Recently it was revealed in a column by Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish liberal Muslim, that Newt Gingrich is a fan of none other than Mustafa Kemal Atatuerk. Say what? Kemal Atatuerk was one of the most radical secularists of the 20th century outside of the Communist world itself. Ruling Turkey from 1923 to 1939, he remodeled the legal system of the nation on a French Revolutionary model, made it illegal to wear headscarves, required men to wear brimmed hats instead of fezzes [remember that till 1960, most men in the Western World wore hats as part of their business suits; Southern California was the exception].
He changed the Turkish writing system to a Roman alphabet – their “I” without a dot and their “i” with a dot, two separate letters, still bedevil our printers and software writers. He required sermons in mosques and churches to be approved by the government, and that the muezzin’s call should be given in the Turkish vernacular, as has never been the case at any other time in the Muslim world.
So Newt Gingrich goes from lamenting the end of “prayer in public schools” in America to praising the man who routed prayer out of public schools in Turkey? Is the man mad? Newt Gingrich certainly does not run as a radical secularist and positivist in America – and I don’t think he is one. Does he advocate a religious regime for the West and radical secularism to be imposed on the Muslim world?
As I have probably said before, 9/11 reoriented us from a past of being primarily oriented to opposing “atheism” as an enemy, to a present of having as our enemy an ideology that claims – wrongly, I think, but does claim – to be acting on behalf of the God of the Bible, He having made a more recent update. That changes a lot, of course. And emotionally I can sort of understand. When one of our kids goes off to university, and starts drinking, fornicating, and partying, we dress in dust and ashes and mourn, quite rightly. But if the kid of the burqa-clad woman down the street goes to the same university, and starts drinking, fornicating, and partying, I can see the temptation to rejoice; if the kid doesn’t come to Jesus, this is the next best thing for the world at large, we are tempted to think.
I don’t think religions other than Christianity are ways of salvation or relationship to God, but I do think the Golden Rule applies to them in a New Testament context; do unto these religions as you would have done unto Christianity. What is sauce for the Christian goose, is sauce for the Muslim gander. Yes, I know that in much of the Muslim world the Christian goose is being cooked [what a delightful opportunity for a pun!]; but the Western World is not now Christian in the way the Muslim world is Muslim, and it [the Western World] ceased to be so in the last two centuries. I do not like the idea of any legal restriction on another religion that could be turned around and be used against us. Not only does it violate the Golden Rule, it’s the path of fools.