Turkey Government Pushing Islam
The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing secular Turkish cities toward Islam while at the same time moderating the more radical Islamic areas, Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times.
The shift goes to the heart of the question that has gripped this country for the past two months: As the party settles more deeply into the bureaucracy, will it leave its Islamic roots in the past and build a future that includes secular Turks, or will it impose its religion more rigorously?
The answer is as complex as Turkey itself. In more religious Turkish cities, the party has had a moderating influence, persuading deeply conservative residents to support the European Union. But here in Denizli, a city located closer to Greece than to Iran, which never voted for pro-Islamic parties before Mr. Erdogan’s, the party’s new recruits seem to be laying the groundwork for a more pious society.
At the heart of the issue is a debate about the fundamental nature of Islam and its role in building an equitable society. Turks like Mr. Zeybekci contend that their country has come a long way since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular revolution in 1923, and that it no longer needs to enforce controls like preventing women from wearing head scarves in public buildings. “It’s like locking everybody in a stadium, when you know that only three are thieves,” Mr. Zeybekci said, in his office, which has pictures of Mr. Erdogan and Ataturk.
But secular Turks contend that Islam will always seek more space in people’s lives, and therefore should be reined in. They look to the military as secularism’s final defender.
They’re both likely right. Laws that restrict the practice of religion are, by definition, antithetical to a free society. At the same time, it’s far from clear that secularism and Islam can coexist without substantial checks on fundamentalism.