political islam

Zeynep Tufekcioglu zeynept at turk.net
Thu Apr 25 11:56:09 MDT 1996

Micheal wrote:

>"I tend to feel for many other third-world
>non-marxist revolutionaries or schools of thought,
>which sometimes seem "crude" and "too black
>and white" to Marxists from Western countries."
>In light of what you expressed, I wonder if you could
>describe the political organizations that revolve
>around the mosques, and the response of the Turkish
>left - in the broad sense - to the development of what
>we, in the west,  for lack of a better term, have come
>to identify as political Islam.

This is a long subject, and I'll get back to it in a longer form next week
or so. Many westerners misinterpret political islam, as a monolithic body of
religious freaks. Anything but that, the religious freaks are a minority. In
Turkey, the supporters of the Islamist movements are composed of:
1- Filthy rich, Suudi-connected capitalists using Islam to elbow more room
in Turkish Capitalism. (current leaders of the mass movement)
2- Rural people, frightened by modernity, finding a religious identity as a
link with the past.
3- Urban poor, unable to integrate into the city and modern capitalism, who
blame the capitalists for their sorry state. And what do they see when they
look at the capitalists? Western, decadent, degenerate people, trying to act
European, rather than Turkish.
4- Militant university students. The left was crushed in the 1980 military
coup, and the US "green belt" policy of creating moderate islamic nations to
counter the advance of the left has meant that Islam seemed as a way to
rebel. If people from group 2 saw these young women, wearing not very
traditional islamic clothes (loose pants with headscarf, sometimes makeup,
flirting going on!) shouting at rallies, going around at night
propagandising about Islam, they'd faint. They read Lenin to learn how to

As for Turkish Left as a whole. The Iranian example has generally smarted
all of us up. The Iranian TUDEH thought the clergy might be an
anti-imperialist ally. The fact that many supporters of political Islam
include workers does not mean that we should oblige. On the contrary, we
should fight to get these people unhappy with the system back to where they
belong, with us. There are small sections that try to court the islamists as
potential allies, but generally Iran is our neighbor for everyone to see.
Some groups also do the opposite and ally themselves with the secular
bourgeoise movements, claiming that we have to stop the advance of Islam. I
personally think, that's what the bourgeoisie wants. Hey, revolutionaries,
either a capitalist or an Islamic state, so come to our side, the side of
the "modern".

Anyway, tricky question deserving more in depth discussion. I have some
interesting stuff, I'll try to put together next week. One last anectode, as
a first year university student, I attended 8th of March activities. The
feminists, fervently against the islamic uprising as they should be, sort of
made a case that under islam women would be oppressed more. But, they
sounded like they wanted equal jobs for women within the system and so on. I
was very curious what the islamists in the school would do on that day,
their weakest point is women's rights, isn't it. Hell, they distributed
pamphlets featuring the picture of a young girl in black islamic purdah,
eyes of fire, holding an AK-47. In the pamphlet they wrote about how
capitalism was exploiting women and sex as a commodity, how advertisements
used legs and breasts to sell everything, and how fashion has imposed upon
women, and how capitalist equality of women meant that women should be
obedient workers as well. I knew what their system stood for, but believe
me, if I were not already an atheist and generally a leftist person, the
AK-47 and their rhetoric of "total change" would appeal more to me then the
well-paying job and a career in the capitalist society.

Zeynep Tufekcioglu

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