Sa'ed Atshan
Last updated: 5 June, 2013

“Being a secularist does not mean that one is necessarily hostile to religion”

In a very personal comment, Sa'ed Atshan connects the crisis in Turkey with the Palestinian cause and what it actually means to be secular.

As I look at my newsfeed with debates about the recent collective action in Turkey over the past few days, some thoughts come to mind:

1. As a Palestinian, I am completely against Erdogan’s appropriation of the Palestinian cause as a cynical attempt to increase his popularity at home and across the Middle East and to distract his population from his autocratic form of governance.

2. The number of non-Turks rushing to Erdogan’s defense and condemning the Turkish protestors is unbelievable to me. It’s audacious to argue that people in a different country who have to live under their government do not have the right to protest the state and the freedom to express their opposition to its policies.

3. The number of religious fundamentalists calling the protesters in Turkey “a bunch of prostitutes and alcoholics” is reprehensible (though not surprising).

4. Being a secularist does not mean that one is necessarily hostile to religion; instead, secularism calls for a separation of religion from the political system. We have to make that distinction and I am alarmed that the term “secular” is increasingly carrying a very negative connotation across the Middle East.

5. The conflict in Turkey is not between secularists and Islamists but between pluralism and creeping authoritarianism.

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