Davutoglu and the Ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L), Lebanese MP Bahia Hariri, former Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa and Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi attend the UN-organised "Reform and Transition to Democracy" conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 15 January 2012. (Photo: AFP - Joseph Eid)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Monday, January 16, 2012

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gives the impression that he is supremely confident about how the Syrian crisis will unfold. But he is actually concerned with other matters.

Davutoglu’s view is that the Arab world is not only going through a period of political change at present. He also explains that the region is witnessing the ascendancy of the Islamist group that most closely reflects both his own thinking and the historic concept of the Islamic state.

He tries to portray these new Islamists as modern, contrasting them with the jihadi groups that emerged in recent decades, which the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey opposes.

Davutoglu acts as though the political influence wielded by some Arab and Western governments in Egypt and other countries in North Africa will not endure: it applies only to the immediate aftermath of the revolutions there, and won’t leave a fundamental ideological mark.

The role played by the Gulf states in these countries does not seem to seriously trouble him. He does not make much of a distinction in this regard between the activities of the Qataris and the Saudis, although he notes divergences which reflect their political rivalry. But he sees both as promoting a political/ideological doctrine with which Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood are at odds.

And he does worry to some extent about the reckless adoption by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with powerful sponsors in Kuwait and the UAE, of Salafi groups, who the Brotherhood regards as ideologically incapable of leading the Islamic world.

From this perspective, Davutoglu acts based on the assumption that change is coming to Syria – either now, or in one or a few years’ time – and that the current regime in Damascus is doomed. Naturally, he does not want to demoralize his supporters and others eager to see the downfall of the regime in Syria. But he also wants these groups to bide their time, pending broader changes that will shake up the region as a whole.

In the meantime, he is seeking to persuade everyone he can to subscribe to his regional concept. This is based on the notion that the Sunni Islamist majority is prepared at this juncture, while still in the ascendancy stage, to conclude a deal with the region’s powerful Shia minority. He very much wants that deal to be struck primarily with Iran, in order to enable him to deal more easily with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

This goes beyond immediate political realities. Turkey is indeed hoping for the collapse of President Bashar Assad’s rule. It is doing what it can politically, economically, in terms of security, and through the use of propaganda, to bring about a new government in Damascus. But it also knows full well that hopes alone do not determine facts on the ground.

Davutoglu is seen as the brains of the Muslim Brotherhood’s governing party in Turkey. That helps him convey the message candidly, where possible, and with appropriate diplomatic and intellectual tact, when necessary. His message is that Arabs and Muslims, whatever their religious, political, or intellectual persuasions, must get used to the idea that the course of history in the Arab and Islamic worlds is at present being led by the Sunni Islamist current.

He is urging the others – meaning everyone not belonging to this current – to come out of denial, and signal their acceptance of this historic fact. That would make possible the aformentioned deal, under that same currents’ auspices, providing those others with the assurances they need to allow them to live in this part of the world.

Davutoglu, of course, has nothing to offer here other than the Turkish model of citizenship. Many believe that Turkey has succeeded in establishing social and political norms that enable political pluralism to function satisfactorily, and allow the freedoms necessary for political, intellectual, and social interaction.

That is at best. Yet Davutoglu cannot be all that sanguine about the ability of fragmented Arab societies to generate similar models. This applies to big countries like Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, and even small and rich states, like the emirates of the Arab Gulf.

He knows, moreover, that countries characterized by religious, sectarian, and cultural pluralism, which have a tradition of freedom and multi-party politics – such as Lebanon – face unprecedented challenges on the coexistence front. This can be seen clearly in Lebanon, while a small country with genuine political pluralism such as Tunisia is currently suffering the pangs of transition from dictatorship to a multi-party state.

The other thing Davutoglu ignores relates to the major issues that the people of this region consider important. True, the revolutions and the uprisings demonstrated, compellingly, the strength of people’s yearning for individual freedom and lives of dignity. But they also showed, just as compellingly, that the source of the problem lies in the regimes’ subservience to the colonial West, which is intent on sustaining Israel and its security.

Davutoglu knows too that the most compelling development over the past three decades has been the success of resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine, as well as in Iraq. This underlines the importance of standing up to Israel in practice, and not sufficing with the gains to be made from fleeting verbal confrontations that soon fade from the public mind, as in the case of Turkey.

If Davutoglu thinks that he can attract the Arab world to a civic or more sophisticated model of Islamist rule, as exists in Turkey today, it is a mystery why he ignores the most vital aspiration related to the national identity of Arabs and Muslims – to be free of the colonial West, and rid of its direct proxy, Israel.

He is therefore deluded if he thinks he can use the Arab revolutions and the successes of the Islamist current to urge everyone else to accept a new political status quo. If what Turkey seeks is to have any moral, political, or even religious legitimacy, Ankara would first have to renounce Israel and sever ties with it in addition to redefining its relations with the colonial West accordingly.

If it is incapable of doing that, it is incapable of envisaging changes – unless it opts to adopt the view that Davutoglu is a good intellectual theoretician but a failure as a practical politician.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Please enough with Islamists...Isn't enough how they destroyed the world. Does it take more bombing to make NATO understand that we don't want more Islamists in our countries.

The only war ship to Syria right now is send by the russians with the approval and possible financed even by Iran. So NATO is wrong. But russian and iranian Backing of a dictatorship is right?.

So islamist destroyed the world?. What do you mean by destroying the world. You mean like the second world war. And before that the colonization of the world by western imperialist like Britain in India, the French in Africa and the Middle East and the sycos pycot agreements, the slaughter and robbery of ancient civilizations in south america, the industrialized slavery in the united states, the gulags in the soviet union the atomic bombs in Hiroshima. What do you mean that Islamist destroyed the world. I don`t even mention the zionist here which were implemented by the West as a watchdog to keep arabs in there place.

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