Friday, August 03, 2007

Turk Leaders Religious, but Economy Strong
By Bashir Goth
The minute the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was declared, Turkey's stock market jumped to a record high. The local business community welcomed the AKP victory as a choice of stability and continued economic prosperity over instability and chaos, while foreign investors hailed the AKP government's handling of the economy even before the elections were held.

With 7% average economic growth over the last five years, the Turkish people voted with their pockets and for the continuity of the economic and social stability of the country. Who cares whether the prime minister's wife wears a headscarf, when you know you can get a good job, send your children to a good school, and have the government assurance that it will not interfere in your personal life regarding such issues as what your daughter or son wears at the beach or on the street, or whether you desire to spend your night in the mosque or the bar.

I was watching the AKP rallies during the elections and I saw women wearing the latest Western fashion trends and hairstyles and youths of all walks of life all supporting the Islamist-rooted AKP. After living almost five years under the AKP rule, these people would have kicked out Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party if they had failed on the economic front, infringed in any way upon people's personal rights or stifled freedom of speech. But the fact voters returned them to power with an overwhelming majority speaks louder and clearer than whatever humbug uninformed political pundits breathe into the unassuming media.

Secularism is enshrined in the Turkish constitution and the AKP government has proven its respect for it day after day over the last four and half years they were in power. Even amid the euphoria of his victory, Erdogan was quick to reassure the Turkish people that his government would safeguard and respect the country's principles and the rich diversity of its people.

With his previous record right before our eyes, there is no reason to assume that Mr. Erdogan will not live up to his promise. To suspect the AKP of having a hidden Islamic agenda because its leaders observe Islamic rituals or their wives wear headscarves is like inviting Muslims to look with suspicion at Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union because it carries the word Christian in its name. In fact one may argue that the AKP are ostensibly less rigid in their religiosity than George W. Bush. I don’t recall anytime they claimed God to be on their side.

The election victory of AKP is a gain for secularism because liberal views and personal freedoms cannot thrive without economic prosperity, and the AKP brought economic boom to Turkey and promises more. It is again that economic growth that will stem the primary sources of social ills and deprive extremism of one of its favorite breeding grounds.

Embracing the AKP, therefore, and allowing Turkey to join the EU will not only be a visionary step forward and an initiative for reconciliation with the Muslim world, but it will also deal a fatal blow to the fallacy of the clash of civilizations and expose the Islamists' hollow argument that the West is against Islam as a religion. To shun Turkey's AKP will not only be to repeat the bitter experiment of Algeria, but it will make the West-Islam gulf irreparable.Read more in Washington Post
Faisal Waraabe got it right
By Bashir Goth
As Somaliland slides towards tribal fragmentation in the run up to the presidential elections to be held early 2008, there is only one politician who has been correctly reading the signs of the impending doom and warning people against falling into the abyss.

Contrary to his brand rhetorical gaffes, Faisal Ali Waraabe has lately been using his words with caution and precision. At a time when the ruling UDUB and the major opposition Kulmiye parties have descended to their lowest by soliciting support through clan loyalties, Faisal decided to campaign on a national platform and rightly warned against the tribalization of Somaliland politics.

He is the only opposition politician who rejected to capitalize on the current political imbroglio resulting from the arrest of the leaders of “Qaran party”. While most of the opposition leaders in Kulmiye and even MPs from Faisal’s UCID party, including the Speaker of the Lower House, decided to put the cart before the horse, Faisal has again rightly behaved like a responsible and law abiding politician. He pointed out that it was the government’s duty to safeguard the country’s constitution and ensure that all citizens abide by its provisions. He also demanded that the arrested politicians be brought to court without any delay.

Measuring his moves wisely and carefully, he refused to go with the herd mentality of blanket condemnation of every action the government takes.

No one denies that the government has been committing blunder after blunder lately, particularly in its repeated and unwarranted detention of journalists. We all demand that the government should not infringe on citizens’ personal rights and stifle people’s freedom of expression, but it should also be known that as Faisal has rightly pointed out that the government is responsible for the country’s peace and stability. And with that comes obligations to make unpopular decisions and take tough actions on certain occasions.

