ISTANBUL, Turkey – It’s the sort of scene that rattles Turkey’s Western-looking establishment: angry demonstrators raising fists for Islam and waving posters supporting Chechen separatists, the Iraq insurgency and hard-line Palestinian factions such as Hamas.
“Islamic resistance will win!” chanted nearly 400 protesters, including women wearing green headbands with Quranic verses “” similar to those worn by suicide bombers in farewell videos.
Radical cries from the fringe “” like these in Istanbul last weekend “” are driving concerns that the Muslim nation’s push toward Europe may stir momentum in the opposite direction. Ahead of a key European Union vote Friday, pro-Islamic political groups appear ready to seek gains if Ankara’s bid to join the EU falters and more extremist elements could use the East-West split as fresh ground for recruits in a country still stunned by bombings last year linked to al-Qaida.
“Turkey is like a firewall between radical Islam and the West,” said Dogu Ergil, a political science professor at Ankara University. “The consequences if the firewall comes down are scary.”
Interesting. I don’t think much of Turkey as a “firewall,” but it doesn’t seem as if Ergil buys into the tiny-minority-of-extremists media line.
AP also seems to buy into Erdogan’s veiled “Accept us or else” threat:
If the EU rejects Turkey, pro-Islamic political groups could find a springboard to reassert more power and seek stronger bonds with the wider Muslim world, including neighboring Iran. Authorities also could confront new challenges to contain extremists in Turkey, where secularism has been a pillar of the nation since it formed in 1923 from the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
“An EU rejection of a Muslim Turkey is also going to reinforce the notion that the West is, indeed, now engaged in a war against Muslims worldwide,” said John Robertson, an expert in Middle Eastern affairs at Central Michigan University….
Meanwhile, on a Constantinople street:
Istanbul’s Carsamba neighborhood is a case in point. Nearly the entire place pushes the panic buttons of the nation’s secular circles.
Men openly wear skullcaps and religious-style robes “” technically illegal for everyone but clerics inside mosques. Bookstores offer volumes about perceived “Zionist” conspiracies against Islam and extolling the Palestinian intefadeh. Street peddlers hawk CDs about Muslim commandos in Chechnya waging “holy war” against Russia and sermons from firebrand Turkish imams silenced by the state.
Nearly every woman has a head scarf and many wear a full chador that hides all but their eyes. A five-minute cab ride brings the Turkey that EU proponents want the world to see: miniskirts, designer stores and wine bars.
“Islam is reclaiming its rightful place in Turkey,” said Kenan Alpay, an organizer at Ozgur Der, or Freedom Association, a conservative Islamist group. “We have been on the sidelines of politics and society too long. That’s ending.”