The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Rallying for Secularism?

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This is a rather amazing picture. At least, it is to me. And after reading the story behind it, I can’t help wondering if, under the same circumstances, we’d see pictures like this in the U.S. And if we we did, how long would it take?

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These are from same story.

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The scene is Turkey, but why are these people taking to the streets? They are rallying in support of something that such a dirty word in this country that you’d have to call is something else in order to have even a few dozen people show up, let alone thousands rallying to support secularism.

Hundreds of thousands of secular Turks demonstrated on the seafront of Turkey’s third-largest city on Sunday, fearful that the Islamic-rooted government is conspiring to impose religious values on society.

Police deployed thousands of officers, a day after a bomb at an Izmir market killed one person and injured 14 others. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, nor evidence that it was linked to the demonstration.

Izmir is a port city on the Aegean coast that is a bastion of secularism, and Islamic parties fare poorly there.

The rally — a show of strength ahead of general elections on July 22 — follows similar demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul last month. The huge turnouts were staged to pressure Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which nominated a presidential candidate deemed by the secular establishment to be Islamist.

…Throughout the morning, thousands were trying to reach Izmir and traffic choked highways leading to the city. Police initially estimated the crowd at about 200,000, but the number was believed to be much higher as more people arrived.

…Secularists fear that if Gul becomes president, the Islamic-rooted ruling party could challenge the country’s secular system unchecked. Sezer, a staunch secularist, had acted as a brake on the government by vetoing numerous bills and blocking the appointment of hundreds of officials.

Even considering the number of Americans who are “quietly agnostic” among the “religious moderates,” what would it take to get them to take to the streets alongside the people who would probably be the first to raise a protest?

I’ve been watching another story of religion and politics unfold in my RSS reader. I wrote earlier about the struggle over whether Thailand’s constitution should make Buddhism the official religion of the country. The latest news there is the the chair of the constitution drafting committee nixed the idea of making such a declaration in the constitution.

As a Buddhist, Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Prasong Soonsiri said he wants Buddhism to flourish, but it was not important to include such a declaration in the constitution.

Sqn-Ldr Prasong has shrugged off the call for Buddhism to be declared the official national religion in the new charter.

…He was responding to a group of Buddhist advocates who yesterday presented a letter calling for Buddhism to be declared the national religion. The group was led by Phra Thepvisutthikavi of the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand.

“There are two things that Buddhists should concern themselves with. They need to study Lord Buddha’s teachings and then find an opportunity to try to empty their mind of all impurities,” Sqn-Ldr Prasong said.

My guess is that something like that might rally Americans as the threat of such has rallied the Turks, and that someone in a leadership position might deliver the same message to homegrown theocrats.

At least that what I hope, anyway.

One Comment

  1. The sight of so much pro-secularism warms the atheistic cockles of my heart. However, the Turkish story comes with a caveat, to my mind. In Turkey, the military considers itself the guardian of Ataturk’s secularist version. Once the dust of demonstration clears, if the majority of Turks still vote for the Islamists, the military will launch a coup. That’s secularism at the expense of democratic process, and seems a high price to pay, IMO.