Monday, August 28, 2006

Secular Versus Theocratic Turkey

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 28 August 2006

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published this article by Soner Çağaptay :
It prompted the following response from Yusuf Kanlı, the editor of the Turkish Daily News :

This was followed by a Letter to the Editor, Turkish Daily News 27 August 2006 from Mr. Egemen Bağış, member of Turkish Parliament and foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister :
Criticism of Turkey is inconsistent, off the mark.

Soner Çağaptay (in his article "Islamists in charge", published in the Wall Street Journal on Aug.18 which referred to in the TDN on Aug. 25) seems to be on a spell where outrageous allegations are a writer's last hope for fame.

We are the same Justice and Development Party (AKP) about which he testified on May 11, 2005, before the U.S. House Committee on International Relations: "Since the AKP's rise to power in November 2002, most analysts have been wondering whether the government formed by a party with an Islamist pedigree would erode the two qualities that make Turkey unique, namely the country's democratic and secular regime. We have found that Turkish democracy and secularism are both very strong."

Furthermore, the people of Turkey are the same secular and Western-minded people about whom he clearly wrote for on Nov.4, 2004: "Europe needs Turkey precisely for these reasons. With its young, secular-minded population, the Turkish democracy offers a solution to Europe's twin dilemmas, an aging population and a restless immigrant community of mostly Arab, radical Muslims whose numbers are growing exponentially. For its own sake, the EU needs to bring Ankara into the union."

Amid the recent escalation in the Middle East, where radicalism has cheerfully recruited new millions, Turkey and the AKP still shine as a bastion of moderation, progress and prosperity. Nowadays Turkey's secular republican democracy and its democratically elected AKP should be appreciated around the clock. Turkey is always a friend of its friends, and is still on the path of the European Union membership. Despite all the noise, we are determined to ensure the harmony of civilizations against the ever heightened risk of the clash of civilizations.

The Middle east and Eurasia have one model: a revolutionary Islamic republic and parties like Hezbollah. The alternative model is Turkey and its AKP. The choice has never been this stark.

Egemen Bağış, a member of Turkish Parliament and foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister.

At WEMW we ask ourselves why Mr. Bağış appears to turn to insult by suggesting "outrageous allegations are a writer's last hope for fame"? Mr. Bağış, turn the other cheek my dear chap! Surely, being only friendly to your friends is not the most diplomatic path to take; try offering an olive branch to your critics. Perhaps Mr. Çağaptay has merely changed his mind about the AKP. Does it warrant such a defensive reaction?

At WEMW we also ask ourselves, does this mean Mr. Bağış and PM Ergoğan are publicly denouncing Hezbollah on behalf of the AKP? Does the AKP have to compare itself to "terrorist" listed Hezbollah in order to present the AKP's relative moderate stance?

It seems quite obvious that Turkish society is becoming more religiously conservative, one only has to walk in the streets of Istanbul to observe there are more headscarves than 5-10 years ago. The world seems to be caught between secular and theocratic constitutions, whether Iranian or American. Unfortunately for Turkey, Ataturk's secular notions probably go against the grain of both the Islamic and Christine doctrines of Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, George W. Bush and the Pope.

Why is Atatürk currently consistently over looked by the current Turkish government, particualarly with regard to the on going EU negotiations? Churchill is presented as part of British national history regardless of whether he was a perfect character or not. It is not desirable to see any leader made into an iconic myth whether Atatürk or the Queen, but these are characters of our history and the AKP does appear to side-line Atatürk, presumeably to appease their theoctatic power base and financial support. Is the AKP's power based on a lack of political opposition or genuine popular majority support? Time will tell.

Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 28 August 2006