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Saturday, June 08, 2013 

Bad religion vs. decent secularism

The New Zealand Herald's written about how the whole row in Turkey began, including:
The previous night, the receptionist at his hotel explained what the protesters wanted. The Government had pushed through plans to demolish the area, making way for a gaudy Ottoman-era themed barracks and a shopping mall.
Boy, if it's a nod to the Ottoman regime they're thinking of, then it's something the country could do without.
"The protesters seemed young," says Coffey. "They want Turkey to continue being secular and feel that the Government is leading them back into the Islamic world."

For the past 10 days, secular protesters and the Islamist-dominated government have been eye-balling each other, part of a tense stand-off over Turkey's future.

Turkey is a country caught between worlds. Stand on one side of the Bosphorus Strait - the glistening waters that cut Istanbul in half, linking the Aegean and Black Seas -and you're in Europe. Cross to the other, you're in Asia.

Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire at World War 1's close, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - who led the defence against Allied forces at Gallipoli - established the Turkish republic and set about implementing dramatic reforms, fiercely prescribing a secular identity while insisting on a homogeneous "Turkish" ethnicity. It amounted to social engineering.

Turkey's famed secular state has been welcomed by Western politicians, who have long seen it as a bulwark against the creep of Islamist regimes on the doorstep of Europe. Turkey, too, welcomed the West.
Unfortunately, it's not entirely what it could be if Islam was still lurking in the background, and if the country's government refused to recognize the Armenian Holocaust (Medz Yeghern).
The country's military staunchly defended the secular wave for decades, staging a post-modern coup in 1997 and forcing the resignation of Turkey's first Islamist Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan. Yet Islamic forces, severely repressed, pushed back. Now, through Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), they've been in power since 2002. A secular-Islamic rift splits the country.

Over the next two years, tens of thousands of New Zealanders hope to travel to Istanbul and Gallipoli to mark the centenary of World War I. Will the Turkey they encounter be as friendly as they expect?
We can only hope this current revolt helps keep it that way in the end, but if the army's been infiltrated by the Islamofascists, that could decrease the optimism.

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