On the similarities between Egypt and Turkey

I don\’t know a great deal about either country: so this is very impressionistic indeed.

But the way I see it is that there\’s, very broadly indeed, two constituencies in each country. A largely rural and very religious majority and a minority urban and, while not quite irreligious, perhaps really not quite so worried about it all. That rural majority is able to vote in, in proper democratic style, people who will implement the largely Islam influenced policies that they desire. That much less religious urban minority doesn\’t like this at all.

But that urban minority is of course concentrated making their demonstrations of a great deal more importance than just their voting numbers.

It\’s as if the creationist Bible thumpers in the US were in fact a majority: not the substantial minority that they are.

My information base here is of course invisible almost to hte point of not existing: but this is what it appears like to me.

21 thoughts on “On the similarities between Egypt and Turkey”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    That rural majority is able to vote in, in proper democratic style, people who will implement the largely Islam influenced policies that they desire.

    I think it is more complicated than that. Because Muslims often think they want Islam. The Islamic-oriented among them often promise that Islam will solve everything. But of course when it is tried, it doesn’t solve much and they soon find they do not like it at all.

    The problem is what else have they got to replace it? Nothing in the Middle East motivates young men the way Islam does. Because it offers an alternative to the corrupt oligarchic military alternative that is pretty much what they have been stuck with since the Mongols. It is no good telling them to try liberalism when that does not grapple with the real issues – the Minister’s cousin will still get all the big contracts. The Islamists at least make a show of addressing those issues.

  2. Sounds about right, the pattern is repeated across much of the world. Conservative country bumpkins who don’t like the big bad metropolitan world of progress, freedom and such and are quite happy to tell the sophisticated urbanites to stick their liberal ways somewhere only a liberal would stick them. It’s led to real conflict before as well, vide Serbia 10-20 years ago.

  3. I’m not sure that the parallel with American rural populism is entirely valid. If we look at Anglosphere countries in general, particularly America, it seems that Statist religiosity has in fact been more of a thing of the urban elites, as I often point out regarding Progressivism; its modern nominally secular form is misdirective. The First Wave was driven by the educated urbanites who were trying to impose fanatical Protestant morals on everyone. It wasn’t rural hicks demanding the prohibition of whorehouses and beer, it was the urban upper class. Which is why I’ve described Progressivism as our version of sharia.

    And which is why the bible thumpers are more aligned to libertarianism than the urban elites are. The urban elitist vs. rural populist dynamic in the USA is thus I think quite qualitatively different to the Islamosphere.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B

    The First Wave was driven by the educated urbanites who were trying to impose fanatical Protestant morals on everyone. It wasn’t rural hicks demanding the prohibition of whorehouses and beer, it was the urban upper class.

    I think you need to rethink that. It was rural hicks demanding the prohibition of whorehouses and beer. Specifically it was a conflict between WASP communities who were mainly rural and the new urban immigrants – Italians and Irish who drank. Prohibition was an attempt to force them to become more like the Methodists down in the countryside.

    And which is why the bible thumpers are more aligned to libertarianism than the urban elites are.

    Only because they are losing. Being on the losing side of any argument makes taking power from the State seem like a good idea. Give them power and see how long they remain libertarian.

  5. SMFS-

    The WASP leadership who became the Progressives were overwhelmingly urbanites.It’s certainly the case that as in Britain they found rural communities to “lead” to create a semblance of mass support, but the motivation was upper, not lower, class. And indeed, one of their motivations was a terror that the USA was being overwhelmed by Catholic immigrants.

    The central point is that this was not populism, but elitism.

    One of the finest examples is of course the buffoonish Teddy Roosevelt, the wealthy East Coast lawyer who liked to dress in pioneer drag and act out as a frontiersman with his similarly wealthy, urbanite, East Coast friends.

    To put it another way, there are in our own country and time, many foolish poor people who have been persuaded to support the policies of the Progressives. But the ideological driving force is in Islington and Glasgow Kelvin, not Gasworks Street.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B

    The WASP leadership who became the Progressives were overwhelmingly urbanites.

