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Reader comment on item: West-Muslim Relations since 9/11

Submitted by Erich W (United States), Dec 17, 2010 at 04:16

Dr. Pipes, when I visited Turkey last summer for five weeks, in various cities, I did not observe any movement toward implementing Sharia in public practices. Our church friends in several cities still enjoy freedom to meet publicly, represent the Christian message with outreach in parks, baptize converts, and live their lives among Muslim neighbors. They are new Christians from Muslim back grounds, and they generally are able to keep their jobs, attend public schools, and do their military service without too much problem. There are exceptions, but there is not an active policy against them. That does not mean that there are not very serious developments afoot.

Those developments are not now changing the freedoms we have enjoyed in some places, and have barely maintained in others (interior Anatolia is socially less free, and more dangerous to dissent). Murders of Christian clergy and evangelists, with violent assaults here and there upon our churches, are of serious concern. There does not appear to be a relationship to these and the governing party. There is a murky quality to high places in Turkey, but it looks like violence is the tool of more fascist elements with an Islamic twist, but with a connection to old military networks. Strong, nation-wide anti-Israel, pro Palestinian propaganda, with an Islamic appeal, is a relatively new development. The AKP does that. This is the most striking evidence that Turkey has changed direction internationally.

The general popular practice of Islam has increased some, but it does not strike the eye as a tremendous increase. The restaffing of institutions of education, and other public places like hospitals, with serious Muslims, is very noticeable. The social activities of the AK party and the educational work of the Fetullah Gulen disciples are also very noticeable. (Gulen has been exposed for his goal of overturning the Secular State). Life in the market places, the parks and the down town areas, is all very youthful, free, worldly. It buzzes with more energy, I would say, than in the 90s or 80s. So the dangerous developments you notice don't look so clear from the ground level. What is clear is that there is no political party that looks like it can run a strong electoral challenge to the AKP. The dearth of talented opposition leadership and the absence of effective grassroots work by the secularist parties is amazing. Morale seems hard to come by among them. There is no secular wind in the sales of their boat. My friends there, though, seem to think that the bridge between East and West in intact, and that the appearance of Turkey moving toward Syria and Iran is not the whole picture.

The part of the picture that is not being noticed, they say, is that the institutional, economic and cultural ties to Europe and the US remain strong and permanent. As you say, we shall see in 10 years where this is all headed. The alteration in how justices are selected for the constitutional court will have a long term effect; but the change was made along with important reforms to conform Turkey's justice system to the EU as well. It looks like a mixed bag to me. I would say, the jury is still out as to Sharia. The Islamic momentum has gathered force and is ready for the long haul--but I'm not sure about the future qualities of that style of Islam. Turks have their own way of doing things.

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