The Slow Theocratic Revolution
Andrew McCarthy takes the radicalization of Turkey as an opportunity to trace Islamists’ strategy for cultural hegemony (subscription required). That Turkey has been a partner to the West, he notes, was a result of efforts by Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Ataturk) to keep Islam out of government, an intention that appears now to have been circumvented. In opposition to Ataturk, McCarthy places Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1928:
Banna was neither a dreamer nor an ivory-tower scholar. He was a thoughtful, patient, practical man of affairs. He meticulously schemed his revolution as a ground-up, self-consciously civilizational mass movement. It started with the Muslim individual and built outward to the family, the community, the town, the city, and finally the Muslim state. In each phase, the aim was to instill, install, and spread sharia. This is the divine mandate known as jihad.
Given the building blocks — individual, family, community, and so on — the strategy sounds like a dark inverse of the United States’ increasingly abandoned method of instilling its citizens with individual initiative and a thirst for freedom. Of course, freedom can be a messy thing, not easily handled from the top down. People are not perfect, so any governing system that places people’s rights at its center will sometimes face long, arduous corrections of course. Consequently, the West has become insecure about its imperfections while at the same time accepting other cultures’ flaws, assuming the same intention to correct them and ignoring that other guiding lights, notably sharia, not individualism, are at their center.
McCarthy goes on to argue that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has leveraged this Western quality to install a gradually more radical government in his country:
It has worked like a charm. Echoing European sentiment, successive American administrations, seduced by the mirage of an evolving Islam with a Westernized Turkey at the fore, crowned Erdogan a leading “moderate.” They even seemed unembarrassed when the prime minister ridiculed the very suggestion that there is such a thing as “moderate Islam”: Such a term, he admonishes, is “very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” With the West’s imprimatur and no emergent secular opposition, the AKP increased its electoral share to nearly 50 percent in 2007. …
In a 1991 memorandum, the Muslim Brotherhood’s American leadership described the movement’s work as “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within” by “sabotage.” Islam’s Western apologists — many of the same people who hailed Erdogan as a moderate — dismiss such assertions as farfetched chest-beating. Look at it, though, from the Islamist perspective. The Soviet Union, humiliated by the Afghan mujahideen, is no more. The Twin Towers, iconic symbols of Western economic might, have been reduced to a haunting crater. At the U.N., an organization easily bullied by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an American administration joins in a resolution condemning Israel for defending itself against jihadists pledged to its annihilation. And now, after an 80-year struggle, Turkey — whose defection spawned the modern Islamist movement — is back in the umma and helping lead the civilizational jihad.
The current question of history is whether the great experiments of the Enlightenment and the United States, which in their essence, strive to force all social structures — from government to religion — to work through the individual human being, can stand against ideologies that self-consciously operate in an organized way to achieve regional and global domination.