Turkey, the world's prime example of a mainly Muslim country as a secular democratic state, may be losing that status. For the first time, a member of an Islamic party stands poised to win the presidency. And the upcoming parliamentary elections are likely to result in yet another victory for the Islamic-oriented government.If Gul was willing to meet with the Hamas dictator, that can only signal badness. And when Erdogan says he wants to make adultery a crime, one has to fear that it could be making it a crime punishable by stoning, and possibly a crime for women only.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has selected the party's No. 2 leader, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, as its candidate for the presidency. Secularists fear this may be the beginning of the end for the secular nature of the republic, as established by president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk more than 80 years ago.
While Turkey has twice had a prime minister from an Islamic party, the president is looked on as a bulwark of the secular system. The president plays an important role in Turkey. He appoints the prime minister, the military's chief of staff, university rectors, and members of the country's highest court.
The other institution safeguarding the status quo is the Turkish army, which has brought down governments on several occasions.
True, Gul has promised to maintain the state's values of secularism and democracy, as well as to keep up Turkey's good relations with the United States and Israel, and its pursuit of membership in the European Union. But some of his past actions worry secularists, including Gul's meeting with Hamas leader Khalad Mashaal at the Justice and Development Party headquarters in Ankara in 2006. And Erdogan advocated a law to make adultery a crime, in 2004.
As a result, many secularists, including the chief of staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, argue that Gul and Erdogan are merely paying lip service to secularism. They vividly recall Erdogan saying before he was premier, "Thank God, I am a servant of the Shari'a," or Islamic law, and, "We will turn all our schools" into Islamic ones.
If this is what'll happen, that's one more reason why allowing them into the European Union, for as long as it'll be around, would only be a bad thing.
Update: and while we're on the subject, a Turkish court has annulled the vote to install an Islamist president. That's good news for now, but there's no telling if it'll continue that way.