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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at

The Duel in Islam, Turkey's New Model vs. Iran's

Published Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi-4

 New York (New York Post ) For centuries, Iran and the Ottoman Empire, of which modern Turkey and Egypt were parts, fought for influence in the Muslim world. That changed when Turkish westernizers under Kemal Ataturk and their Iranian counterparts under Reza Shah Pahlavi decided that religion was the cause of their nations' decline.

Ataturk adopted the legend that the Turks descended from the Celts while Reza Shah promoted the idea of Iran as an "Aryan nation."

For a while, Egypt (thanks to its Al Azhar theological center) remained influential. But that, too, changed in 1952 when the so-called Free Officers staged a coup under Col. Gamal Abdol-Nasser and declared that socialism, not Islam, was the future.

With the three nations that had shaped Muslim opinion for centuries thus knocked out of the picture, attention focused on new centers of Islamic inspiration in the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. But these versions of Islam weren't developed enough to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of Turkey, Iran and Egypt to the sidelines of the Muslim world. Arabia and India offered militant energy but little philosophical and theological guidance, let alone a political model.

The Iranian model began to emerge after the mollahs seized power in 1979 and proceeded to invent a narrative influenced by European ideologies such as fascism and communism.

The picture may be changing: Turkey and Iran have reverted to their traditional roles by offering rival models of political Islam. (Egypt is still out under what is left of the Nasserist regime.)

The Iranian model began to emerge after the mollahs seized power in 1979 and proceeded to invent a narrative influenced by European ideologies such as fascism and communism.

The Turkish model grabbed the limelight when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide election victory almost five years ago. Represented by the AKP, the Turkish model is inspired by European right-of-center political parties with an added liberal varnish.

At least four fundamental differences distinguish the two models:

Provenance: The Iranian model was shaped in Shiite theological schools of Qom and Najaf (in Iraq) by mullahs mainly of peasant backgrounds with little or no experience of the modern world. The Turkish model was the handiwork of engineers, medical doctors, businessmen and economists with urban, middle-class backgrounds.

The Iranian Islamist movement entered into a strategic alliance with Marxist-Leninist and Maoist elements as early as the '60s and was heavily influenced by their worldview, culture and methods. The Turkish model shunned the left from the start and even joined the army against the leftists from the '50s onward.

Method of gaining power: The Iranian model won power through insurrections, assassinations, guerrilla attacks, strikes and massacres (such as the burning of the Rex Cinema in Abadan in 1978) - not in free and fair elections.

TayebRajib Erdoqan
Mr. Erdoqan, Turkey's Prime Minister, is also the l;eader of the Islam-based Justice and Devleopment Party

The Turkish model, by contrast, won power via free and fair elections conducted by its ideological rivals. It never had recourse to violence, never murdered opponents, never robbed banks to finance itself and never burned hundreds of people alive to terrorize public opinion.

Record in power: The Iranian model forced almost 4 million Iranians into exile, caused the deaths of a million more in civil and foreign wars and mass executions, filled the prisons with dissidents, disbanded the national army and cancelled a constitution for which generations of Iranians had fought and, at times, died.

The Turkish model forced no one into exile, didn't fill the prisons with opponents, provoked no wars and did not tear up the constitution. Nor did it destroy the Turkish state's institutions, notably the armed forces.

Road map for the future: The Iranian model claims to be seeking to revive the rule of Ali Ibn Abi-Talib, the fourth Caliph of Islam and the first Imam of Shiism, whose rule ended with civil war and his own assassination. (No one quite knows what that rule looked and felt like, for there are no reliable historical records.) The Iranian model could be summed up in the concept of the walayt faqih, or the guardianship of the theologian. This means that a single theocrat has the power to decide what is and isn't Islam.

The Iranian model rejects modernity as a creature of the western "Infidel" powers. It sees globalization as a cover for American hegemony and dreams of uniting under its leadership all anti-western elements. The Turkish model has no such hang-ups. It has embraced globalization, wants to lead Turkey into the European Union as fast as the EU allows and maintains privileged relations with the United States.

