Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Interview: Turkish National Elections 2015

Ziya Meral comments on the implications on historic election results on the BBC World News.
8 June 2015

Monday, 9 March 2015

Article: The Grand Myth of 'Muslim Community' in the UK

Published by Christian Today, 26 January 2014 

It is a common language. Many people in the UK, including some Muslims, use it. It saves time and energy in media conversations and most importantly helps to fit a thought into 140 characters of Twitter wisdom. Yet it is horribly misleading and potentially harmful.

It is misleading because there is no such thing as "the Muslim community" in the UK. There are Muslims for sure. Yes, Islam as a shared religion with its religious holidays and activities link Muslims, but they are not a single community. There are countless diaspora networks, some small neighbourhoods where people of similar ethnic origins live in close proximity, and a lot of different mosques and myriad Muslim organisations.

Migration patterns might give more numerical precedent or visibility to some groups, but substantial numbers of British Muslims are just like substantial numbers of British Christians. They dwell in multiple networks at work, school, personal life and religious involvement. They might or not be attending a local church (read mosque). They might be praying on their own, listening to sermons on line, and may be dropping in at a church for special days like Christmas and Easter (read Eid).

Some might be Anglicans (read Muslims that are in organised denominations with formal clerical structures), or like free Evangelicals (read mosques centred on a single minister). Some are like the Emergent Christians, (read Muslims who are on a spiritual journey and find it difficult to fit into a formal mosque). Some might cherish their ethnic heritage, go to family reunions, or it might be that they are a nuclear family and really have no enchanting large weddings but a civil registry and no 'exotic' migrant background.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

New Essay: The Question of Theodicy and Jihad

Published by War on the Rocks, 26 February 2015

After each terror incident relating to Muslim extremism, we see avalanches of commentary debating the doctrines of jihad in Islamic thought. A notable example of this is a recent essay by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” which has sparked a firestorm of debate. The trouble with these discussions is that they confuse theological justifications made by radical groups for the use of violence with causes behind the emergence and deployment of violence and its appeal among particular groups. The sum of all of the discussions on jihad in Islamic thought only leads us to a conclusion that it is permissible for a Muslim to deploy violence under certain circumstances and conditions. This finding is neither interesting nor useful for policymakers and strategists.
All uses of violence, whether by militants, terrorists or regular armies, need framing and validation. 

The social mechanisms used for unleashing violence as well as controlling the limits and outcomes of violent episodes are universal. It is not only religions that offer a cosmic framing of why war or violence might be inevitable at times; secular humanism, nationalism, socialism, liberalism, and international law too provide us with the same grounding, using the same mechanisms to appeal to and mobilize human beings. In fact, our common language of “just war” is a deeply theological framing and validation of the use of violence.

Thus, focusing on how the use of violence is justified in Islamic thought does not leave us any wiser about why we have seen groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) emerge, and why we have increasing numbers of people joining their campaigns and committing acts of terror as part of an “imagined community” fighting an imagined global battle.

It is clear that religion is an important part of this issue, but a healthy theological discussion starts somewhere else. The fundamental theological question that lies behind the appeal of such groups is not that of jihad but of theodicy.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Turkey and Iran: Preserving a lucrative partnership

New essay by Ziya Meral on Turkish Iranian relations in report "Post-Nuclear: the Future for Iran in its Neighborhood", European Council on Foreign Relations

Turkey and Iran have once again found themselves facing parallel challenges in the form of the group that calls itself Islamic State (here ISIS) and its implications for both countries’ security policies as well as interests in Syria and Iraq. These developments have led to some suggestions that Turkey and Iran could explore and co-operate on areas of mutual interest closely.

While such efforts and regional developments do bring the two countries closer, this essay argues that a brief look at the history of relations between the two countries, particularly during the last ten years, reveals a pattern of similar moments when both countries faced shared challenges and sought to work closely, which only revealed deeper differences and conflicts of interests and produced primarily mutual economic benefit. It argues that Iran and Turkey continue to walk a tightrope between the prospects of major diplomatic fallout caused by opposing policies and interests in the Middle East and the benefits of maintaining good bilateral relations.

