I’ve struggled to explain why I think the anti-Islamism/Islamophobia of Pamela Geller, Bruce Bawer, Andy McCarthy, and others is counterproductive, where not also despicable, by addressing it on its own terms, but a couple of recent articles by much more knolwedgeable observers than I – historian Walter Russell Mead and ex-CIA analyst/Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht, both recently linked under Recommended Browsing – may make my point much better than I can.
Focusing first on Turkey’s vote with Iran and Brazil against everyone else in the recent UN Security Council sanctions decision, and then on the confrontation with Israel on the “flotilla incident,” Mead deftly analyzes the theory under which Turkey’s ruling AKP appears to be operating – an attempt to move the country’s focus from the West to the South and East. As Mead explains, strategically indulging in misty water-color memories of the way things were before Kemal Ataturk comes at an increasing, potentially very high cost to Turkey, among other things by putting the country at odds with the rich and powerful friends it needs:
Choosing Iran over the rest of the world is not smart policy for Turkey. Whether the question is economic growth, the Armenian question or settling the Kurdish problem, a deepening relationship with Iran drives wedges between Turkey and the partners it urgently needs. Brazil can probably afford a few ill-considered ventures into Middle Eastern politics; for Turkey the costs are much higher.
Ataturk’s western orientation was partly about cementing Turkey’s place in the richer and more technologically advanced west; it was also about sealing Turkey off from the divisive conflicts in the east. Frustration with the west is understandably leading some Turks to look east; the results are more likely to vindicate Ataturk’s view of Turkish national strategy than to refute it.
There is, to say the least, much more in Mead’s analysis – but it’s impossible to appreciate its implications and the opportunities for the U.S., Israel, and others that it outlines if you remain committed to fanatical “clash of civilizations” anti-Islamism.
The same is true for any attempt to understand and apply Gerecht’s take on the seemingly quiescent Green Revolution in Iran. How does an anti-Islam/anti-Muslim ideologue even make sense of passages like the following?
[M]any of the intellectual heavyweights who’ve driven Iran’s ever-growing pro-democracy Green Movement also love [Austrian philosopher Karl] Popper and his defense of liberal democracy. The former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who is fascinated by (and a little fearful of) Western philosophy and the economic dynamism of liberal democracy, can’t stop writing about Popper. And the much more influential Abdolkarim Soroush, an Iranian philosopher of religion who may be the most important Muslim thinker since the 11th-century theologian al-Ghazali, also pays his respects to the Austrian in his efforts to create a faith that can thrive in a more open, democratic society.
The movement is unique in Islamic history: an intellectual revolution that aims to solve peacefully and democratically the great Muslim torment over religious authenticity and cultural collaboration. How does a proud people adopt the best (and the worst) from the West and remain true to its much-loved historical identity?
What could possibly be the point of aiding Iran’s democrats if the thing Pamela Geller (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Robert Spencer, and unanimous rightwing bloggers and HotAir commenters…) call “Islam,” the people they call “Muslims,” constitute an unsalvageable, monolithic enemy ideology/movement that must be excluded from the sacred national community and fought remorselessly worldwide?