Evaluating recent developments in Egypt and the Middle East on CNN Türk on Saturday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “a common awareness that is outside the nation-state” was emerging in the region. Davutoğlu also characterized this as the “start of a historic turnover” in the Middle East which cannot be rolled back.
At first glance this appears an innocent enough remark given that he went on to stress the importance of democracy and the will of the people as this process unfolded. However, a deeper look at this remark may merit a different assessment of what he is saying.
It is clear that “a common awareness” is spreading across the Middle East which has the notion of “people power” at its heart. It is also clear that the driving force of this awareness is a demand for justice, equality and higher standards of living. From a secular perspective these are commendable views.
However, if one is to take Davutoğlu’s remarks from the perspective of political Islam, it is clear that the hope is that this “awareness” will channel “the democratic will of the people” toward more Islamic regimes, which ultimately have less to do with the notion of a nation-state and more to do with the idea of international Islamic unity.
This, at any rate, is Iran’s open desire judging by the statements of the highest echelons of the mullah regime in that country concerning developments in Egypt.
If Davutoğlu is referring to the emergence of a common awareness which, while being above the notion of being a nation-state, has at its heart a call for justice and democracy in the universal sense, then there is no problem. If, on the other hand, he is talking of a common awareness that is emerging which has Islamic identity at its core, then there are problems in what he is saying.
The notion of “Dar al-Islam” (“the House of Islam”), like the notion of “Christendom” throughout much of European history, is a universal concept as far as orthodox Muslims are concerned. Therefore, it can be debated whether an Islamic outlook on life is in the final analysis compatible with the “nation-state,” which ultimately divides the “House of Islam.”
Assessing Davutoğlu’s remarks in this light, one cannot help but wonder if this is what he suggests when referring to an “emerging awareness above the concept of nation-state.” Given the closeness the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, feels toward Islamic regimes and groups, as well as some of its practices at home that upset Turkish nationalists and secularists alike, one is forced to ask this question.
Of course Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the nationalism card now on certain issues with a view to gaining the nationalist votes in the general elections to be held in June. But he has given enough signs during his political career that suggest his Islamic identity comes first while his Turkish identity comes second.
Put more bluntly, it is not inconceivable, given this backdrop, that what Davutoğlu meant in his remarks to CNN Türk was that a common Islamic awareness is emerging in the region which would unite people above their sense of belonging to a specific nation-state.
If this is indeed so, and we still give him the benefit of the doubt since it could be that this is not what he meant at all, then it is clear that he is misreading developments in the region.
If we take the case of Egypt, for example, the sense of being “Egyptian” was much more apparent among the anti-Mubarak protestors than the notion of being Muslim. One cannot remember how many times one heard the remark, “Today I am proud to be Egyptian,” from jubilant demonstrators after Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation.
Neither was the sense of solidarity displayed by Egyptians since Jan. 25 based specifically on an Islamic awareness. The reason for this we think is that Egyptians – the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims – are highly aware of their religion anyway, which is intertwined with their national identity.
We will, as mentioned, give Davutoğlu the benefit of the doubt and assume that what he meant is that a common secular democratic awareness is on the rise in the region, and this is what cannot be rolled back.
Source : Hurriyet Daily News