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Turkey is an exception

Reader comment on item: Islam's Future [Can Be Modern]

Submitted by V. Mizrahi (United States), Aug 15, 2002 at 10:35

While it is correct that Turkey and the Turkish people support and practice a modern version of Islam, the hope that other Muslim countries can be like Turkey is misguided and represents wishful thinking.

The main impetus of the modern Turkey, however, was Ataturk, who as the military commander of the Turkish forces freed the country from occupation after WW I, had the respect of the whole country and was given a free hand when elected as the country's first president. Ataturk, a secularist (and a likely Christian/Jew from Greece forced to convert into Islam as a kid) had a vision of a modern Turkey. It was Ataturk who banned the fez, the veil, the burka, who seperated church and state, who threw out the Arabic alphabet and adopted the Latin alphabet, who mandated a modern parlimantary system, who closed down the medreses (religious schools) and established a modern state-run secular school system. All of this was against the backdrop of a people who wanted to make him the next Sultan and declare him the Caliph. He had the popularity, respect and, as importantly, the backing of the military to impose these changes. The people eventually caught up.

Even today there are significant tensions in Turkey, where fundamentalist Islam, supported by funds from Iran and Saudi Arabia, shows its ugly head in an attempt to turn Turkey into another Iran. So far, they have failed, yet the battle is not over. And all that, in the most modern, secular Muslim country in the world.

If Turkey struggles like this despite its history, cultural and ethnic differences from the Arabs, and its luck with a leader like Ataturk, what are the chances for the other Muslim countries to attain the vision you have? I say slim to none.
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