Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for June 2011

Waiting for Aleppo

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A recent AJE feature captures an important aspect of the crisis in Syria: As more of the Sunni working and merchant class find themselves in dire financial straits due to the unrest, the uprising in Syria will gain real momentum.

The question remains about whether al-Assad’s open-ended “national dialogue” will placate an increasingly irritated Syria.

The Syrian president has been very timely in his concessions so far, but mere concessions will not be enough when middle-Syria is unhappy with the economy (and sees nothing to gain by keeping the Ba’ath Party in power).

Written by M. James

June 27, 2011 at 9:19 am


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Here’s an excerpt from Stephen Kinzer’s Crescent and Star. It seems to nicely sum up the prevailing Western attitude toward Turkey:

As a result of geography and because of their Ottoman past, Turks occupy a singular position in the Islamic consciousness.  If any country is going to prove that Islam can coexist with modernity and democracy, it will almost certainly be Turkey.  That achievement would make Turkey an invaluable countervailing force against religious fundamentalism everywhere.  As a real democracy, Turkey would be a shining beacon not only for Muslims in nearby countries but for the entire Islamic world…

An attitude, I think, that has been—and will continue—pushing Turkey further away from the West.

More on that later.

Written by M. James

June 19, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Istanbul Island

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There is little, if any, disagreement: Come Sunday, the AKP will waltz away with a comfortable majority in Turkey’s 550-seat parliament. Whether or not everyone’s favorite conservative “Islamist” party will have free rein by winning the necessary 367 seats (two-thirds of parliament) is still in question, but there is still no denying that “Papa Tayyip” and his crew will be around for a while. What this truly means for Turkey’s future is anyone’s guess, but we can probably expect a familiar political trajectory for the next few years.

In short, the show will go on.

But that’s enough well-tempered thought. As Turkey’s 17th general election draws near, it is time to reflect on the true meaning of the election season, extravagant promises. Preferably expensive. And as far as big expensive campaign promises go, Erdoğan is hard to beat.

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Written by M. James

June 10, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Exporting culture to the Arab world

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It is a long-held belief that Turks hate Arabs and vice-versa. The Turks say that the Arabs are lazy, backward, and dishonest, and the Arabs say that the Turks are overbearing, imperious, and West-obsessed. Indeed, surveying the history of Arab-Turkish relations from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, it isn’t too hard to understand where the enmity comes from and why things haven’t been more amicable.

But recently, commercially-driven Turkish enterprises have managed to start bridging the lengthy linguistic and cultural gap that has split even the most apolitical of Turks and Arabs.

These enterprises are known as pembe diziler. Soap operas.

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