Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is one of the most astute analysts of Turkish politics. But he writes something in the conclusion to an article, "Turkey Versus Turkey," in the Wall Street Journal Europe that I cannot agree with. Looking at the "battle for Turkey's soul" currently taking place between "secular Turkey" and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), he speculates what will follow should the AKP win. In that case,
Turkey will not become a Shariah state; fundamentalist Islam is alien to the Turkish soul. However, it will become a country in which dissent is difficult, and a society suffused with a new, intimate version of a religion-state relationship. Islam will dominate politics and education and will shape the government's administrative actions—such as curtailing women's employment and the issuance of alcohol licenses. In other words, it will be less like secular, liberal-democratic Italy and more like authoritarian, semisecular Jordan. This is indeed a battle for two very different Turkeys.
The notion that the AKP will impose an Islamic but not Shar‘i order strikes me as self-contradictory. It may be an incomplete Islamic order (even the Islamic Republic of Iran permits interest on money) but the AKP will surely drive relentlessly to apply the Shari‘a. In other words, in the political realm, "Islamic" is tantamount to "Shar‘i." (July 8, 2008)