Nearing the end of political Islam

All the immense humanitarian tragedy, suffering and despicable terror on the part of the Israeli state aside, the political implications of the Gaza assault have an utterly important point for the Zeitgeist, as the so-called Arab Spring fades into an uncertain autumn.

With all the developments observed in recent years — the Muslim Brotherhood’s deeply flawed policies in Egypt, the disintegration of its Syrian equivalent and the birth of ISIS in Iraq — the cycle in the MENA region, save in Tunisia, seems to be punctuated with one severe blow after another against Sunni political Islam.

Add to this the increasingly worrisome regional policies of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), once seen as a source of inspiration for the political and democratic normalization of countries in the region. That the instability, marked by spilled blood and the mass displacement of people, pounds at the borders of Turkey is not good news.

Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East, shares some of his characteristically sharp observations in his blog, focusing on Hamas and analyzing beyond.

“The Israeli security establishment was almost certainly encouraged to launch its military assault on little Gaza by the current divisions over political Islam in the Middle East,” he writes.

“Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, though they are quite separate in policies and leadership. The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt last summer has positioned the Egyptian government as almost as big an enemy of Hamas as Israel itself. The Egyptian military blames Hamas for radicalizing the Bedouin of the Sinai Peninsula and creating a security problem for Egypt itself (in fact, the depriving of people in Sinai of government services is at the root of much of the resentment). Indeed, some groups in the Sinai have proffered their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State now based in Mosul, Iraq.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt now backs the secular government of Bashar al-Assad against his opposition, which is now dominated by the al-Qaeda affiliate the Succor Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) and the al-Qaeda offshoot the so-called Islamic State. Al-Sisi has also expressed support for prime minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, largely on the grounds that Baghdad is attempting to fight back against the so-called Islamic State. Jordan’s King Abdullah II is also terrified of the so-called Islamic State.”

So you have a bloc of nationalist states — Egypt, Jordan and Syria — facing off against movements of political Islam, and Hamas has to be counted among the latter. It is therefore difficult for these states to intervene on behalf of Hamas, since they want the organization, and the whole tendency to political Islam, to “drop dead.”

“Even the so-called Islamic State turns out to be useless to Hamas. Its leadership says that it has to tackle the ‘hypocrites’ among the Muslims before turning to the ‘Jews.’ This is a reference to early Islam. The so-called Islamic State views all other Muslims this way. So the struggle between nationalism and political Islam has neutralized most of the Middle East if it hasn’t made them de facto allies of Israel.”

If these observations have some grain of truth, they leave the AKP, with Erdoğan on top, as the “odd player out.”

Despite the imminent collapse of political Islam as being a potential democratic catalyst in the wake of the Arab Spring, the AKP refuses to see the reality — operating under the illusion that its government can still be the leading light to revive brotherhood movements — and obstinately backs Hamas, which has lost some of its “glamour” at home through its continuous erratic behavior.

The AKP government is now paralyzed by the not-so-friendly (!) ISIS in Iraq, which refuses to free Turkish hostages, apparently to block a Turkish rapprochement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad. Turkey has no reasonable political leverage since it has no diplomatic ties in the east Mediterranean region. It is left at the margins, with decreasing credibility, as it insists on swimming against the tide of time.

The more Erdoğan acts stubbornly, the more risks he takes. His government is seen as embodying the sense of brashness displayed by the brotherhood movements in the region, movements that are standing on the losing side of history.

Full article:

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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