Distinguished Speaker Series

 

The IDEA Society’s Distinguished Speaker Series continued with a lecture on “Politics of Exclusion: Extremism & Imagining the “Other” by Dr. Gokhan Bacik. Lecture also included topics of Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.

Dr. Bacik started with a definition of Islamophobia proposed in 1997. “Unfounded hostility towards Islam or fear and therefore dislike of all or most Muslims.” He then discussed the agents of Islamophobia. He introduced a classification from the literature; promoters and contributors of Islamphobia. Promoters are usually non-Muslim; and contributors are predominantly Muslim.

Then, Islamophobia is produced mutually by Muslims and non-Muslims. Promoters of Islamophobia can be found in Europe and the U.S. According to Dr. Bacik, European dream of liberal society is facing a serious crisis right now. There is a risk of ultra-right politics in Europe. As far as contributors, Islamophobia is increased by terrorism and radical interpretations.

Against the efforts of promoters and contributors of Islamophobia, the position of U.S as the super power is very critical for all countries including those in the Middle, Dr. Bacik argued: “There are three issues concerning the role of U.S. First issue is the excessive use of military methods. Remember that President Truman had taken initiative to develop democracies against the Russian threat. It is nowadays really hard to see serious attempts to generate “soft power” even though U.S. still has the capacity to do. So, we have to see what has changed since then in the U.S. Second issue is U.S. coalition with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. This support is financially very costly for the U.S. Second and more important issue is that its political cost is too much. You lose your contact with large masses when you support the authoritarian regimes. Third one is foreign intervention which destroys the social fabric the target countries.”

As far as solution, Dr. Bacik asserted that it is expensive to overcome Islamophobia and lots of things including the academia need to be changed. Islamic world is facing serious problems including poverty which can lead to “bad examples.” Social background plays a significant role in creating such bad examples. He said the dialogue between different societies, especially with the Western world is the key to the solution. However, he also said that he is not optimistic when he looked at the issue from the perspective of Muslim communities. Without basic issues being resolved, it is not realistic to expect people to engage in dialogue with the Western world. Conflicts are still continuing and the arguments and agenda of the extremists influence people’s opinion. The

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global organizations including the UN failed to produce an effective discourse on the issue.

Because of all of those problems and failures, Dr. Bacik suggested an elitist solution. The solution is up to the “elites” –students, university professors- who can activate some networks and can change the things in the long run.

Gokhan Bacik, Ph.D, is an associate professor of political science at Zirve University. Bacik also taught in different European Universities as Erasmus Visiting Professor. He is the author of September 11 and World Politics (2004), Modern International System: Genealogy, Teleology and the Expansion. (2007)
He also published in many scholarly journals such as Middle East Policy, International Review of Sociology, The Muslim World, Arab Studies Quarterly, Peace Review, Turkish Studies, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Foreign Affairs, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence. His most recent book is Hybrid Sovereignty in the Arab Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008.)

Bacik is also the head of the Middle East Research Center at Zirve University, Turkey. He also writes weekly columns for Today’s Zaman.