Istanbul moot: 'Muslims need to bolster civil society'

3-day international conference hosted by Istanbul-based think tank begins on civil-military relations

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 14.10.2019
Istanbul moot: 'Muslims need to bolster civil society'


A three-day international conference to debate civil-military relations began in Istanbul on Sunday afternoon with the participation of over 20 scholars from across the globe.

Introducing the theme of conference, Sami A. Al-Arian, director of the host Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), said that one of the main obstacles for the political progress and economic development of many Muslim societies such as Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, and Indonesia has been the civil-military relations.

He said that CIGA, which is affiliated to Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, has held five international conferences in the past to discuss various issues concerning the Muslim world.

Louay Safi, a professor of Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, said that this conference is looking at Muslim-majority societies that have been facing a lot of difficulties in attaining the democratic rule.

“The accountability of the militaries in Muslim countries is out of the scope of civil society,” he said.

“Society has to be part of transformation [towards civilian rule],” he said and called for making civil society stronger in Muslim world.

He said that Turkey provides a good model for Muslim countries to follow. “I think Turkish model is [yet] incomplete,” he said, “but at least as far as having people who care about not only the interests of the few but interests of the many taking hold of power and using it wisely to advance the common interest […] This is a very good example.”

Aurel Croissant, a Heidelberg University professor in Germany, said that strengthening civilian control “should be gradual”.

Referring to Turkish example, he told Anadolu Agency: “President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's government used successfully the opportunity after the failed [2016] coup to strengthen the civilian control in Turkey. No doubt about that.”

Speaking on whether Turkey is a model for Muslim-majority countries, Croissant said: “Turkish military is very different from Arab militaries; it is much more institutionalized, professionalized. It has a national ethos.”

Sahar Aziz, a professor from Rutgers University Law School in the U.S., said that militaries in the Middle East “do care about their legitimacy in the eyes of the people”.

“Military in Egypt is playing a very risky game as it is losing legitimacy in the eyes of its people,” she argued.

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