The arrest of the “Qaran Party” leaders, as unpopular as it may seem to be, comes within the government’s legitimate jurisdiction to deal with situations it deems harmful to the stability, peace and security of the nation.

Regardless of the constitutional debate on the legitimacy of founding a political party other than the existing ones, it is the ABC of democratic systems that any person or group of persons who want to form a political grouping should go through legal registration and licensing procedures. Any attempt to create any form of political organization without going through the proper channels is not only an upfront to the constitution but reeks of sheer arrogance and selfish political opportunism.

It is also obvious from the government’s statements that the leaders of the “Qaran party” were not arrested for expressing their opinions as ordinary citizens per se, but they have been arrested for founding an illegal political party without going through the proper procedures. All that we should demand from the government now is to prove its accusation in a court of law and as soon as possible. It is there and then where the legality of the government’s action should be decided and not through tribal sentiments and emotional outbursts.

Faisal Ali Waraabe is therefore one politician who took the moral high ground by campaigning on national agenda rather than on tribal arrogance, while other big names have fallen flat by invoking old clich├ęs, opening old wounds and trying to bask in retired slogans.

Well, we may argue that we don’t have the best government on earth, but we have to also admit that no government will be good enough for us unless we become law-abiding citizens. For as long as clan loyalties stay above the law, as long as we view the man in the presidency as a tribal chief rather than an elected leader, as long as we support politicians on the color of their tribal flags and not on their national agenda, then we have to know that we cannot escape ending up as another Somalia. The choice is ours and at least we have one political leader who can say: “I told ya so.” Faisal Waraabe has got it right and it is worth listening to him before it is too late. Read more in Awdalnews

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't Treat Russia like a Third World Country
By Bashir Goth
Answering this question led me to consider several other questions: "Why does the West treat Russia like a Third World country? Why, whenever Russia cooperates in one area, does the West demand an arm and a leg in others?" Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has tried to ingratiate itself with the West, sometimes at the expense of its own pride, sovereignty and national interests. It went along with the West in dismantling former Yugoslavia and allowed the U.S. to deploy forces to its borders to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, although the real objective was to gain access to the Central Asian countries' oil. It was not easy for Russia to lose its traditional friends and arms markets in North Korea, Iran and Iraq, but with a bit of pragmatism and statesmanship, it let the West have its way. It has only used its UN Security Council veto power two times since 1997, against 12 times by the U.S.

Russia also didn't show more than a whimper when the West began converting countries like Ukraine, Georgia and others against Russia under the pretext of spreading democracy, without giving much thought to the long-term impact that the instability in these countries could have on the security of Russia and the whole region. Not amused by Russia's patience and cool diplomacy, the America went for the jugular by announcing their much-hyped missile defense system, with the intelligence-insulting justification of protecting the U.S. and Europe from missiles coming from the technologically handicapped countries of the Middle East. As if all these provocations were not enough, the UK now presents its outrageous request for Russia to change its constitution so that a Russian suspect can be extradited to Britain.

In the light of these developments and looking at the issue from a Third World perspective, it is not difficult to agree with Putin's accusation of Britain behaving with a colonial mentality.

"It's their mindset, not our constitution, which needs to be changed. What they are offering to us is a clear remnant of colonial thinking," Putin said.

A more precise and more convincing statement also came from Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: "The West was celebrating its victory after the exhausting Cold War. While observing the 15-year-long anarchy under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and surrendering of all positions abroad, the West quickly got accustomed to the idea that Russia had become almost a Third World country and would remain that forever. When Russia began to strengthen its economy and statehood, the West perceived that, perhaps on a subconscious level, with panic."

Common sense says that Britain could have received more cooperation from Russia on the Alexander Litvinenko case if they had opted for soft diplomacy, friendly persuasion and mutual respect instead of resorting to media hype, diplomatic spectacles and unnecessary provocation.

It is time for the West to realize that the Russia of today is not the Russia of Boris Yeltsin's scarecrow, but a real military power with a vast economic wealth at its behest. Treating Russia, therefore, with a bit of respect and equality will not only be good for West-Russia relations but for the security and prosperity of the whole world. Read more in Washington Post.