Friday, 11 May 2012
Published in Huffinton Post UK, 10 May 2012
What is the aim of Iran's insistence on advancing its nuclear program? The question might seem odd, or an unnecessary elaboration of a question answered long time ago. However, recent developments in the region and negotiations with Iran have highlighted the urgent need to stop and ask the basic questions once again and formulate responses suiting the current conjuncture.
It is clear that while it is still a long way ahead, Iran's nuclear program ultimately aims to be able to reach at least to a level where it could weaponize its nuclear stock. There are two major reasons why a country would want to do that, and in the case of Iran, those two main reasons have been debated ad nauseam.
The first of these is deterrence. The potential to have nuclear weapons, if not having some, would strengthen Iran's sense of security and stand against other countries in the region which it deems to be a potential threat or competitor.
The second is aggression, a reason continually spoken of by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and a host of voices in the West. In this reading of Iran's nuclear ambitions, the ultimate goal is actually attacking Israel and threatening the region.
Thursday, 10 May 2012
Published by Today's Zaman, 9 May 2012
The recent decision by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to privatize state theaters has caused a wide stir.
In fact, communist countries have always had a keen commitment to “supporting” the arts and to using them as an important vehicle to influence and control public imagination. Therefore, as painful it is for many in the industry who will lose their jobs, in the long run, the privatization of theaters will provide freedom and market competition necessary for better productions and performance by actors.
There is, however, an elephant in the room -- a much larger, powerful state control mechanism: state regulation of religion. It is really no surprise that the newly founded Turkish Republic saw it vital to establish the Directorate of Religious Affairs and, through it, to regulate and manage the type of Islam it sought to enforce.
The directorate still consumes a giant slice of the state budget, employs all imams in the country and by and large still dictates particular readings of Islam. In the last few years, the official enforcement of a particular creed has been widely challenged and various groups who do not fit into that creed have argued for representation and funds from the directorate. However, these acts are not enough. The directorate must be decommissioned, just like state theaters.
There are two common worries regarding the decommissioning of the directorate. The first one comes from concerned secularist circles, which fear that an end to state regulation would open the floodgates of Islamism and all sorts of problems with religious groups. The second one comes from concerned conservative circles, which fear decommissioning the directorate would mean that clergymen and mosques would not receive funding to perform their duties and thus the practice of Islam would be harmed. As convincing as these concerns sound to their respective adherers, they are both wrong.