Download the Report which includes the essay here:

Most Britons with migrant origins are natural Tories. Here’s why the Conservatives are losing them.

Published by

29 October 2014

It is that time of the political calendar once again when politicians try to outbid each other in what is now horribly dull and repetitive public discussion on migration. Whilst voices from the business world have continually raised their concerns about the adverse effects of such politics on the British economy, and academics have demonstrated serious problems with the figures and hyperbole casually thrown into discussions to incite hysteria over migration, not many have asked what the Conservatives might be losing in this process.

Attempts to appeal to cohorts concerned enough about migration to consider voting for UKIP is not surprising. Thus the appointment of Sir Andrew Green to the House of Lords and the careless comments made by Michael Fallon did not really shock or awe any of us. If anything, we have been underwhelmed. Yet, what has been increasingly shocking is the continual short-sightedness of such moves, and that the Conservatives still do not recognise what they are losing in this process: the substantial number of votes that they could attract from British citizens who are naturalised or with migrant origins.

For those whose understanding of contemporary Britain and its myriad communities and citizenry is outdated, the main constituency of the Conservative Party might still be imagined to be the archetypal “English” voter. But the reality is that a significant portion, if not the majority, of naturalised citizens and their children have values much closer to traditional Conservative ones than to those of any other party.

What the UK can do to advance religious freedom worldwide

Published by

29 October 2014

The developments in the Middle East over the last three years have brought home the points which many experts and practitioners have been making: persecution on the basis of religious belief and affiliation is increasing in the world. It is affecting every faith community and those with no faith,  fuelling a wide range of interrelated problems from radicalisation to violent conflict, with direct impact on UK domestic concerns such as increasing numbers of asylum applications and faith community relations.

Now, articles calling for an immediate UK response to religious freedom can be seen emerging from all corners of the political and social spectrum. Whilst these articles stem from good intentions, they suffer similar shortcomings.

Often they start from domestic political and religious positions with a wide range of unspoken anxieties about particular religions or the overall place of religion in today’s world. Most of the time they lack a grounded understanding of local contexts in which religious persecution happens, and lapse into reductionism, seeing a particular religion as the root cause of all that we see unfolding before us.

They also lack awareness of global trends and mirror-image developments in Africa, Asia, and even Europe, that make such reductions of the issue down to a single religion rather shallow. Most worryingly, such articles often ascribe no agency whatsoever to persecuted communities themselves and what they can do and how they can respond in the short and long term to address factors leading to persecution.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

ISIS Advances in Syria and Influx of Kurdish Refugees into Turkey

BBC World and BBC News interviews with Ziya Meral on ISIS advances in Syria, Syrian Kurdish refugees fleeing to Turkey.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Interview: Release of Turkish Hostages by ISIS

Ziya Meral is interviewed by Al Jazeera on release of Turkish hostages by ISIS and whether or not this would mean Turkey would now support a US campaign against ISIS.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Interview: Turkish reponse to new US campaign against ISIL

Ziya Meral comments on Turkish responses to ISIL threat and why Turkey is not willing to publicly join a military campaign against ISIL.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

France 24 Interview: Political leadership change in Turkey

Ziya Meral discusses inauguration of President Erdogan and the new political era under Prime Minister Davutoglu.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

What can regional actors deliver on Syria?

Ziya Meral presents what Turkey can do at the "How can a regional accord help the war in Syria?" conference in Copenhagen, organised by DIIS, Danish Institute for International Studies, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Soma Mine Tragedy in Turkey and Political Implications

Ziya Meral is interviewed by Zainab Badawi on BBC World' World News Today,  16/05/2014

Friday, 2 May 2014

Turkey and Egypt: Misconceptions & Missed Opportunities

Published by The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, 05 May 2014

The relationship between Turkey and Egypt has rarely been an easy one. During the British Mandate, the Turkish government found itself clashing with Egyptian authorities over the rights and entitlements of Turks living in Egypt. Then, of course, there was the infamous 1932 incident in which Ataturk humiliated the Egyptian ambassador at an official Turkish state reception by requiring that he remove his fez; the traditional hat had been banned in Turkey as part of Ataturk’s efforts to make Turkey become a “civilized, Western” country.

