As a “secular Muslim” (I use that term loosely, as more of a cultural description because I do not practice organized religion) I am rather perplexed by the social fallout of the failed military coup in Turkey. While it remains to be proven, Erdogan has officially blamed the coup attempt on the US-backed, self-exiled hard-line Islamist Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a former political ally of Erdogan and is just as radical—if not more so—an Islamist as Erdogan and his AKP party. If Gulen (with help from the US) was indeed behind the coup attempt, then it is a case of Islamist vs. Islamist and not secular factions within the state trying to take the country back from Erdogan and the Islamists (as many initially thought).
Even though it may be a case of Islamists vs. other Islamists, it appears that the social fallout will be felt most among the secular, moderate and or non-religious people of Turkey. These are the reports I am reading in some media outlets and receiving from Turkish friends in Istanbul and Ankara, most of them artists, writers and intellectuals. While the secular demographic are not “to blame” for the coup, the failed coup has emboldened the local Islamists against them in frightening ways. As Patrick Cockburn reports, one female journalist and photographer felt scared to walk through Taksim Sqaure—Istanbul’s tourism and cultural hub—recently because of her non-religious attire: “I was so scared because all the women there looked at me as if I was a demon. The men said that ‘if you go on dressing like that you deserve to die’. Most people there were carrying red Turkish flags, but there were some black flags with Arabic writing on them like you see in Daesh (Isis) videos”  . Continue reading