December 05, 2013

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Source: Shutterstock

Since Turkey has long desired entry into the European Union many of these policies are spun as reforms to address minority rights. Unfortunately, the Brussels crowd seems to be swallowing while unsuspecting of the greater game. For in a very practical sense Erdoğan is re-tribalizing Atatürk’s nation.

Turkey has been an associate member of the European Economic Community since 1963 and was officially recognized as a candidate for membership in 1999 but has repeatedly been stymied from achieving full status.

There are myriad treaty obligations and other excuses for this delay although most parties concerned realize the unspoken stumbling block is radical Islam and what unrestricted movement (there are no longer internal border controls) would mean demographically for chaste Europeans and prolific Asiatics. This is especially grave in the light of Erdoğan’s proposals for every woman to bear at least three children with student-loan forgiveness, tax breaks, and early retirement as the facilitators.

However to credit a single party, even a popular and powerful one, with so much influence is a dubious proposition. Politicians may finesse such feelings but they can rarely inspire them on a massive scale absent external influences. In this case the catalyst, as it is so often, was economic.

Under Erdoğan the Turkish economy has become more entwined with that of Qatar, an epicenter of Islamist influence in the Middle East. Turkish contractors have also been encouraged to work throughout the Arab world by which they and their employees have been exposed to the strictest possible interpretations of Islam. If one doubts the effects of these interactions, consider the ramifications they wrought upon secularized Egyptians who did the same in the 1980s and 1990s.
The more telling aspect of the rapid devolution in Turkey is the reminder not only do people immigrate but their cultures as well. In less than two decades a comparatively pluralistic society has been and is in the act of being replaced by a dogmatic social order. This was not an effect of immigration of the “other” but by emigration to the “other” and returning home with its values.

One spot of hope during these changes is that they are not proceeding uninhibited. During the summer of 2013 several widespread protests were held throughout the nation to represent “the other 50%” which views themselves as Atatürks rather than Islamists.

As we recover from one of the last of our own increasingly dwindling nationally binding ceremonies may we all give thanks many radicalized Turks have not become passport-carrying “Europeans,” complete with easy access to American shores or to American targets. Still, the West clearly must forgo any napping in order to keep a watchful eye East over the coming year.



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