Tuesday, October 05, 2010

In Istanbul next week...

I will get a chance to be in Istanbul next week for about ten days for a research project. I've been to Turkey once before and at the time visited Istanbul as well as Kusadasi on the Aegean coast, along with the ancient cities of Ephesus (absolutely phenomenal), Miletus, and Didyma (right: Medusa and I share a tender moment at Didyma a few years ago). This time I will stay put in Istanbul. So couple of questions for our Turkish friends: Since this is also the den of our old creationist friend, Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya), is there a creation museum or something like that that I should visit while I'm in Istanbul? Any science-related places (museums?) I should definitely visit? (if you have suggestions, you can either comment in here, or just send me an e-mail directly).

This will be an interesting time to be in Turkey. The political landscape is definitely influx, especially after the recent referendum - and it plays into the future direction of the country. We also had a lively discussion here on this blog after the post: Is "Islamic Fundamentalism" on the Rise in Turkey? But I want to point you to two posts on the reaction to the Turkish referendum: One by Taner Edis, who always have thoughtful things to say at Secular Outpost, and the other by Juan Cole at Informed Comment.

Here is Taner talking about some of the secular concerns:
A more interesting concern was aired among secular intellectuals in Turkey as part of the lead-up to the referendum. This was more than the usual alarm-raising about the future of Turkish secularism. After all, the Turkish version of military-backed secularism is already just about dead; there is no point in continuing to worry about it. The worry I hear more often these days is that the Erdoğan government is turning increasingly dictatorial, using democracy as a device for imposing a tyranny of the majority. The way things are going, living a secular life is going to be increasingly difficult in a country where the institutions of the state are heavily influenced by religious brotherhoods, and religious solidarity networks are major factors in both the formal and informal economy. The proposed (and now approved) constitutional changes included measures to bring the judiciary under closer government control. Secularists worry that by undermining whatever (already compromised) independence the judiciary possesses, the modified constitution gives an even freer hand to a government bent on making Islam the touchstone of political and cultural legitimacy.
The means of cultural reproduction, no less than economic production, are fiercely contested in politics. There are many possible property regimes and institutional arrangements, and changes in them have consequences about the creation and  distribution of wealth. I see nothing illegitimate in engaging in politics on such a basis. But similarly, culture and religion is also a strong motivation for many people's political engagement. There are many possible institutional arrangements regarding culture and the state, and changes in these arrangements alter the landscape of reproductive fitness for culture. Once upon a time in Turkey, cultural Westernization and secularism were privileged. This has become less so of late, and there are no signs of change in that trend.
Read the full post here. I find it fascinating to read this with the backdrop of Pakistan, where a more secularized society is more or less essential for its future viability. Religious political parties in Pakistan do not have much participation in the government (they usually get 5-10% of total seats - with the exception of one election under Musharaf - when major political parties were banned from contesting), but the society has definitely drifted rightwards and even the left-leaning parties are quite conservative.

Here is Juan Cole weighing in on the referendum:

The referendum will make it harder for the army to police itself and keep out believers, by giving those expelled more rights of appeal. It will also weaken the autonomy of the judiciary. Admittedly, the latter step could prove pernicious, and there are legitimate concerns about it. Still, it should be remembered that the judiciary is largely staffed by judges already vetted to support the secular elite, and has often exercised its powers in the past on behalf of that elite.
It is likely, it seems to me, that the outcome of these changes will in fact be a greater role for believing Muslims in Turkish political and public life. I can’t see what is wrong with that, or how it is contrary to democracy. The old Kemalist system of secularism imposed from above by an urban, educated elite, in such a way as to marginalize much of Turkish society, accomplished good but also created inequities.
And, many of the changes were asked for and endorsed by the European Union as a prerequisite for EU membership, which still cannot be ruled out for Turkey (it is a candidate). The EU simply will not admit military dictatorships or countries that explicitly discriminate based on who people are.
So, the question was not democracy versus sharia. It was a more inclusive sort of democracy that might make a legitimate place for believers in politics and public life, versus a continued soft military dictatorship with secular-supremacist tendencies.

Read the full post here

So the upshot is again that reality is complex and it is hard to paint a clear black & white picture. Damn you reality!


dr conners said...

I can recommend you some science museums in Istanbul;

Şişli Bilim Merkezi

İTÜ Bilim Merkezi

Bahçeşehir Koleji Bilim Müzesi

Santralistanbul Energy Museum

These are all I know. On the other hand, creationists' museums are mobile, they do not have a constant place. You can only come across them in a metro station, exhibition hall, etc.

Salman Hameed said...

Thanks Dr. Connors.

I think İTÜ Bilim Merkezi seems closest to a natural history/science museum and I will check it out.

And I'm glad that creation nonsense in Turkey is only mobile - and have not received the kind of funds as the idiotic creation museum in Kentucky.

Anonymous said...

Rahmi M. Koc Technology and Industry Museum on the Golden Horn is by far the largest and richest tech museum I've ever been to, and I've seen quite a few around the world.


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