    That may be true, but Prohibition was still overwhelmingly rural and Protestant. As people like Mencken kept saying at the time. Take the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

    “The WCTU was originally organized on December 23, 1873 in Hillsboro, Ohio and officially declared at a national convention in Cleveland, Ohio in 1874.”

    Not exactly major cities at the time. Their leaders?

    Sarah “Annie” Turner Wittenmyer – Born in Sandy Springs, Ohio Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard was born to Josiah Flint Willard and Mary Thompson Hill Willard in Churchville, near Rochester, New York, but spent most of her childhood in Janesville, Wisconsin.

    How about the Prohibition Party? Founded in the Comstock’s Opera House, Columbus, Ohio. It’s first leader was John Russell who was born in 1822 in Livingston, New York. Where the hell is that?

    The Anti-Salon League? “The Anti-Saloon League was the leading organization lobbying for prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century. It was a key component of the Progressive Era, and was strongest in the South and rural North, drawing heavy support from pietistic Protestant ministers and their congregations, especially Methodists, Baptists, Disciples and Congregationalists.”

    Their leader? Wayne Bidwell Wheeler was born in Brookfield Township, Ohio,

    Most of this is lifted from Wikipedia. As is this:

    “The dry movement was led by rural Protestants in both political parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League.”

    I agree with you about Teddy Roosevelt. But he had to play the cards he had.

  7. SMFS,

    You’re looking at the wrong data. Where people are born hardly matters. It’s a matter of looking at classes of people.

    Wheeler for instance was born in Nowheresburg… then went to University and became an attorney. Consider a modern equivalent (picked at random of the top of me head), Angela Eagle MP, born in Bridlington. Went to Oxford for that good old PPE degree, joined the urban elite.

    And so on.

    As I said, it’s common for elites to recruit the proletariat; classic examples in our own country being the Methodists swooping into the new industrial communities and marshalling congregations into temperance zealotry. But that temperance zealotry did not arise from the proles, they were recruited to it. Which is what I am arguing occurred in the USA.

    The WCTU was a vehicle, particularly, for the values of ruling class women on a crusade to expunge sin from America. Drinking, sex, Catholicism. Taking Frances Willard, for instance (from that fount of all knowledge Wikipedia again)-

    ” Her father was a farmer, naturalist, and legislator while her mother was a schoolteacher. Her father had originally moved to Oberlin, Ohio, to be part of the ministry there. During the family’s stay in Wisconsin, they converted from Congregationalists to Methodists, a Protestant denomination that placed an emphasis on social justice and service to the world. In 1858, the Willard family moved to Illinois so that Mary and Frances could attend college and their brother Oliver could go to the Garrett Biblical Institute”

    These people were not hicks.

  8. Turkey, Egypt or even Iran. Rural places are always more religious, mainly because of the lack of education and information. Not so easy to access the internet in the rural areas of such countries. So a lot easier to use propaganda on the rural populations.

    So yes it is a democracy and Egypt have decided to ignore it because democracy is so easy to abuse by those with vested interests and power. Democracy does not give power to the people, it gives more legitimacy to those who already have power.

  9. I believe it is actually urbanisation that drives islamism.

    It is the poor districts of Turkey’s large cities, as well as the smaller provincial cities that are the bedrock of AKP support. These districts are largely populated by relative newcomers.

    In the villages, they lived far away from the heathen sinners in the cities, unaware of very much. When they came to the cities they had a political awakening, when they found themselves in what seemed like a foreign country.

    In a generation or two, the population will be richer, better educated, more settled and less likely to follow the religious con merchants.

    The question is how do we minimise the damage between now and then? Military coups are not the answer, at least not in Turkey, as they damage the economic development of the country. The single biggest reason for the islamisation of Turkey is the stupid mistakes made by the previous military government, who opened religious schools to act as a bulwark against the reds.

    The biggest problem for the current Turkish government is that the class of people that are in charge of the commanding heights of the economy are mostly their opponents. So although the street fighting has finished, the story has a long way to run.

