Will rising Islamophobia in Europe present Turkey with its entry ticket to the EU? Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to suppose so. And the President of Turkey could also be proper, however for the flawed causes.
On a go to final month to Somalia, the place Ankara has launched into a big humanitarian support program, Erdogan mentioned Europe may be profitable in combating Islamophobia provided that it agrees to just accept Turkey as a member. His declare is predicated on the declare that the destiny of the Turkey-EU relationship will probably be central to efforts to stop additional alienation of Europe’s Muslim inhabitants.
And, as highlighted by the reactions to final month’s murderous assaults in Paris, Europe actually wants a extra concerted effort to sort out the interrelated challenges of radicalization and Islamophobia.
Erdogan believes that Turkey can contribute to those objectives for what it’s: the one primarily Muslim nation with a secular democracy. However its capacity to assist Europe discover higher concord with its Muslim inhabitants will probably be decided by what it turns into. To show the validity of Erdogan’s argument and encourage residents of different liberal democracies, Turkey should present that it might set up its personal model of a liberal democracy based mostly on the rule of legislation with a transparent separation between religion and state.
Nevertheless, throughout Erdogan’s tenure, the century-long drive to create such a mannequin state has entered a crucial stage. A counter narrative is gaining floor, claiming that the choice of previous generations of ruling elites to firmly anchor the nation within the West was flawed. Not solely will Turkey be rejected by Europe, in accordance with this viewpoint, however worse, Westernization has disconnected the nation from its Islamic heritage and undermined its capacity to realize its manifest future of main Islamic civilization. This opposite narrative advocates a return to previous greatness by restoring Turkey’s non secular identification.
This conflict of visions is creating its personal issues. For instance, Turkey is the one Muslim nation the place a neighborhood newspaper, Cumhuriyet, revealed and distributed a model of the primary challenge of Charlie Hebdo printed after the assaults on the French satirical journal. The appendix lacked the front-page cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, an try at sanitation deemed inadequate by a prosecutor who sought to criticize the newspaper for denigrating the non secular values of residents.
Equally, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined different leaders in Paris to indicate his help for press freedom; nonetheless, Turkey continues to fall again in international private freedom rankings. As state businesses attempt to stem the stream of international jihadists attempting to hitch the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) in Syria, pro-Isis Turkish web sites proceed to unfold unadulterated variations of their jihadist message.
Trendy historical past, together with that of Turkey, reveals the futility of imposing a state-led imaginative and prescient on a big and heterogeneous society. It may solely generate extra discontent and social stress. Turkey can construct a extra peaceable and affluent future for all residents provided that its physique politic is prepared to put the foundations for an inclusive and extra democratic state. A brand new dedication to Europe is the one means.
It was this imaginative and prescient of becoming a member of Europe that, within the not too distant previous, motivated not solely Erdogan’s AK occasion but additionally the principle opposition CHP to endorse elementary democratic reforms.
Right this moment, after Charlie Hebdo, there are much more causes for European leaders to embrace the European dream of Turkey unequivocally. If Turkey fails to consolidate the foundations of a real liberal democracy and permits the divide between faith and state to decrease, Europe’s efforts to make Islam part of society at house will probably be hampered. Turkey itself will show to be a much less efficient bulwark towards the rising tide of extremism within the Center East.
For its half, it is going to be seen that Europe has failed the check of the sincerity of its founding rules by turning its again on the one effort that works to marry Western and Islamic values. And sincerity is what Europe wants most right now if it desires to struggle the evils of radicalization and embrace its personal Muslim residents.
The author is chairman of the Istanbul-based suppose tank Edam