July 23, 2007

Red Flag


From the Baltimore Sun: Islamist party wins in Turkey.

Turkish voters handed the Islamist-influenced ruling party a decisive victory in parliamentary elections yesterday, rewarding it for stewardship of the country's robust economy but raising the specter of bitter new quarrels over the feared erosion of Turkey's secular traditions. ...

Moderate and officially secular Turkey, a NATO member, is viewed as a strategic bridge to a Muslim world that is increasingly mistrustful of the West. Successive Turkish governments have maintained close ties with Muslim neighbors even while pursuing divergent policies such as a cordial relationship with Israel.

The election results represented a crushing defeat for Turkey's secular-minded main opposition party, which trailed with about 20 percent of the vote. ...

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sought to strike a conciliatory tone in his victory speech, paying homage to Kemal Ataturk, the republic's founder, and offering assurances that the party's agenda is centered on the pro-business, free-market policies that have generated unprecedented prosperity since it took office. ...

To many observers, the election marked another milestone in the development of Turkey's brand of political Islam. The AKP is an offshoot of a more rigorously Islamist party, but Erdogan and other senior party figures have made little effort to bring personal piety into the public sphere.

That has done little to quell secularists' wariness. Many are convinced that the AKP harbors a hidden Islamist agenda, one now more likely to make inroads into public policy.

"We see the danger of Sharia and fundamentalism," said Hatice Ozbay, a volunteer for the main secular group, the Republican People's Party, known in Turkish as the CHP. "We will keep on fighting that."

UPDATE: From Pajamas Media: After This Election, Will Turkey "Islamify?" by Barry Rubin.

The first choice is a militantly secular state, closer to the French tradition, going far beyond the American separation of church and state. This tradition, which has dominated Turkey for the last 75 years, looks pretty much on the ropes. More and more women even in Istanbul wear the symbolic head scarf. One can hear the Islamic greeting “salaam alaykum” as well as the traditional Turkish “marhaba.”

The second possibility—and this is what the AKP says it wants—is a state that honors Turkey’s Islamic traditions and gives the religion of the great majority a presence and place of honor in public life. So, for example, Islamic schools are elevated in prestige and as an alternative to secular schools. Alcohol is not sold in Istanbul’s parks. Women wearing headscarves can be television news presenters, members of parliament, and students sitting in university classrooms. ...

The third outcome, however, would be to make “Islamic” behavior normative. This might mean, for instance, that women not wearing headscarves could not sit in classrooms. That’s the Iranian model.

It is hard to believe that Turkey would go that far. Yet things still might go much further than most Turks prefer. Already, for example, it is clear that the Turkish media is becoming intimidated, afraid to criticize the incumbent government lest it suffer material sanctions or even physical violence. The army is watching and might intervene one day if it feels secularism is fundamentally endangered. But what if career-minded officers decide that cultivating the AKP is the best way to get to the top? That last bulwark could also crumble. ...

AKP can be more confident, which means more aggressive in pushing its program to “Islamify” and possibly to “Islamize” Turkey. This is not a good thing for the West.

Instapundit has a report from Turkey showing Western-dressed women participating in the AKP rallies. Whether or not that will last remains to be seen.

Posted by Forkum at July 23, 2007 02:47 PM