Can Arabs learn from Turkish model of Islam and democracy?

February 3, 2011

(Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, December 2, 2008/Umit Bektas)

If President Hosni Mubarak bows to the clamor of the street and goes, Egyptians and other Arabs seeking to turn a page on autocratic government may look at Turkey for some clues on marrying Islam and democracy.

Relatively stable, with a vibrant economy and ruled by a conservative and pragmatic government led by former Islamists, Turkey has often been cited as a model Muslim democracy and a linchpin of Western influence in the region.

With a wave of unrest spreading from Tunisia to Jordan to Yemen and as calls intensify for Mubarak to start a transition soon, Middle East analysts are turning their attention to Turkey, a rising diplomatic force in the region.

“The only effective, working model in the Middle East is the Turkish model. There is nothing else,” said Fatwa Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics. “Turkey’s model serves as a foundation for similar societies so I think then in the wake of the protests Arabs will be taking a second look at the Turkish model that marries Islamic values and democracy as a universal form of government,” Gerges said.

But analysts cautioned that deep differences between Turkey, a NATO partner and European Union candidate with a moderate brand of Islam, and an Arab Middle East lacking a culture of political freedom, means the model cannot be readily copied. “There is no question Turkey’s example can be an inspiration in Tunisia or in Egypt, but if any Arab country would take Turkey as a model it would take it decades to emulate Turkey’s political and economic development,” said Fadi Hakura, associate professor at London’s Chatham House think tank.

Read the full analysis here.

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Turkish model would be fine and well if it were stable. But in fact Turkey itself slides from staunch secularism of Ataturk to Islamism of current government (democratically elected – but then, Hitler was also democratically elected in 1933). Looks like the only remaining barrier keeping the government from implementing radical Islamic rule is the traditionally secular army. Even the army is getting slowly eroded by the government actions; they’d do even more to weaken the army if not for the need to control Kurdish insurgency. Oh, well, for Arab countries even that would be a definite progress towards democracy – but only because their current “democracy” is anything but.

Posted by anonym0us | Report as abusive

We need to remember that there is no universal model or principal. We cannot expect others to look at America, or Turkey in this case and do what they do, or have done. What works in one State and for one people will not neccesarily work for another. Instead of trying to make everyone else how we want them, lets allow them to be who they are, who they want to be, let them decide how to run their State. We can cooperate, trade with and get along with people who are different that us cant we? Or is that a lost art? Millions of people work with others of differing backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, etc… on a daily basis, so why cant governments?

Posted by Travis58 | Report as abusive