Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
(Photo: Presidents Christian Wulff (R) and Abdullah Gül, followed by wives Bettina (R) and Hayrünnisa, during official welcome in Ankara October 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)
When German President Christian Wulff recently declared that Islam "belongs to Germany," Christian Democratic politicians there howled and Muslims living in Germany and Turkey cheered. Now Wulff, on an official visit to Turkey, has told the Turkish parliament that "Christianity too, undoubtedly, belongs to Turkey." This time there was applause in Germany, and silence from the Turkish deputies listening to him in Ankara on Tuesday.
In both cases, Wulff's words could not have come at a better time. (Photo: President Wulff address the Turkish parliament, with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bagis (L) in the background/Umit Bektas)
Germany is in the grip of an emotional debate about Islam and Muslim integration. When Wulff said in his Oct. 3 German Unity Day address that Islam was now part of German society, given the large number (about 4 million) of Muslims living there, it was demographically obvious and politically risky. Several of his fellow Christian Democrats have challenged his view and insisted Germany had a "Judeo-Christian heritage" that Islam did not share. But Wulff, who was considered something of a lightweight for the ceremonial role when he was elected last July, has taken a clear stand on a political and moral issue -- just like Germans want their head of state to do. He is, as the Financial Times Deutschland entitled its editorial on Wednesday, "Finally A President."
The overwhelmingly Muslim but officially secular state of Turkey is slowly reconsidering the tight restrictions it has long imposed on its tiny Christian minority. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government has made a small and cautious opening to Christians, allowing religious services at a historic Greek Orthodox monastery and Armenian Orthodox church, allowing an art show at a forcibly closed Orthodox seminary and helping the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch's succession problem with citizenship for foreign prelates.
Despite this, Christians in Turkey -- one of the historical cradles of the faith -- fear their communities are dying out. One of the names often cited at the current Synod on the Middle East at the Vatican is that of Luigi Padovese, the Italian-born Roman Catholic bishop for Anatolia who was murdered at his home in southern Turkey last June.
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.”