Under the Iranian model, the average Iranian is at least 40 percent poorer than in 1977. The Turkish model has presided over the fastest economic growth rates the nation has known in modern times. By World Bank estimates, Turkish gross domestic product has risen by almost 50 percent under the AKP. Turkey no longer exports masses of hungry hands seeking low-paid jobs in the west. Iran, meanwhile, loses hundreds of educated people each day.

The Iranian model won power through insurrections, assassinations, guerrilla attacks, strikes and massacres (such as the burning of the Rex Cinema in Abadan in 1978) - not in free and fair elections, as in Turkey

In Turkey, political parties operate freely; in Iran only parties loyal to walayt faqih are allowed.

The Iranian model is represented in 17 Muslim countries through branches of the Hezbollah (Party of God), founded by the mullahs in Tehran in 1975. The movement, controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, acts as a mini-version of the old Soviet Comintern.

The Turkish model is only now finding imitators in other Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco. In some cases, such as Jordan and Morocco, these parties use the very name of their Turkish model. In others, the names that echo that of the AKP.

Last month, the AKP also found an Iranian imitator - the newly formed Justice and Development Party of Iran (Etedal va To'seeh), which unites elements disillusioned with Khomeinism. The new party has yet to make its position clear on the key issue of walayat faqih, but the outline of its program for next March's general election is an almost verbatim translation of the election manifesto of Turkey's AKP.

Recently, the new party received a wink and a nod from (Ayatollah Ali Akbar) Hashemi Rafsanjani, the businessman-cum-mollah who's emerging as a challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's radical faction. This has led some commentators to assert that the mollahs are trying to set up their version of the AKP to prevent a genuine one from emerging. Whether or not that is the case, what matters is that no one in Turkey is trying to imitate the Iranian model. ENDS TURKEY IRAN 10108

Editor’s note: Mr. Amir Taheri is a well known Iranian journalist, author, commentator and political analyst, covering for most international media.

This article was published by The New York Post on 4 January 2008.

Highlights are by IPS



10 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Saturday, January 26, 2008 01:22 [ 1 ]

Dear Mr. Taheri:

Thank you for a very interesting article that brings light to some very sensitive issues. There is, I think, no one that can argue the negative impact of Shia Islam on Iran going back all the way to the time of the assisnation of Nasir idn Shah Qajar in the 1850's.

Also, you are correct in stating that Iran and Turkey each had their "political moment" - the Turks with Kamal Attaturk and Iran with Reza Pahlavi. To compare them fairly though several factors need to be calculated:

  1. Turkey is a member of NATO, Iran is not.
  2. Turkey has had it's military overthrow the Islamist elements everytime they have come to power, Iranian military in its current form is only thirty years old and is loyal to this regime, also Iran has an ideological armed forces the Pasdaran.
  3. Iran had its elected prime minister overthrown by outside forces in 1953 (Turkey meanwhile has not had this issue, which raises the debate of what would Iran have looked like had Operation Ajax not succeeded)
  4. Iran has oil, Turkey does not, meaning that while Turkey and its citizens could fly under the radar (which they essentially have since WW1) Iran has had meddlers and imperialists always at its door trying to manipulate and control its vast natural resources.
  5. Turkey has no history other than Islamic history (no the nomadic Turkish people and their history is not the same) while Iran has a rich pre-Islamic history that dates back several thousands of years, why is this important you may ask? becuase we Iranians have always carried this notion that all of our troubles are because of the arrival of Islam and not of our own doing. We have a scapegoat in Islam and in the process manage to insult and degrade millions of decent hardworking Muslims inside Iran that truly adhere to its message and want nothing more than to live in peace and security.

In conclusion, I think that it is not fair to label the Iranian system a failure and the Turkish model a success by picking and choosing the facts we like (wink to the writer of this puff piece) but instead should look at the deeper issues as to why there is so much resentment towards Islam, when in fact the main reason for Iran's current situation is that elements of the previous regime and military (thank you General Ardishir Zahedi) colluded with foreigners to undermine Iranian national soverignty and sold us out, that the prior regime was a dictatorship that did nothing to promote social equality and justice (kill every opposition leader without a turban guess who ends up being your opposition leaders) and finally the chickens come home to roost, hello ayatollah khomeini, hello Islamic Republic of Iran. Enough said.