The 1952 revolution in Egypt brought no positive change to this state of affairs. In one incident, the Turkish ambassador—whose wife was an Egyptian with royal blood who had lost family assets after the Free Officers took control—refused to shake Nasser’s hand at a reception and insulted him publicly. Shortly thereafter, the ambassador was sent back to Turkey, and Turkish – Egyptian relations remained in a poor state for years afterwards. Turkish foreign policy, particularly its engagement with Iraq and its Western orientation, regularly brought both countries into collision as Nasser pursued his ambitious regional projects: Turkey’s support for the British in the Suez Crisis attracted Nasser’s anger, for example, while Nasser’s stances on Cyprus and Syria caused serious concern in Ankara.

Interestingly, it was the Democratic Party government of Adnan Menderes—a religious-conservative Prime Minister who was hanged following a military coup and who serves as a frequent reference point for Erdoğan—that pushed for more Turkish engagement with the countries of the Middle East following decades of Turkish disengagement. Turkey’s feeble attempts to unite and lead the Middle East clashed with the foreign policy efforts of Nasser’s Egypt, and it was only after the 1960 military coup that ousted the Menderes government that Egypt and Turkey began a normalization process.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

IISS Event: Turkey Beyond the Headlines

Dr Mina Toksoz and Ziya Meral discuss the developments in Turkish economy, politics and foreign policy at the IISS in London.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Turkey: Whose Side Are You On?

NOTE: Unpublished Post, it can be used in full by notifying the author.

Last 12 months have been truly draining for all who research and write on Turkey. We not only saw dramatic events and ups and downs that were difficult to decipher and make sense, we saw a toxic and suffocating climate descending on the Turkish public space and conversations on Turkey anywhere in the world.

Often, it felt like tidal waves of strong and clear views carrying masses and with it those whose day time jobs are covering and analysing those events. Polarization has been fierce, and there has been no option for anyone but to fit into a clear camp in clash with others.

In Turkey, one either had to sing praises of PM Erdogan and see him as the Messiah, or had to see him as the new Hitler committing mass crimes. One either had to be supporting a 'revolution' symbolised by urban and self-assuredly 'modern' Turks or 'protection' of the nation and 'national will' of similarly self-assured bearers of 'authentic' Turkishness.

Then came the further fragmentation as AKP-Gulen Movement clash unfolded, now, we had to take one side or the other, either enjoy the tremendously worrying damage caused to the state structures since it was the 'Islamists' clashing with each other, or take the side of AKP or its challengers from within the state.

Chronic troubles of Turkish public space only amplified these clashes; our incapacity to engage in a conversation with different views without intense emotions outbursting and the ultimate result of that being attacks, slurs, relativisation of whoever simply does not agree with us 100%.

Friday, 7 February 2014

BBC Radio 4 program on Gulen movement

Ziya Meral joins a discussion on Gulen movement and its relationship with politics in Turkey.

Listen to the special report "Turkey: The Gulen Movement"

Thursday, 9 January 2014

BBC World interview on Unfolding Crisis in Turkey

Ziya Meral is interviewed by George Alagiah on BBC World about the ongoing corruption scandal in Turkey.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Debate: Corruption Scandal in Turkey, France 24

Ziya Meral joins the Debate program on France 24, discussing on going corruption scandal in Turkey and its significance.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Interview: Corruption Scandal in Turkey

Ziya Meral joins HuffingtonPost Live to discuss the on going corruption scandal in Turkey. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

BBC World discussion on 2020 Olympics

Ziya Meral joins BBC World discussion on whether Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid should be the host for 2020 Olympics.