Turkey's army faces a new challenge

The military has pursued its own agenda, opposing the government and controlling the people's political participation.

Mostafa Zain, in a comment article in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, criticises the approach adopted by the military establishment in Turkey, saying it limits the scope of people's thought and enforces a borrowed form of secularism. The Turkish army has always prevented the population from engaging fully in the political process by imposing a set of values that are alien to the country, the author says. Moreover, the army has manipulated Islamic extremist groups as the political opposition, and staged four coups.

Meanwhile, another Turkey was growing, one that is tolerant of its history. The army, of course, has been against rising national sentiment that disagrees with the founding father, Kemaal Atatturk. In other countries it has backed militias to help overturn governments led by Islamic parties, which presented themselves as conservative but not against secularist principles. Now the army faces a strong political trend which could weaken its overwhelming position in the political system of modern Turkey. It is possible that both parties will reach a compromise, but the conflict may continue with the army exercising its authority in the name of secularism, and the government strengthening its position based on popular acclaim.

"Those who fear a sudden war between the US and Iran over the Iranian nuclear programme should rest assured that any military action would entail a resolution by the UN Security Council. This is not likely for the moment because of reluctance by Russia and China," remarked Waleed Mohammed al Saadi in an opinion piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai. Learning from past experiences, no country, including Israel, will be able to attack Iran even on the grounds that Tehran is close to possessing atomic weaponry without an international consensus.

What is more, any military conflict would be disastrous and possibly involve the use of ballistic missiles enabled with massively destructive munitions, which would cause havoc. For these reasons, a quick raid is not likely to take place. Alternatively, however, measures such as an economic and financial blockade could be imposed to force Iran to comply with the West. Yet even these would require a resolution by the UN security council. This suggests that the western-Iranian conflict is doomed to continue endlessly. As a result, Iran is likely to get nuclear weapons sooner or later, and thus become an influential state in the region, except, of course, if moderate leaders gain power. Then, and only then, could Iran coexist with the international community.

"Despite the framework agreement between the Sudanese government and the Justice and Development Movement (JEM), a durable peace is still far from being achieved as new fighting between the government and another rebel group has taken place," noted the UAE newspaper Akhbar Al Arab in its editorial.

Many have warned against a partial agreement because it does not broaden the scope of peace in the troubled province. Last week's agreement - signed unilaterally - prompted other groups to step up military action in an attempt to sway public opinion to their cause and their claim that they have been marginalised. They are now trying to hamper the "peace deal" agreed on by the government and JEM. "This leads us to think that the government rushed to sign the agreement with what it considered the most powerful rebel faction in Darfur to restrain other movements or to weaken their positions. By doing this, the government thought it could force them to come to the negotiation table willingly. Yet this tactic turned out to be wrong, because many groups resort to force as a way to strengthen themselves before talks." If the rebels had unified, there could have been a much more comprehensive peace deal. Herein lies the role of mediators to bring differing views closer to each other.

"Who to follow? Who to reject? Who to disbelieve? Who to boycott? These are some of controversial questions that haunt the minds of many who are obsessed with the fatwa fever. Perhaps the number of fatwas issued in modern times outnumbers all those throughout Islamic history," wrote Mohamed Diyab in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat.

It seems to be a never-ending process. One can see them on TV, hear them on radio, read them on the internet, to name but a few, without knowing for sure who is eligible for this task. Offering religious opinions was a critical function in the past, and many scholars hesitated to do so. Only after consultation did the most able scholars accept such a hard task. That is why a fatwa in the past was more authoritative and had more effect on people's behaviour as well as convictions.

"Too many opinions hastily given lead to two divisions: those who consider the fatwa a non-binding opinion, while others who feel constrained. Accordingly, many cannot act even within the permissible sphere without asking more than one scholar." * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae