way of gaining more power, thereby forcing the army to intervene, it will then prove to be no different than most other Islamist parties, as most Islamist parties who rise to power declare “game over” as soon as they wield it. They soon announce that “Islam is the answer” and that God is the ultimate ruler, and they are His men. Woe unto whoever objects to this, of course!

By this, we are reminded of the Hamas situation. Hamas rose to power via elections that were only made possible in the first place by the Oslo Accords. These same international accords were soon rejected by Hamas, as it decided to change the rules of the democratic game and govern Gaza through weapons and fatwas [religious rulings]. All the facts show that Hamas has lost, not due to a coup of any sort, but have in fact lost by winning the elections!

If the AKP follows suit, it will also suffer great losses and it will only prove the stereotype that no Islamist party can ever rule successfully. If Erdogan’s party, however, demonstrates rationality, and governs the country with Turkey’s best interest in mind, while also respecting its constitution and abiding by the rules of the game so that it is fair to everyone, it will then mark the beginning of a new era in the region for Islamist parties and for democracy as a whole.

It is a turning point for the West, as well, that will carefully watch this party’s behavior and see whether or not it will be capable of handling key issues with political maturity and responsibility.

Turkey is a country of geographical and historical significance, as it is in the heart of the region, both politically and intellectually. Will this Islamist party bring about relief in the region? Or will it add to the region’s suffering, along with Iran’s aggressive Islamic Republic? Turkey aspires to join the European Union, and this entails its own set of conditions. It also wants to be one of the key economic powerhouses in the region, and this undoubtedly requires stability first.

Turkey has warm relations with Israel, and it worries about the situation in Iraq and Iran too, even if it has economic interests there.

All this places the AKP in the eye of the storm, as it faces an historical moment in the history of Islamist parties. Will it demonstrate political rationality and justice, thereby proving that Islamist parties, when stripped of their slogans, still have what it takes to partake in politics? Or will it only perpetuate further the image of Islamist parties being undeveloped?

There is another important question: in the event that the AKP responsibly governs the Turkish Republic, and proves that it is rational and able by paying heed to the republic’s secular system, will the armed forces give it a chance? Or will they dispose of it and make Turkey a lacking democracy?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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