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Anwar on Gul's Presidency

Gül ‘an inspiration for Muslim Democrats all over the world'

Today's Zaman, Aug 23 - In the wake of the European Union's strong support for Abdullah Gül's presidential candidacy, Muslim leaders have also joined the choir in lending support to Gül. The former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and a well-respected intellectual in the Muslim world, Anwar Ibrahim, said Gül has been an inspiration for Muslim Democrats all over the world.

Praising Gül as an experienced politician and a very capable leader, Ibrahim said his leadership "has most certainly inspired a generation of Muslim democrats in Turkey and around the world."

In an interview through e-mail, Ibrahim answered Today’s Zaman’s questions:

What might the Islamic world think if Gül is elected president of Turkey?

Turkey’s progression toward democracy represents the hopes and aspirations of Muslims around the world struggling to cast away the shackles of authoritarianism and dictatorship. The resounding victory of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the July elections reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to this democratizing trend and sent a positive signal throughout the Muslim world that the reform agenda is a viable and attractive option to authoritarianism. We cannot predict the outcome of the nomination of Mr. Gül but it is critical that the electoral process as delineated in the Turkish constitution not be derailed by special interest or military intervention.

Do you think Turkey’s secularism will be in danger if Gül gets elected?

The underlying principles of the Turkish state have been reaffirmed by the AK Party government throughout its tenure, and the Turkish people have expressed their approval of a ruling party that is at ease both with Turkey’s secular political landscape as well as its roots in a culture tied to Islamic civilization. Therefore I see no reason to be swayed by those Islamophobes who fear an ideological onslaught by any individual or party even remotely associated with Islamic principles and values. On the contrary I believe a turning point has been reached in Turkey whereby the nation as a whole will reconcile opposing elements embedded in its national psyche and move forward in a positive direction.

There is concern among a limited number of Western politicians and intellectuals that Gül may own the Ottoman legacy and is capable of turning Turkey toward East not the West.

This fear is wholly unsubstantiated both by the pronouncements of Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gül, and more importantly by the policies that the AK Party government has pursued in the last five years. In the last five years Turkey has taken bold and unprecedented steps toward integration with the European Union. Ironically, it is the West that has often reciprocated in a xenophobic and racist tone by shunning Turkey from the European community. Furthermore the commitment to economic and political reform demonstrated by the AK Party should confirm those who question the government’s commitment to a reform agenda that is rooted in the betterment of Turkish society.

If the military reacts again, what sort of a message will Muslims get from this reaction?

If the military intervenes, the message to the Muslim world will be clear. Democracy is a dead end. Moderates throughout the region will be marginalized and a coup in Turkey will provide ample fodder for more extreme voices calling for more radical changes in society. We must not underestimate the potential for a military intervention to undermine the work of Muslim democrats and reformers throughout the Muslim world. Today's Zaman

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