Can Arabs learn from Turkish model of Islam and democracy?
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.