Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Islamism Here! Turkish Government Doesn't Forbid Alcohol, Just Makes It Too Expensive to Buy

Please be subscriber 16,164. Just put your email address in the box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.

We depend on your contributions. To make a tax-deductible contribution through PayPal click the Donate button on this page. For more options, go HERE. We depend on your contributions. Thanks to all who have given already!

By Barry Rubin

How do you turn a secular country into something close to an Islamist state? Little by little, using stealth, and under the cover of being a moderate, democratically oriented party. That's what's happening in Turkey right now.

The U.S. government is determined not to notice that its old NATO ally is now a Tehran ally, doing everything possible to block sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, and that a country that was Israel's ally is now Syria's ally, doing military maneuvers with the latter instead of the former. The Europeans notice, say nothing, but become absolutely determined never to admit Turkey to the European Union.

Now Soner Cagaptay, the world's single most important chronicler of this march to Islamism, has provided a compelling example of what's happening to fundamentally transform that country: the Turkish government's war on alcohol.

It's sort of superficial and symbollic but it was the drinking habits of Turks that was one of the most powerful examples of the country's secular nature. Decades ago I heard the following joke:

Two Turks meet while on the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. One says, "It's great to meet a fellow Turk! Let me buy you a drink!"

A Turkish proverb says: "Two glasses of raki make you like a lion, three make you like a monkey." One of the listeners asks, "And what does one glass of raki do to you?" The response is: "We don't know. No Turk has ever drunk only one glass!"

Incidentally, I think it's reasonable to call drinking alcohol part of Turkish national culture rather than something installed by Kemal Ataturk's republic in the 1920s. Of course, no Muslim who didn't want to do so was ever forced to drink, but now the goal is to force Turks to comport with the regime's idea of proper Muslim conduct in this as in so many aspects of life.

So how does a "moderate," "conservative," "center-right" (Don't dare call us Islamist!) government drive out liquor? Not by forbidding it. Oh, no. By taxing it until nobody can afford to buy a drink.

Cagaptay documents how the government has raised wine and raki prices by 400 percent (Turkey's homegrown wine, by the way, is better than you might think) and taxes on beer have been raised 800 percent. No Islamism here, just "reforming" the laws.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.