Archive for August, 2016

Turkey under Erdogan

August 24, 2016

Nasir Khan, August 24, 2016

Dr Richard Falk looks at the present situation in Turkey under Erdogan from different angles, and he weighs in both positive and negative sides of the likely scenarios after the July 15 coup. Shifting political partners and allies is a common addiction of all power-hungry leaders. We who have the welfare of people of Turkey in our hearts would be glad that Erdogan does not fall in the trap of those myopic considerations and interests.

How will Erdogan fare in the near future is difficult to predict. However, demagogues may be clever in mobilising support of ordinary people around themselves but not so clever when it comes to using that popular support for the common good that in case of Turkey still is to maintain a secularist democracy as Ataturk had envisioned and introduced. Any sneaking religious compromises go against the Kemalist legacy that had made a break with the medieval mindset of the Ottoman times.

Despite all the overtures from the PKK leadership to find an acceptable solution to the demands of the Kurds, Erdogan did not do much. He continued dragging his feet and that has led to the renewed military confrontations with the Kurds. This is true that Erdogan can cause much damage to the Kurds militarily, but he will not be able to control the fallout of such ‘military solution’ to the problem. The Kurds are not going to disappear. That will create more violence and instability. The whole situation is fraught with great dangers for both sides.

If he opens up too many fronts, how will he fight? He may wield only two swords in his two hands but he will need may hands to hold many swords to fight on many fronts! As a result only the ordinary people of this country will suffer.


Dr Richard Falk

 
[Prefatory Note: An earlier version was published by Middle East Eye on August 10, 2016. It seems so important at this time for the sake of the future of Turkey that the West look at the country …
 https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-sky-above-turkey/
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Review of the paper on the Dome of the Rock and its Arabic text from the Omayyad period

August 21, 2016

Nasir Khan, August 21, 2016

This is a scholarly paper, originally in Swedish, authored by Lars Djerf in which he has concentrated mainly on the Arabic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock (DR), their meaning and purpose in a wider political and religious context at a time when Islam had emerged as a dominant political power and religion in the Middle East by replacing the Byzantines in the region.

His presentation of the material is systematic and well-grounded in historical researches and important sources throughout the paper. The interpretation of the Qur’anic texts on DR takes into account the cultural context as Ludwig Wittgenstein had advanced in his views on ‘language games’. Philosophers belonging to different trends in the Continental and Anglo-American analytic philosophy have generally accepted the insights Wittgenstein provided about the working of languages in varying social contexts. The author emphasises ‘understanding intentions and actions’ while interpreting the Arabic texts. In a historical narrative, a text needs to be understood in its social and cultural context to see and analyse the intentions of the original writer.

The author has given a good summary of the condition of DR before Caliph Abd al-Malik (reigned 685-705 AD) started the construction of DR. He discards the view that the Caliph wanted to replace the Meccan shrine with a new structure at DR, as some people have suggested. In fact, much false propaganda is still found about this great caliph. Some have even argued that Abd al-Malik was the real founder of Islam and not the Prophet Muhammad! However, there is little support for such views in serious scholarship on the early history of Islam.

Islam arose in Christian and pagan environments. During the early centuries of the Church numerous Christological controversies arose. During the life of the prophet Muhammad, the controversies about the nature of Jesus (whether he was a man, a divine god or both) were widespread throughout the length and breadth of the Byzantine Empire. Christology had become extremely polemical and led to unending conflicts between different Christian sects.

However, the Qur’an offered a different view of Jesus from the ones professed by Christians. The author has discussed this point adequately and shown why the Qur’anic verses or paraphrases of the Qur’anic texts were meant to offer a theology that emphasised the humanity of Jesus and his prophthood. After the peaceful ‘conquest’ of Jerusalem by Caliph Omar in 638 AD, Islamic political power was established there. At that time, Jerusalem was mainly a Christian city.

By the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik Islamic power was stabilised and the Islamic empire had expanded vastly. Now the task for the new rulers was to assert the uniqueness of Islam as the true religion that was open to all others. The selective Arabic texts from the Qur’an were meant to show what Islam taught about Jesus. In a way, the message of Islam for Christians and Jews was there on DR for all to see. The pure form of monotheism (belief in only one god) that Islam represented was not reconcilable with the Trinitarian godhead of the Church.

In Iconoclastic controversy that lasted 120 years within the Byzantine Empire, St John of Damascus (c. 675-749 AD) defied Emperor Leo III and came firmly in support of icons. The work of St John of Damascus as the defender of orthodox Christianity was to combat Islam, which he termed as the ‘heresy of the Ishmaelites’. He did not see Islam as a new and independent religion. In fact, for him Islam was one more heresy within Christianity.

The author in his conclusion shows that the motives behind the inscriptions on the DR were purely missionary. Having shown what the Qur’an says about Jesus, a great and venerable prophet, the message to all was to come to Islam.

The author has written a commendable paper that contributes to our understanding of the interaction between Muslims and Christians. The attitude of the Omayyad caliphs of Damascus towards Christians was one of toleration and respect. They held high official positions in finance and public administration.

Photo: The Dome on the Rock, Jerusalem
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