Reuters blog archive
The last time Turks voted in a general election in 2007, opponents feared the socially conservative ruling party was turning Turkey into an Iran-style Islamic state. With voters on Sunday expected to keep Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party in office for a third straight term, critics and some analysts now worry about that less but fear that the future course of democracy may be at stake.
A rising power with a vibrant, free economy and a U.S. ally that aspires to join the European Union, Turkey is held up as an example of marrying Islam and democracy and has been an oasis of stability in a region convulsed by "Arab Spring" uprisings. AK has also overseen the most stable and prosperous period of Turkey's history with market-friendly reforms, and begun membership talks with the EU while opening new markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused France of violating the freedom of religion on Wednesday after Paris began enforcing a law barring Muslim women from wearing full face veils in public. He told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Turkey was the only Muslim country that had copied the French law on secularism, or separating church and state.
Turks, including the country's political leaders, paid their respects on Tuesday to former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, the founder of the country's modern Islamist movement, who died on Sunday. Sombre music poured from loudspeakers outside Istanbul's 15th Century Fatih Mosque and street vendors sold scarves emblazoned with the message "Mujahid Erbakan", celebrating the Erbakan as a holy warrior, as mourners chanted "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great".
Turkish immigrants in Germany should integrate into society but not assimilate to the point where they abandon their native culture, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Germany on Sunday. Speaking to some 10,000 members of Germany's large Turkish community in the wake of last year's heated debate over the place of foreigners in the country, Erdogan took up the theme of integration amid what he sees as persistent European xenophobia.
A steamy television period drama about a 16th century sultan has angered conservative Muslims in Turkey and sparked a debate over the portrayal of the past in a country rediscovering its Ottoman heritage.
Part of the problem trying to figure out what Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood or Tunisia's Ennahda party would do if they got into any future power structure in their countries is knowing what kind of Islamists they are. The label "Islamist" pops up frequently these days, in comments and warnings and (yes) news reports, but the term is so broad that it even covers groups that oppose each other. Just as the Muslim world is not a bloc, the Islamist world is not a bloc.
Guests at the Istanbul premiere of a new vampire film were among the first victims of new curbs on alcohol that have raised secularist fears Islamic strictures may be encroaching on everyday life.
The rules, announced earlier this month by the tobacco and alcohol watchdog, tighten up licence requirements for serving alcohol, impose restrictions on alcohol marketing and limits sales to designated areas in stores.
(Photo: A commuter ferry sails past the Blue Mosque in Istanbul September 4, 2010/Osman Orsal)
The WikiLeaks documents from the U.S. embassy in Ankara show several attempts by American diplomats to understand the role of Islam and the Islamic world in the political stand of the governing AK Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Their efforts can be summarised in a subtitle of a cable in 2007 purporting to show "the truth behind the AKP's "secret Islamic agenda." It said simply: The Jury is Out."
Following are some interesting excerpts, with links to the full documents:
¶1. (C) There is much talk in chanceries and in the international media these days about Turkey's new, highly activist foreign policy ... The ruling AKP foreign policy is driven by both a desire to be more independently activist, and by a more Islamic orientation...
from Global News Journal:
By Barani Krishnan
A decade ago, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was on trial for sodomy and corruption in a trial that exposed the seamy side of Malaysian justice and the anxieties of a young country grappling with a crushing financial crisis and civil unrest.
Anwar is Malaysia's best known political figure, courted in the U.S. and Europe and probably the only man who can topple the government that has led this Southeast Asian country for the past 51 years.
from Global News Journal:
There can be few countries where the art of the coup is so finely honed as in Turkey, adapting as it does constantly to the spirit of the age, spawning over the decades its own enigmatic lexicon – the “Coup By Memorandum”, the “Post-Modern Coup”, the “Judicial Coup”, the ill-starred “e-Coup”.
Now newspapers (largely pro-government newspapers it should be said), gorge on tales of coup plots dubbed ‘Glove’, ‘Blonde Girl’ , ‘Moonlight’ and devote pages to a shadowy militant group code-named “Ergenekon”. Two retired military commanders, supposed members of the group, have been arrested at their homes on military compounds; a bold step by civilian authorities against an army that jealously guards its privileged status. Critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan call the arrests, also netting businessmen and journalists, a ‘revenge action’ for moves by the conservative judiciary to shut his AK party on charges of Islamist subversion. Ertugrul Ozkok, editor of Hurriyet, a newspaper critical of the government , suggested authorities were riding roughshod over judicial processes. If things are as they seem, he said, “none of us can feel comfortable any more. Any one of us can be taken from our homes and held in custody.”