I have written before of the tragic conflict between the historically secular factions, including the constitutional authorities, and the growing movement to impose sharia embodied by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey -- the only Middle Eastern country that has been trying to modernize and Westernize -- is in a battle for its life, trying to derail the movement away from secularism toward Islamism and Sharia law. . .[I]n Turkey's case, those who want Turkey to remain a secular state and stay true to the complete separation of church and state, are trying to fight off rampaging Islamism from the AKP (Justice and Development Party). This is a good thing, in the context of Turkey's history and the battle it is waging to keep Sharia law from dragging the country into hell.I wrote the above in response to a controversy in the spring of 2008 that saw the secular party appeal to the Constitutional Court to disband the Islamist AKP party because it (from the CS Monitor):
". . .uses democracy to reach its goal, which is installing sharia [Islamic law] in Turkey," the indictment says. "There is an attempt to expunge the secular principles of the Constitution."I saw this all as a tragedy because one side was clinging to a secularism that it didn't fully understand in the face of an existential threat--Sharia--that it fully understood and feared, and I didn't hold out much hope it would succeed.
Well, according to an excellent and very disturbing op-ed in the WSJ today, Robert Pollack not only confirms my fears, but shows that it's significantly worse than I had thought. Using the recent Gaza Flotilla that originated in Turkey as his starting point, he discusses the Turkish media's propagandistic response to the Iraq war, and highlights not only the mindset and actions of Erdogan and the Islamists, but also the sorry state of the secular opposition:
This is alarming: even the secular opposition is descending into anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, likely motivated by a wounded nationalism (the Ottoman Turks once ruled an immense Caliphate and the sting of losing an empire is one thing that motivated Kemal's lurch toward secularism after the humiliation of WWI).
The secular Hurriyet newspaper, meanwhile, accused Israeli soldiers of assassinating Turkish security personnel in Mosul and said the U.S. was starting an occupation of (Muslim) Indonesia under the guise of humanitarian assistance. Then U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman actually felt the need to organize a conference call to explain to the Turkish media that secret U.S. nuclear testing did not cause the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. One of the craziest theories circulating in Ankara was that the U.S. was colonizing the Middle East because its scientists were aware of an impending asteroid strike on North America.
The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called "Valley of the Wolves," which I saw in 2006 at a mall in Ankara. My poor Turkish was little barrier to understanding. The body parts of dead Iraqis could be clearly seen being placed into crates marked New York and Tel Aviv. It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich. [bold added]
Pollack describes other ways in which the secular remnants are destroying themselves and what's left of the country, but the shockingly paranoid, nationalistic anti-Semitism indicates to me that this is the dying breath of secularism in Turkey. They are conceding the ends of the Islamists--the eradication of the Jewish state, for example--but under the guise of national pride and blind racism, rather than the commandments of Islam. As I wrote in the summer of 2008, when it wasn't so obvious to me that secularism was nearly dead:
With the recent court ruling [banning Muslim headscarves in universities], reasserting secular practices on a divided people, it appears that Turkey has taken steps to slow its seemingly inevitable descent into Islamism. Without a fundamental shift in political philosophy, however, this is just rearranging deck chairs. Turkey is fighting the growing influence of Islamism, but the only weapon it has is the historical example Kemal. He established a "benevolent, secularist dictatorship," but there is no indication that the people themselves widely adopted those ideas. Secularism--not secular ideas themselves, but a particular set of commandments in the constitution viewed now almost as "revealed truth"--is now limping along from rote memory. Why maintain secularism? "Because we have always done so." Or, "Because Kemal said so." It's a reactionary response from entrenched centers of power. And that offers very little protection from a virulent, violent ideology like Islamism.It appears that whatever protection there was has vanished. A population made up of radical religious fanatics on one side, and compliant, unprincipled advocates of a dead system who are all too eager to adopt the belligerent and racist positions advocated by their political enemies on the other side, is a country ripe for dictatorship.