Another look at the impending collapse of Turkish secularism. “Alliances Shift as Turks Weigh a Political Turn,” by Sabrina Tavernise for the New York Times:
ISTANBUL, July 19 “” For 84 years, modern Turkey has been defined by a holy trinity “” the army, the republic and its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Each was linked inextricably to the others and all were beyond reproach.
But a deep transformation is under way in this nation of 73 million, and elections this Sunday may prove a watershed: liberal Turks, once supporters of the ruling secular elite and its main backer, the military, are turning their backs on them and pledging votes to religious politicians as well as a new array of independents.
They say that the rigid rules of the last century, which prohibit women from wearing Muslim head scarves in public buildings and forbid ethnic minorities to express their identities, need to be left behind.
“In 50 years, people will write that this was the time Turkey started to come to terms with its own people,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, a foreign policy expert who is one of about 20 liberal Turks who recently joined Mr. Erdogan’s party as part of its effort to appeal more broadly to secular Turkish society.
Ilhan Dogus, a member of the Young Civilians, an association of young people who oppose the military”s role in politics, said mischievously that educated women in head scarves were more likely than their less religious counterparts to know that Marx refers to a German philosopher, not the British department store, Marks and Spencer.
“This narrow shirt of secularism has become a little too tight and choking for Turkish society,” said Volkan Aytar of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a prominent policy research group.
He is referring to Kemalism, the fiercely secular ideology that sought to extinguish religious networks and ultimately religion itself from society.
The state elite “wanted society to fit their theory,” said Recep Senturk, a research fellow at the Center for Islamic Studies in Istanbul. “If religion doesn’t disappear, we”ll make it disappear because our theory says so.”
Liberals like Mr. Uskul are pioneers in joining political forces with Mr. Erdogan’s party, known by its Turkish initials, AK, and considered by many secular Turks to be too Islamic.
In Tarsus, an upper-middle-class town in southern Turkey that has supported secular parties, Mr. Uskul, 63, was talking to lawyers last week, asking for their votes.
“Some of you might be asking, “˜What is he doing in the AK Party?” ” he said at the Tarsus Bar Association, peering earnestly through rimless glasses. “There was no other party to do what I wanted to do in Parliament. The people who should be defending democracy are holding onto military coups.”
A woman in a black T-shirt shot back: “I wonder whether you still have worries about AK as a threat to secularism?”
He replied: “My wife has no concerns. Nor does my daughter, and you shouldn’t either.”
But I do.