Turkish and Indonesian Perspectives on ‘Governance, Community and Religion’

“The constitution of Turkey declares Turkey as a secular republic. The Turkish State controls the organization of Islam through the institution of religious affairs. The Turkish constitution considers the use of religion for political propaganda as a criminal offense”. “Conservatives are flexing their muscles but sole of Indonesia remain irreligious, diverse and accommodating. Indonesia is a Muslim majority country and not an Islamic country”.

These were the notions expressed by National and International speakers during a Roundtable at Heinrich Bӧll Stiftung (HBS) on Sept. 15, 2014. The event was part of a dialogue series “Governance, Community and Religion (GOCORE)” with Pakistani universities students, intelligentsia, academia and civil society jointly organized by Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in collaboration with Heinrich Bӧll Stiftung (HBS).

The speakers for the dialogue series include Dr. Behlül Özkan, Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations at Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey, Author of “From the Abode of Islam to the Turkish Vatan: Making of a National Homeland in Turkey” and Ambassador Mian Sanaullah, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Indonesia.

Dr. Behlul Ozkan said that Turkey has 90 years of secular tradition behind it. It is the only country in the Middle East and Africa which has completely secularized its legal system which is especially significant in the area of personal status law which regulates marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. “Turkey has a very good record of education and career opportunities for women depicted by that very high percentage of female participation in civil service, judiciary and academia”, he said while adding that the Turkish women were granted the right to cast their vote in 1930 before France, Greece, Canada, Switzerland and Belgium.

“According to the Turkish constitution, it is a criminal offence to use religion for political propaganda and likewise illegal to form political parties based on religion”, he said while adding that the same fact was also witnessed by the history where many political parties were closed down for political expedience i.e. use of religion for political propaganda. He said that the present constitution stated that Turkey was a secular republic and one cannot change this article/ clause as is it is under constitutional protection.

Dr. Behlul shared that in Turkey, the state controlled the organization of Islam through the institution of religious affairs which controlled the mosques, madrassas and other religious affairs. While talking about the political expedience and use & abuse of religion, he referred to the worst mining accident in Turkey’s history where 301 coalmining workers died, and the government, rather than punishing the responsible people, using the religious rhetoric, announced the deceased workers as martyrs and called the accident as destiny. “This also signifies that the use of religion for political purposes also brings upon a bad name on the religion”, he added further while underpinning the need for separating religion from politics.

Ambassador Mian Sanaullah said that Indonesia was the third largest democracy in the world and had a very high number of Muslim populace with 88.2% of Muslims out of the total population of 250 million but it was still a Muslim majority country and not an Islamic country. “From the governance point of view, it’s a democracy and not a theocracy”, he further added.

He said that Indonesia served under military dictatorship for a very long time and after 1998, under financial meltdown, and the youth protests ended the dictatorship.  He further added that it became a functional democracy and each year organized a forum in Bali in which heads of around three dozen countries participated to consolidate the country’s institutional structure.

“The first principle of the Pancasila, the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state, refers to believe in one God which can be used to absorb the Indonesian diversity as it does not mention which God”, he said while adding that there was no state religion but also it was not completely a secular country. “There are six recognized religions, Islam being one of them”, he said.

Ambassador Sanaullah explained that in Pakistan, religion was a glue, uniting the nation but in Indonesia it would be a dividing factor. “Prime Minister or the President can be impeached for corruption or any other felony in Indonesia” he said while adding that the constitutional court decided about elections, impeachment, fairness of budget and laws passed by legislators. “The constitutional court declared the recent elections in Indonesia as free and fair” he said while adding that the debate on the rigged election doesn’t only happen in Pakistan but in many other countries.

He said conservatives are flexing their muscles but the sole of Indonesia remain irreligious, diverse and accommodating.

The participants of the roundtable appreciated the initiative of CRSS and HBS and expressed that such sharing of perspectives from different countries must be continued.

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