Jewish Journal


July 23, 2007

Turkey’s Islamic (r)evolution


Well, kids can dream, can’t they? I’d say global tensions rose ever so slightly yesterday when Turkey’s Islamic party easily took national elections. Turkey’s geopolitical importance is the reason the U.S. refuses to call the slaughtering of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide. But will it remain a friend?

The vote could have far-reaching consequences for Turkey’s engagement with the West, including its drive to become the first Muslim-dominated country to join the European Union. Though secularist parties have been cool to that idea, the AKP has vowed to press ahead with the bid despite early rebuffs.

“With this vote, Turkey said no to insularity, no to closing in on itself,” said Cengiz Candar, a prominent political columnist.

The moderate and officially secular country, which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is viewed as a strategic bridge to a Muslim world increasingly mistrustful of the West, particularly the United States. 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 were a crushing defeat for Turkey’s secular-minded main opposition party, which got about 20% of the vote. Still, because of rules governing the allocation of parliamentary seats, the opposition will have some ability to stymie AKP initiatives, including the party’s drive to have one of its own elected president — the same battle that triggered these early elections.

The AKP’s resounding victory could fuel tensions with Turkey’s powerful military, which considers itself the guardian of the secular system put in place 84 years ago by the country’s founder, Kemal Ataturk.

That was some of the concern this past spring, and a reason the election was called early Sunday. This, of course, could be a beautiful moment when a country ruled by Muslim leaders and possibly laws shows that Islam and democracy can coexist. Or ...

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