Battlepanda: When democracy is theocracy


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

When democracy is theocracy

I think Andrew Stuttaford has confused "democracy" with "just like U.S.":
Without at this point wishing to return to yesterday's liberalism and/or democracy discussion, or for that matter, to examine for now the darker corners of Ataturk’s record, there’s no doubt that the father of modern Turkey understood the importance of secularism in assisting Turkey’s recovery from Ottoman torpor and decay, and there’s not much more doubt that he would have been horrified by this report from the Washington Post:

"ANKARA (Reuters) - A majority of Turks say a ban on women wearing the Muslim headscarf in public offices and universities should be lifted and just two fifths favor a military government, according to a poll published on Wednesday. The survey, conducted by scholars from two Istanbul universities and published in the liberal Radikal daily, shows Turkey, a Muslim but secular country that hopes to join the European Union, to be conservative on social and moral issues. Three fifths of those canvassed attributed failure in life to a lack of religious faith and said they would oppose their daughter marrying a non-Muslim. Nearly a third said boys and girls should be taught in separate classes at school. The results of the poll make fairly pleasant reading for Turkey's ruling AK Party, which has Islamist roots, showing two thirds back its efforts — so far unsuccessful — to relax a ban on women students and civil servants wearing the headscarf. “

There are those that view the AK as an Islamic equivalent of Italy’s postwar Christian Democrats, legitimate advocates for social and religious conservatism and perfectly compatible with a modern liberal democracy.

I’ve yet to be convinced…
You can argue, perhaps with good reason, that the return of the headscarve to classrooms and government offices is a bad thing even on a voluntary basis. I would be cautiously sympathetic to that argument. What you cannot argue is that it is an anti-democratic move. Not if you have just cited a paragraph that demonstrates the popular support for the option to wear headscarves in public offices and universities.

As a fan of democracy and a feminist, this is a difficult issue for me. What is worse? A secular autocracy under a thug like Ataturk? Or a theocratic Democracy in which the people rule -- to turn back the clock on women's rights?

I don't know what the answer is, but I do find it amusing that Andrew Stuttaford, who as a writer for the Corner must have impeccable conservative credentials, seems to be using arguments that would surely be lambasted as lacking in moral clarity if it had come from the left. Sure, he seems to be saying, Ataturk was a murdering, ethnic-cleansing dictator, but he was secular so he can't be all bad.