Thank you

Neema T.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 15:42 [ 2 ]

I'm Muslim. My friend and i want to know how do you become a muslim models?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 01:35 [ 3 ]

In Turkey there are 18,000 Mosques with no Imam assigned to! Is this a model for a Moslem country?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 09:39 [ 4 ]

Selectively picking facts that only support a certain view is not fair and certainly not balanced. Thank you Neema for revealing your insight and information.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 08:49 [ 5 ]

why dont you see Indonesia as an new kind of islamic country. western says that Indonesia is a moderate moslem country. as matter a fact indonesia isnt an islamic a country, but not also a secular country. all faith can live together, but islam is majority with more than 150 million (more than 150 million)moslems.

Monday, October 6, 2008 04:42 [ 6 ]

Many thanks for this informative article. It helps me to explain to my students in Australia the difference between the law abiding Moslems we see in our streets and the radicals who commit acts of terror.

Friday, December 26, 2008 21:41 [ 7 ]

This article is completely baseless. You mention some random events without looking at who committed them, and through your completely biased lens, make incorrect conclusions. Please read more about the Iranian revolution Mr. Taheri.

jengis khan
Friday, January 16, 2009 03:40 [ 8 ]

turkey is in political turmoil,millions of turks have left the country to europe as guest workers from impoverished eastern turkey.turkey is unislamic they promote infedelity.the muslims in turkey are great but the so called secularists or moderates are intelligence turkey you have a hoja at friday prayers and the next day that saame hoja is a rabbi at the synagogue.most of turkeys hojalar are spies.turkey has its own branch of religious affairs.why?so they can control and preach their islam that goes with their interests to the masses.i am close to many turks and their families,hell im a turk by heart too but they all hated turkeys regime and do most european turks.ataturk was a jew.he sung a tribute to israel at his death.he massacred tens of thousands of imams and clergymen and ordered women to be halve naked.and forced french clothes on the people,changed the ottoman language into eurottoman(not just script)just like pahlawi.imam khomeini is way better than ataturk.iran is the head of science and womens occupations in the world.

saqi saqi ya jam jam chaka
Friday, January 16, 2009 03:48 [ 9 ]

persian language and culture as well as levantine arabic influenced turkish culture.the majority of words in turkish are of persian or bastardised arabic descent.iran will as long as the people willingly strive to be devout muslims be the best,same with turkey it is becoming more religious these days so allah is helping them.but the minute iranians forget allah and his messenger and turkey sincerely loves them,iran will be in the quran it says that allah wont change the situation of a people until they change whats in themselves.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 23:40 [ 10 ]

warm greetings from Turkey to Iran and everyone reading this comment. first i want to tell in Turkey people shows big respect of Iran and its politics against unfair western world.

And i want to clearfy some topics about my country Turkey.

1st)Turkey(Turkish nation) has its own history and language since Huns (b.c200) middle asia to successor of Ottoman Empire,and every students knows it and accepts their history.

2nd)Ataturk was not a jews even irreligious.He was muslim,too.He moved his grave with Islamic ceremony,he had pictures while going to mosque, this is just a sophistry.still %90 percent of people likes him, sure some radicals doesnt! this is so normal.

3rd)there are about 10.000 mosques without offical imams but there are volunteer imams in these places, no mosque without imam.The reason;in Turkey every village has at least 1 mosque and much more in cities, these places are building by public so the number rise of mosques are more than the imams graduated from faculty.By the time it will be managed.and i want you know on fridays all those mosques are fulled! people can live their religious world and everyone is free for his or her believe.

and my views with your permission; Turkey does not tring to be rival of Iran or taking some roles, maybe this seems so as a result, Turkey tries to be Fair and Humanist in its foreign relations, as Rumi tells "do,what you want to do,as long as your heart allows,,"

yours sincerely

Comments on this page are closed.

As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at

Abdollah Gul
Abdollah Gul, a former Foreign Affairs minister and deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party, is the President of Secular Turkey.

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