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Jewish Journal

If Turkey were secular

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 30, 2007 | 11:57 am

Massive protests in Turkey yesterday highlighted the growing tension between religious Turks and their secular sisters in the predominantly Muslim country.

Two weeks after three Bible sellers were murdered by Turkish zeoloats, the at least 700,000 secular protesters were concerned about what Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s campaign for presidency would mean for non-religious Turks living in Istanbul and other major cities.

“People here are the real Turkey,” one protester told the New York Times:

It is an emotional reaction to a relatively new layering of society that began 20 years ago but has accelerated recently. A massive migration from rural areas to Turkey’s cities and a large-scale economic boom have drawn an entirely new class of religious Turks from the country’s heartland into the life of its secular cities.

The class is represented by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is challenging the secular elite, forcing a presidential candidate upon them whom they find completely distasteful.

On Friday, the military gave him a warning. It has ousted four elected governments since 1960, and seemed to be considering whether to make Mr. Erdogan’s the fifth. On Sunday, Mr. Erdogan gave a warning of his own: He will continue to push his candidate, an action that will probably lead to early national elections.

Secular Turks fear that Mr. Erdogan has a secret agenda to impose Islamic law on Turkey and that his party’s move to secure the presidency, the highest seat of secularism in Turkey, is one of the final steps needed to start that process.

But Metin Heper, a professor at Bilkent University in Ankara, said: “They fear these people, but these fears are groundless. Gradually, they will see that these people are no different from themselves.”

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