FaithWorld

“The Jury is Out”: WikiLeaks shows U.S. trying to understand Islam in Turkey

turkey 3 (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:

20 Jan 2010 — WHAT LIES BENEATH ANKARA’S NEW FOREIGN POLICY

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…

turkey 52. (C) Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely. Does it mean that it is “abandoning” or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not. At the end of the day we will have to live with a Turkey whose population is propelling much of what we see …  Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world class “Western” institutions, competencies, and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion. (Photo: Coffin wrapped in Turkish and Islamic banners at Istanbul funeral on June 3, 2010 for activist killed when Israeli commandos stormed Turkish ship trying to take aid to Gaza/Osman Orsal)

9. (C) Various factors explain the shifts we see in Turkish foreign policy beyond the personal views of the AKP leadership:

– Islamisation: As reported REF B, religiosity has been increasing in Turkey in past years, just as has been seen in many other Muslim societies. The AKP is both a beneficiary of, and a stimulus for, this phenomenon. However, bitter opposition within Turkey against domestic “pro-Islamic” reforms (e.g., head scarves) has frustrated the AKP, and a more “Islamic” or “Middle Eastern” foreign policy offers an alternative sop for the AKP’s devout base…
11. (C) Nevertheless, many in Turkey’s large Westernised elite see the Islamic Outreach as a complement to the alleged AKP plan to Islamise Turkish society, and complain bitterly about their country’s losing its Western moorings. The nationalist segment in Turkey, mobilised most by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), sees the AKP’s compromises on Armenia, the KRG in northern Iraq, Cyprus, etc, as a betrayal of diaspora “Turks” (the Iraqi Turkomen, Azeris, Turkish Cypriots, etc) and charges that the AKP is trying to replace
the Republic’s organising principle of “Turkism” with the broader Islamic “Umma” …
—————————————————-
21 March 2007 — THE TRUTH BEHIND THE AKP’S “SECRET ISLAMIC AGENDA”

Turkey needs to re-interpret secularism – senior MP

erdogan (Photo: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan watches his wife Emine voting in a constitutional referendum, in Istanbul September 12, 2010/Osman Orsal)

Turkey has to re-interpret its principles of secularism to adapt to a changing society, an AK Party member in charge of drafting a new constitution said, joining a growing debate over the Muslim country’s identity.

Turkey, a rising regional power which aspires to join the European Union, was founded by Kemal Ataturk as a secular republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. But a power shift led by a new middle class of observant Muslims which forms the backbone of the AKP government is challenging Turkey’s ability to reconcile Islam and secularism.

In the lastest twist of a long-running dispute, Turkey’s Higher Education Board last week ordered Istanbul University, one of Turkey’s biggest, to stop teachers from expelling female students who wear the Muslim headscarf from classes.

Turkey’s Erdogan scores reform referendum victory

erdoganTurkish voters strongly backed constitutional reforms on Sunday, handing a government led by conservative Muslims a new victory in a power struggle with secular opponents over the country’s direction.

“The winner today was Turkish democracy,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told followers. Erdogan had portrayed the reforms as an effort to boost the Muslim nation’s democracy and help its European Union candidacy. (Photo: Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference in Istanbul September 12, 2010/Osman Orsal)

Though Erdogan’s AK party has pushed political and economic reforms and spearheaded Turkey’s drive for EU accession since coming to power in 2002, the secular establishment accuses it of using its parliamentary majority to introduce a hidden Islamist agenda. Until the advent of AK, a secular elite had held power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey in 1923. With the army’s once-formidable power clipped by EU-driven reforms, high courts are seen as the secularists’ last redoubt.

New Turkish opposition party leader sacks secularist old guard

istanbul

Istanbul, 24 May 2008/Tom Heneghan

Turkey’s new opposition leader has purged key hardline secularists and set a tentative reformist course in a bid to regain ground lost to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, which critics accuse of secretly pursuing an Islamic state.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 62-year former civil servant, was elected chairman on Saturday following the resignation of veteran party leader Deniz Baykal over a sex tape scandal. The CHP delegates elected the new party assembly on Sunday.

While courting the more militant secularist elite, the CHP has lost support among urban, middle-class voters by firmly resisting AK’s European Union-inspired reform steps to pare back army influence and liberalise the economy. The CHP has vigorously opposed moves by AK, which denies Islamist ambitions, to reform a constitution born of a 1980 military coup.