Turkish nationalism (and the dangers thereof)

“One nation, under God…”

Nationalism is not a foreign concept nor is it a concept excluded from almost any country in the world. Nationalism is patriotism. It is loyalty and devotion to a nation; specifically, it is “a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.”

And, according to Zakaria, nationalism is dangerous.

Zakaria argues that the rise of nationalism in economically advancing nation-states across the globe leads to a decrease in nations’ willingness to come together and solve collective problems. As nations’ individual powers increase, so grows each’s confidence, and the rise of the rest—a concept also highlighted as well as deterred in Ruchir Sharma’s “Broken BRICs”—is leading to diminishing chances for agreement and common action.

Turkish nationalism often stems from the root of Islam in the nation. Though Ataturk was arguably successful in promoting a secular nationalism during the interwar period, the influence of 98 percent of the population’s religion remained prominent. For example, according to Soner Cagaptay, there is a tension in Turkey between Islam as a religion and Islam as an identity, which is in many ways evident in Turkey’s Kurdish conflict. As a group, Kurds are almost entirely Muslims. The strong Islamic Turkish nationalism, thus, insisted the assimilation of the Kurds into the Turkish nation. However, many of the Kurds resisted this incorporation much to the incomprehension of the Turks. This inequality created conflict through the increasingly aggressive demands of the nation’s religious patriotism forcing the Islamic Kurds’ Turkification.

However, the influence of Islam in Turkey and Turkish nationalism is even more terrible in examination of the Armenian genocide. The rise of the three Pashas, three disgruntled Turkish officers, led to the movement and eventual Christian conspiracy in 1914. Hundreds of Armenian intellectuals were arrested and executed at the hands of Turkish troops, under the command of Mehmet Talaat Pasha. The beginning of the Armenian genocide “marked the beginning of the systematic extermination of the Christian communities of Asia Minor.” Christians were gathered throughout the area and deported across the Syrian Desert into concentration camps, though the majority died during journey. The present Turkish Republic still denies that this genocide was committed and “has legally criminalized—through its overly nationalistic constitution and under the penalty for insulting Turkishness—the argument that the mass extermination of the Ottoman Christian populations (Armenian, Assyrians, Greeks and Turkish Christians) constituted a form of genocide.”


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