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Partisanship is damaging Turkey and beyond

We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other

Ceylan Ozbudak

Published: Updated:

Changes are sparked with a thought. A moment of realization sometimes holds the torch and leads the way out of darkness. When shaped, that thought becomes a solid wish. It turns into a whisper, then into a debate, then into a movement. Before we even realize, solid thoughts help shape the history of men. All today’s realities were once someone else’s thoughts.

I look at Turkey today and see a ruthless fight towards the leading Party, just for the sake of opposition. Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy and anxiety is not change or freedom. It’s ruthless partisanship. At this moment in history, when the Middle East is in a state of endless conflict, we don’t need partisanship. We don’t need demagoguery, we need solutions.

It is surely quite natural that after the latest anti-graft investigation in Turkey, the opposition will have criticism for those members of the government if they are found by the court to be linked to the corruption. Corruption can never be justified or accepted. The judiciary, the press and the people should act hand in hand and aim to reveal the facts about corruption claims and not let any individual get away with it. However, it would be unfair to dismiss all the achievements of a government that changed the face of Turkey and ask for it to resign just because some members are under suspicion. More importantly, it will have an adverse effect on people towards the opposition and shake the trust of the nation in the opposition’s sense of justice.

Partisan state of mind

So, is it only the Turkish opposition that is like this? Surely not. This partisan state of mind emerges from a mentality left over from the Cold War era. The strong prejudices that emerged during that time and forced the world into being bipolar not only hurt the nations, it still continues to paralyze the stability of the world with its vestiges still haunting the political arena.

We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other. This prejudice forced societies and countries to pick sides by saying “you are either with us or them; there is nothing in between” and started a destructive storm with an attitude more suited to a football hooligan. We need to be on the side of the morality, not the political agenda. Ultimately journalism has also changed to a great extent and partisanship is very much a part of journalism now. Many reporters thrive on, and often take an indecent pleasure in, events that dismay the humanity.

Niccolo Machiavelli was wrong when saying “politics have no relation to morals.” Politics exists to serve people in the best way possible and people do not have to be prisoners to politics. The world is governed by opinion and for those opinions to best serve society, they need to stem from morals. Politics have to be shaped according to the needs of people. Especially in the Middle East, a melting pot of divergent ethnicities, faiths and philosophies, a sectarian divide or any other form of separation is not acceptable as a legitimate ideology. Many people never thought deeply about the roles that staunch partisanship or ambiguity or hypocrisy play in their lives and they naively thought that it’s impossible to get rid of them. It is possible and it is easy.

Examples from around the world

What we have to do is very easy; I want to give some examples to make it clearer. The recent government shutdown in the U.S. resulted from the mere showdown between the Republicans and the Democrats, and the desire of the Republicans to stop maybe the only significant achievement of the Democrats (or colossal policy failure, depending on your point of view). As a result of this showdown, a consensus on the government funding was not reached and it had to be shut down, which hurt millions of Americans. However, if both parties focused primarily on serving the people rather than trying to force the other into submission, and if they joined forces rather than fighting and worked together on the controversial parts of the package, that would have gained Republicans the trust of people due to their mature behavior, and wouldn’t lose them anything as they feared. For the time being, people either sought the Republican answer or the Democrat answer. Not the right answer. So, billions of U.S. dollars were lost in the process.

We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other

Ceylan Ozbudak

In this sense, it was exemplary of Gannushi to include the opposition in the process of building a constitution in Tunisia, and helped protect the democratization process, which started in a contentious and controversial way. Looking at Egypt, the events that unfolded following the ouster of the Mursi administration by a military coup, really represent an example of this bipolar worldview I’ve been explaining. The Mursi administration, which came to power after taking more than half of the votes one year before their ouster, might have displayed behavior that troubled some. Since the beginning of their rule, the Muslim Brotherhood were advised to introduce a European-style secular Muslim democracy in Egypt, which should have been far from the traditional position of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the operations of the army that resulted in the martyrdom of hundreds of people, the jailing of scores of Muslim Brotherhood members and the threat of looming execution didn’t bring General Sisi more power, as he initially expected. Egypt now has become an empty land with borders; a nation that has no free media, where liberals and even foreign journalists are arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts, where people live with the fear of a bomb going off any minute as they are walking down streets filled with tanks, where no tourist wants to go, and which sees ever more violent protests everyday. The only victory was a Pyrrhic one. It was right for Turkey to acknowledge this as a military coup since day one, and showing its stance against it. However, it would have been even better if Turkey hadn’t cut ties with the junta and maintained reasonable contact with both parties to negotiate between them, help them reconcile, aiding the Egyptian people as a result.

The problem between the Jamaat-e Islami and the Bangladeshi Government stems from the conflict between the powers of Asia: India has a direct influence over the approach and behavior of Bangladesh and the Awami Party towards the Jamaat-e Islami. Some groups in India assume if Jamaat-e Islami comes to power, this could cause a shift of powers in Asia, as Jamaat-e Islami will presumably build stronger ties with Muslim countries, and India fears that such a result would impair its interests in Asia. For the sake of holding onto their power, these circles in India have kicked off an anti-democratic massacre in Bangladesh. Yet, division and rallies especially in a country like Bangladesh, impede any possible social or economic development. India, instead of doing that, could try to fix the extremist elements of Jamaat-e Islami, which may disturb India, then reconcile the parties. This would result in a more stable and stronger Bangladesh and help save Bangladesh, India and Pakistan from their ordeal. Looking at developments with a prejudiced view and deliberately excluding a certain group only adds fuel to the fire. Those who find themselves as the isolated group are dragged into a more extremist line and are deprived of any opportunities to improve themselves according to the needs of the modern world. We simply must look beyond partisan goals and find common ground, partisanship will not serve the people.

The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making and the big issues of the day are not being addressed, such as the need of an Islamic unity. These antiquated notions, a hangover from the Cold War, need to be brought to an end; cooperation – not confrontation – is the only way forward. To continue with attempts to isolate and divide peoples is surely little more than an invitation to disaster, an unending an appalling circle of destruction, in which there will be no winners. A verse in Quran reads: “You who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin...” It is the duty of each citizen to be vigilant, to protect liberty, to speak out and disagree with extreme partisanship.

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Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.