Yesterday, Egyptian Army made a coup d’état and took the control of the country against the first democratically elected Islamist-oriented President Mohammed Morsi. What happened yesterday in Egypt shows once again that there is an urgent necessity for “third way” politics in the Muslim world.
Until now, two main types of politics existed in the Muslim world. One is military-centered and secular-oriented policy which aims to protect the society from Islamic extremist movements by creating an authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regime. This type of regimes generally gives priority to modernization and secularism and approach to Islamic fundamentalism as the greatest source of evil. Although in terms of women rights, protection of other religious groups and non-believers they guarantee certain progress in the Islamic world, authoritarian model was not a cure for the solution of Islamism-democracy dilemma until now since they did not bring peaceful transitions to democracy. The only exception was Turkey’s Kemalism which was somehow successful in making peaceful transition to multi-party democracy in 1950, but later within the Cold War conditions Turkey had 3 coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980. This authoritarian model in the Muslim world generally took the support of Western countries for many decades because of fears against radical Islamism and their lack of fanaticism in the foreign policy (primarily relations with Israel and USA) and economics (privatization and the adoption of free-market economics).
The other type of politics in the Muslim world is mosque-centered and Islamic-oriented policy which aims to use democracy and free and fair elections in order to realize Islamic ideals by mobilizing large groups of people within the lines of religious, ethnic or sectarian identities. This type of regimes often seems to defend democracy in terms of elections however when it comes to issues like minority rights or women rights, they seem to forget or misunderstand the real meaning of democracy. This new model gave hope to democrats around the world during the Arab Spring where peaceful transitions were realized in Tunisia and Egypt. Previously, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (JDP) also gave hope to world by making excessive democratic reforms between 2002 and 2007, primarily motivated by Turkey’s hopes for accession to European Union. However, starting from 2009, JDP also began to give negative signals for the success of this model although Turkey has considerably high democratic experience compared to all other Muslim dominated countries. The problem with this model is that Islamist groups do not content themselves with ruling the country but they also want to make social engineering in order to increase the role of Islam in social and political life.
Looking at these two failing models, one must clearly notice the need and space for a “third way” politics in the Muslim world. This third way politics in the Muslim world should be based on libertarian principles and should guarantee respect and security for all different views, faiths and lifestyles in the country. The aim of the third way thus should not be to change the society by using governmental power, but rather to act as a waiter state (garson devlet in Turkish) that will be ready to take orders from its citizens. The ideal of third way and waiter state in the Muslim world is not impossible to realize, only if people could give up their fanaticism and realize that democracy is better than secular or Islamic authoritarianism.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Ozan ÖRMECİ