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The Changing Face Of Democracy

The world-famous Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, originally founded as a Cathedral, has recently been turned back into a Mosque. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree in this regard after a court recently annulled the site’s museum status. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had turned the Cathedral into a Museum in 1934 to showcase the cultural heritage of Turkey. Now, it has become an active Mosque under the Ministry of Religion…

It is quite a change… much expected, though! The conservative Muslims have been in favour of such a change for long. They wanted the Erdogan Administration to erase the secular history of Turkey and to turn back the monument into a mosque. The President, himself, was eager to initiate this change!

Hagia Sophia Museum

Each and every nation has some symbols. This Museum was a symbol of Democratic and Secular Turkey. The Erdogan Administration was aware of the fact that it was important to destroy the symbol in order to change the character of the Country. Soon after the Turkish Government made the move on July 9 (2020), noted Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature Ferit Orhan Pamuk admitted that his country was no more Secular

Turkey is a Democratic Country, and the people had elected Erdogan as their President. The President and his Party’s elected members in the Parliament represent the majority of those people. Of course, the meaning of the word Majority depends upon the Culture of a Country. In Turkey, the hard-line Islamists cannot be considered as Majority. Because of their long Secular tradition, majority of the Turkish people believe in Religious Tolerance. At the same time, they have gained the courage of speaking the truth due to the presence of some hardliners. Still, Islamic Fundamentalist leader Erdogan managed to win the Presidential Polls, and became the ultimate decision-maker. Hence, the large number of opponents have no other option, but to accept the decision. Even if the decision reduces the freedom of some people, no one can deny the fact that the move has been made in a democratic fashion!

President Erdogan

In a Democratic Country, the essence of Democracy is indirectly reflected in the Judiciary. However, the character of the Judiciary of an Authoritarian State is different. In an Authoritarian State, the Judiciary is answerable to the Ruler, and not to the people. Turkey is no exception to this. To establish an Authoritarian System, as well to change the Basic Character of the State, the Ruler needs only to win election. In the 20th Century, Revolution or Coup d’Etat could only change the Character of a State. In a Modern Democratic State, the Ruler slowly changes the concept of values with the help of Democratic Institutions in order to achieve her/his goal. Turkey shows how the Judiciary is strengthening the Neo-Liberal system. In recent times, the word ‘Lawfare’ has replaced the word ‘Warfare’. The Brazilian Political Experts are of the opinion that “Lawfare is the new Authoritarianism”!

The attempt to kill Democracy through Democracy is not a new phenomenon… perhaps, this is an age-old problem of Democracy. It seems one forgets that the actual meaning of Majoritarianism is that the majority should protect the rights of the minority. (Un)knowingly, John Stuart Mill mentioned the Authoritarian tendency of the majority in his ‘Representative Government‘. According to Mill, either the entire society, or a large section of it would give full power to their representatives by voting. The English Philosopher used to believe in the Totality of Power. While discussing about Power, he said: “They must possess in all completeness.” In other words, Power needs the Recognition of people. Just like J S Mill, American Political Scientist Jefferson, too, stressed on the Consent. Both of them considered the outcome of the election as the most important aspect of Democracy. The history of the last few decades has shown that various avenues of recognition or denial could be buried under the ballot papers. That is why the Rulers have become so powerful!

JS Mill

Democracy recognises the Right of the People to express their views, and on the basis of that, the ruler rules the Nation on some conditions. Perhaps, the concepts of sovereignty, equality, non-discrimination have become obsolete in modern day Democracy. Those are not the Characteristics of Democracy, but the Goals. It is possible to reach ‘Equality’ one day by practising the suffrage of all… so, Equality is one of the goals of Democracy. However, it does not mean that Democracy always achieves this goal. There is a clear danger of being confused between the Goal and the Path. Once, Canadian Philosopher Charles Margrave Taylor said that we made a mistake by linking the concept of ‘telos’ (to consider what will happen in the future as the purpose of past actions) with Democracy. The fact is whether Democracy will achieve its desired success solely depends on how we use the Democratic System.

Right now, we have decided to take on the minorities… those who have less power, less wealth, less influence. And, we have given this responsibility to our rulers… in Turkey, Brazil, the US and in other countries.

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