ISTANBUL — July 15, the day of the failed coup attempt in Turkey, is undoubtedly a turning point for this country. What is still unclear is just where we will turn. It could be an opportunity for those who dream of a peaceful and democratic Turkey. And yes, it is still up to us to keep this dream alive and try to make it a reality. However, in order for political or social dreams to come true, they must be shared by the majority of a society. That still is far away in Turkey.
It seems, instead, that the two values at the top of the political agenda are reconciliation and reconstruction. But even those will be very hard to achieve. First of all, it seems, any evil factor that arises is immediately pinned on the Gülenists (the followers of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic theologian in self-imposed exile in the United States, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the coup attempt). But it is hard to come to terms with the future path to be taken without questioning Turkey's past as a whole.
The nationalist circles reawakened in the past weeks are just one example of Turkish short-sightedness. Still, the even more important sticking points are linked to the very different views of the future of Turkey in the eyes of the democrats, secularists, Kurds and Islamists. The latter view democracy as limited to having elections and tolerating secularism on a temporary basis, ultimately to give way to an order ruled by Islamic precepts.
Taking a closer look at the reaction to the July 15 coup attempt, we see that it goes beyond a common stance against coups: It is a step towards such an order. It is the official founding date of the "New Turkey." The other groups are of course suspicious and disturbed by this path, but neither their visions of the future nor their voters have the power to shape the future.
Ideology and opportunism
The Kurdish political movement is justifiably unsettled that the current political reconciliation is based on Turkish nationalism, but they are focusing on the Kurdish national struggle rather than joining in to build a new democratic Turkey. The conservative majority may not be supportive of an ideologically Islamist order but they have no grand objections against this path and defining democracy with whatever gets the most votes.
The worst thing about all of this is: The New Turkey project, by its current definition, does not promise more social peace, democracy or freedom. This is exactly why it cannot be the right path for the future.
The most inspired defenders of the "New Turkey" project are ideological Islamists — or Islamist nationalists to be more precise, along with opportunists of all stripes.
Islamism is an authoritarian ideology. No matter who says what, it is just a new form of social engineering. It is one thing to heed the importance not to neglect the Muslim culture of this country, but it is another thing to attempt to force all of society into the mold of Islam.
As of now, the Islamists still perceive democracy as "a foreign ideology that does not fit here," and secularism as the most basic infidelity. A New Turkey built on this line will be an authoritarian order under any circumstance. Of course, we may face new disasters before we ever get there.