Column: Illiberal democracy and liberal Muslims

Merve Şebnem Oruç BY: Merve Şebnem Oruç

Donald Trump, who took over the U.S. presidency on Jan. 20, was quick to start erasing his predecessor Barack Obama’s legacy.

Trump also underwent the most turbulent period in the first week of his presidency at the White House with the successive executive orders he signed. He took many sensational steps in this week, such as working to abolish of the health insurance reform called Obamacare, deciding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trump, who had started quarreling with the American national media during the election campaign, accused media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN, which continued the battle after Trump won, of publishing falsified news. Today, not only media giants in the U.S., but also leading companies, diplomats, judges and all other representatives of the established order, have waged a war against the new president.

Trump’s action that sparked the greatest reaction was his enforcement of a 120-day travel ban on Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, Libyan, Yemeni and Somali nationals as he promised he would during the campaign. Reactions to this decision, which is being called a “Muslim ban”, snowballed in the international arena, as well. Interestingly, those who did not care while Muslims were being bombed, those who said that it is not their problem while Muslims were being killed with chemical weapons and those who were concerned about how to get rid of Muslims while they were drowning on refugee boats in the Mediterranean, suddenly came to be in solidarity with Muslims. This must be the only pleasing aspect of such a scandalous action. It seems that the West’s liberal democrats first need to have an evil like Trump in order to remember the fact that Muslims are also human beings.

Turkey and Muslim countries have begun discussing the “Muslim ban.” The Obama-lovers among us, who had not even thought Muslims to be human beings until today, have come to show how bad Trump is by showing photographs of grieving Muslims at airports. It must be because of their naivety that some Muslims have made statements that supporting protests at airports is necessary, that Trump is a worse man than Obama and that everything will go bad. So, if we give the slightest support to such a process by protesting while the U.S. media reports on a possible removal of Trump on charge of misconduct in office, will Trump go and be replaced by a black man with the middle name Hussein who pretends to be Muslim-friendly? I am sorry, but a man with the middle name Hussein has already come and gone, further worsening the world and almost dragging it to the brink of a third world war with his elitist attitude. Trump is not a cause, but an effect of Barack Hussein Obama’s wrong policies.

The debate over whether Trump is good or bad is rather shallow, and it goes without saying that he is very bad. But there is no need to be the puppets of those who try to use Muslims as a tool to get rid of Trump through instant reactions. Indeed, the U.S. is a place where President George Bush went and Hussein came, where Hussein went and Trump came, and where evil is constantly produced by changing its shape in the name of American interests, whether openly or secretly. There is a long-term benefit in recognizing the stalemate the U.S. is facing instead of short-term and aimless protests.

The concept of liberal democracy, which Western democrats have been emphasizing since the beginning of the 2000s and using for the last decade to increase pressure on foreign politics by saying that “democracy is not just about ballots, it is also the result of the dilemma they are facing. Those who answer ‘yes’ to the question of whether racists, fascists or separatists can win free and liberal elections again by pretending to be peaceful and liberal and hiding their true colors,” define this situation as illiberal democracy. While the liberal democracy we often face today is countries with fundamental rights and freedoms such as the rule of law, separation of powers, and freedom of expression, assembly, religion and property, illiberal democracy defines countries where these are not present, but fair and free elections are held and leaders are elected by the public.

Moreover, this definition also includes the questions of whether the elected rulers of a Muslim-majority country are secular, whether its economy is liberal and whether its politics is parallel to American interests. If not, they are labeled illiberal. That is exactly why the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, who came to power in Egypt through democratic election, was defined by liberal democrats as the consolidation of democracy. They also allowed Syria to become like this, worrying whether Bashar Assad would be replaced by Islamists. They supported anti-Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacks and coup attempts in Turkey. In other words, the main contradiction of the U.S. is that it legitimizes all kinds of anti-democratic initiatives, including coups, for the sake of the establishment of liberal democracy.

Liberal democrats have said that such things would never happen in the West, but they are happening there today. When Trump fired the interim attorney general, Sally Yates, who refused to apply the ban on Muslims, accusing her of treason, Yates turned into a hero of resistance in the U.S. But at the same time, as a result of the president’s practices in the U.S., which is considered to be the leader of the free world, and where the president has unlimited authority, the rule of law, separation of powers, and fundamental rights and freedoms, in short, democracy itself, have come into question. Now what will the U.S.’s established order do? Will it respect the people’s preference and accept to be an illiberal democracy or will it overthrow its president through various anti-democratic means such as abuse, assassination or even a coup for the sake of liberal democracy? This is the point. This is what Muslims should follow instead of protesting Trump without falling into the trap of liberals.