  10. Michael Jennings

    in Turkey, that urban population is much bigger, much more economically productive, and (almost the same thing) much richer. For this reason I tend to be much more optimistic about Turkey than about Egypt.

  11. Prohibition created some interesting alliances, and it isn’t quite as simple as saying it was Protestantism: within Protestantism, you have the pietist-confessionalist split, and they tended to divide on Prohibition along those lines. So while there is the obvious Baptists ‘n’ bootleggers phenomenon, remarked on by Timmy at points, there were also traditional Protestants taking the opposing line: for example, J Gresham Machen, a “fundamentalist” and fierce sparring partner of the theologically liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick, worked against his own Presbyterian denomination’s support for Prohibition while Fosdick was an ardent supporter of Prohibition.

    But I get the sense that Timmy’s analysis of the Middle East is quite accurate: the supporters of the Islamists are dispersed but have the numerical edge, while the modernist-secularists are concentrated but in a slight minority. The additional problem is that the numbers are too close for comfort, so that a very significant section of the population will be highly dissatisfied whatever the out-turn.

  12. There is an influential book The Fourth Great Awakening by Nobel winning Economic Historian Robert Fogel which places the upsurge of religious support in the US in the 70’s into the context of the other historical Great Awakenings.
    This 4th Awakening is said to have had its economic and political side effects such as a reluctance to pay tax.
    Tim W is surely right in his analysis of the stand off between metropolitan liberals and rube Islamic conservatives .But Tim preaches a Wahabi strain of market forces intolerance himself ,where human wishes must not influence the inscrutable workings of this higher power.

  13. Let’s get together and establish the anti-salon league. That’ll hit the urban elite ruling-class women where it hurts hardest.

  14. I think Tim’s assessment is correct, and as someone else mentioned, the same model (secularized urban population; religiously conservative rural population) is present in many other countries as well. I would add however that while we may apply this to Turkey, in fact the Turkish has unique characteristics which distinguish it in important ways from a secular vs religious struggle. It appears that the Turkish urbanites are concerned about they call as Islamist agenda on the part of the government headed by Erdogan. As far as they are concerned, the policies of Erdogan and his party threaten the secularism enshrined in Turkish constitutional law by Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Republic.

    That basically sums up how they have chosen to express their opposition to Erdogan. However, does it have any substantive, objective basis? In what sense is Erdogan an ‘Islamist’? If the word ‘Islamist’ is to be meaningful at all, we should insist that it’s applied to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated gangs in the Middle East that owed their genesis to the early modern period. A period in which nationalist movements struggled with Islamist movements for sovereign control of territories, and which was characterised by war and revolution. Now, clearly, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taleban, etc. all clearly state their goal as the institution of Islamic states and constitutions. They are firm and unequivocal about their agenda, which is the ‘religious state’, in which Islam is the supposed basis for the law and institutions and instruments governing everyone. Now it seems pretty strange to accept all that as Islamism and then throw Erdogan into that basket, when Erdogan poses no challenge, ideological or otherwise, to the steadfastly secular Turkish constitution. Why should we play along with it? Just because the Istanbul urbanites have coined a slogan against someone they don’t like? This does not seem to be sufficient.

    The elephant in the room is that reason may not be the ultimate arbiter of people’s political beliefs and activities. When we hear that some Turks are protesting in Istanbul, we assume there must be a reason for this. Is that an assumption too far? Maybe…

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B

    Wheeler for instance was born in Nowheresburg… then went to University and became an attorney. Consider a modern equivalent (picked at random of the top of me head), Angela Eagle MP, born in Bridlington. Went to Oxford for that good old PPE degree, joined the urban elite.

    Which university did Wheeler go to? For that analogy to hold it would have to be an Ivy. If it was Bob Jones, it would fail – or if Eagle had gone to the Solihull Community College.

    These people were not hicks.

    Somebody who moves to Illinois to go to Bible College is by definition a hick.

    SadButMadLad

    Rural places are always more religious, mainly because of the lack of education and information. Not so easy to access the internet in the rural areas of such countries. So a lot easier to use propaganda on the rural populations.

