The End of the Secular Republic

Source: The Atlantic

India’s and Turkey’s leaders are turning buildings into battlegrounds for nationalists.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has acted on his yearlong quest to restore the historic Hagia Sophia, once a Byzantine-era cathedral and museum, as a functioning mosque. Three thousand miles away, in India’s northeastern city of Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fulfilled a similar promise, last week laying the foundation for a new Hindu temple on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque where Hindus believe an ancient temple once stood.

Yet the transformation of these sites marks more than a simple manifestation of religious adherence. At its core, it represents a concerted effort by Turkey’s and India’s leaders to galvanize support from their religious and nationalist bases, even if doing so comes at the expense of their countries’ religious minorities. Even more fundamentally, it is changing how these two countries see themselves, demonstrating a simultaneous recasting of once-secular republics into fully fledged ethnonationalist states.

For the past six years of Modi’s premiership, and the nearly two decades of Erdoğan’s rule, both leaders have undertaken a systematic effort to remake their countries in their own image. For Modi, this has meant replacing the secular vision of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with a Hindu-nationalist one—an effort that has culminated in a number of landmark decisions, including last year’s revocation of the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir; the imposition of a citizenship registry that risks rendering nearly 2 million people, many of whom are Muslim, stateless; and, most recent, the passage of a new law that bars people from three neighboring countries from seeking a path to citizenship if they are Muslim. For Erdoğan, this has meant replacing the secularizing reforms of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, with his own brand of Islamic authoritarianism—an effort that has involved the repression of minorities, crackdowns on perceived opponents, and the weakening of Turkish institutions.

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Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

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1 reply

  1. You are true here Sir , can we relate both countries on a situation of secualaring ? Sir In Turkey where the Muslims are 97% on the other hand Hindus are 79% in india and 14% Muslims, So Muslims share a big character in India , and now yes you are right both are used their religious cards and both get their popularity. But hope so there is so difference in both countries. When we are power we didn’t think we are going to destroy whole countries like Afghanistan Iraq Syria by the so called super power of this world . but who suffers.

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