Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Is Behind Islamism in Turkey?

A look at the probable effects of the growth of Islamism in Turkey

The protests in Turkey by thousands of Muslims attacking the constitutional court for blocking government moves to allow college students to wear Muslim headscarves was somehow predictable.


Turkey was the head of the Ottoman Empire for nearly half a millennium. Then, nearly 100 years ago, Kemal Ataturk changed Turkey's identity from Islamism to secularism. He succeeded because the former empire had become very conservative and radical -- a clear sign that its end was near.

The Turks did not accept the new regime for the sake of secularism; they accepted it to end the rule of the Ottoman Empire.


When secularism was established in 1923 the Turkish people were thought to believe that it was the best for the nation, but in reality it was just handed to them on a plate. They hadn't fought for it.

When the majority of Turks voted for the current Islamic ruling party in last year's elections they did not think about how much secularism was worth as a ruling and societal regime.

Only the government know that secularism was meant to:
(1) put an to end the rule of the Ottoman Empire, which was led by an autocratic caliph
(2) put an end to religious discrimination, which hampered progress.

More recently, secularism represented Turkey's best chance to become a member in the European Union.

Probable Effects:

What's happening now in Turkey -- the ideological conflict between secularism and Islamism -- is hurting its goal of joining the EU. The idea of a becoming a religious state should be totally erased from the Turkish consciousness, for no reason other than that it is impossible for Europe today to accept into its fold any nation based on religious ideas.

There are two sides in Turkey. The court will probably ban the ruling party soon because it fears the party's influence over the country's citizens. But this will not be the end. Another Islamic party will likely appear to take its place. That's because the aim of fundamental Islamism is to rule the world. All the Islamic parties and movements are connected and helping each other.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 99.8 percent of Turkey's population is Muslim. There are three non-Muslim minority religious communities -- Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians and Jews, forming 0.2 percent. Most Muslims in Turkey are Sunnis -- about 75 percent. Those belonging to the second largest Muslim sect are Alevis or Nasiris, and form a significant chunk of the rest. What does that mean?

It means that if another Islamic party appears in Turkey to replace the current one it will have a majority of the voters, as happened a year ago.

Such a repetitive situation could create a new Islamic fundamental consciousness in Turkey. A return to secularism will grow more difficult and Turkey will no longer be considered a European country geographically. Also, foreign relations suffer from mistrust.

It also could lead to the migration of Jews currently in Turkey, which could become a sensitive issue with Israel. What's more, the conflict with the Kurds will increase if Turkey becomes an Islamic nation.

Finally, it is important for the Turkish people to know the cost of standing beside a religious party. They should not forget what secularism did for them, their culture, their economy, their tourism and their nation. They should learn from other experiences; they should remember the Ottoman Empire and the European Dark Ages. Then for sure, they will know how great liberal secularism is.

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