    But the religion of the rural areas is not the religion of the cities or the Islamists. The urban areas have a stripped down religion of the Book and nothing else. The rural areas have their shrines of Saints and religious mediators. The latter tends to be tolerant. The former not so much. The Islamists are a product of the modern urban world. Not the rural past.

    Rural Egyptians have been listening to secular nationalist propaganda for 50 years. Doesn’t seem to have taken.

    Serf

    In a generation or two, the population will be richer, better educated, more settled and less likely to follow the religious con merchants.

    You hope. Osama Bin Laden was not a peasant.

    Military coups are not the answer, at least not in Turkey, as they damage the economic development of the country.

    That is definitely not the case in Turkey. Or much of the rest of the world. Turkey has always had this problem – the voters want an Islamic government. The military has always prevented them in the past. So it has worked.

    The biggest problem for the current Turkish government is that the class of people that are in charge of the commanding heights of the economy are mostly their opponents.

    The Ak party is in bed with a lot of developers and fairly sizable businessmen. I am not sure that is true. The fight over the park is a fight over replacing it with yet another massive shopping mall. The protestors are not on the side of the businessmen who want the mall.

    DBC Reed

    But Tim preaches a Wahabi strain of market forces intolerance himself ,where human wishes must not influence the inscrutable workings of this higher power.

    Thanks for the amusing picture of Tim W stoning someone for refusing to think for themselves or chopping a hand off for not being willing to compare prices.

    You have outdone yourself.

    Skilful Art

    Now it seems pretty strange to accept all that as Islamism and then throw Erdogan into that basket, when Erdogan poses no challenge, ideological or otherwise, to the steadfastly secular Turkish constitution.

    I have a lot of time for Islamists who do not blow people up, but I find it hard to believe anyone would describe Erdogan as anything other than an Islamist. He does pose a real threat to the constitution because it is clear he does not accept it and is working to undermine it every way he can.

  16. Turkey and Eqypt are both heavlly urbanised.

    Eqypt 50%; Turkey 75%. (Wiki)

    Doesn’t really affect the argument though, which is cultural as much as demosgraphic.

    Urban populations need roots, and they look to their old reference points, and therefore the possibility exists.

  17. Maybe relevant here: 20th century Turkish history was basically a long series of interventions by the military whenever the civilian state strayed too far off the path laid out by Ataturk. Islamism, fascism, plain old corruption; all ran up against the military at one point or another.

    Is the same dynamic at work in Egypt?

  18. SMFS
    ‘think for themselves’? We have a Thought Police in situ much more efficient than the Stasi or anything Orwell dreamed up and which TW thoroughly approves of.
    Antbody who believes in a mixed economy has nobody to vote for to represent this point of view.

  19. Skilful Art

    ….when Erdogan poses no challenge, ideological or otherwise, to the steadfastly secular Turkish constitution……

    That is quite clearly not true. The main cause of the protests are actually authoritarianism, not Islamism, but there is a creeping Islamisation of the country.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    ….. the voters want an Islamic government. The military has always prevented them in the past. So it has worked……

    Yes but what Turkey needs is not a military coup, but the credible threat of a military coup, which is no longer there.

    The last military government at the beginning of the 80s, was not only a disaster from a basic rights point of view, but also led the way for the rise of the AKP through its stupidity, and made potential support for future military action much less, through its brutality and incompetence.

    ……..The Ak party is in bed with a lot of developers and fairly sizable businessmen. I am not sure that is true…….

    The AKP government is in bed with rent seekers, preferably ones whose business model is not sustainable without regular favours. These are not the businesses creating value.

    The protesters are more likely to work for businesses that actually have sustainable business models, are active in competitive markets and sell goods and services that consumers actually want to buy.

  21. Reminds me of C19 France. When they finally held a democratic election (all men who were heads of households got a vote – near enough), the urban elite (“democratic”) revolutionaries got a shock: the first one elected Louis Napoleon, the second one, 20 years later, elected a thumping majority of monarchists (indeed, they would have restored the monarchy if the Comte de Chambord hadn’t been a thundering idiot).

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