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ICC Note: We would echo this writers point. Turkey must decide whether it is going to live in the modern era and allow true religious freedom or continue to be a quasi religious Islamic State with a veneer of Western Democracy.

Opinion: Turkey Must Resolve the Issue of Religious Freedom

4/22/2007 Turkey (For the full story, go to Deutshe Welle) The brutal attack on the Zirve Christian publishing house in the conservative eastern Turkish town of Malatya was a provocation.

So far, 10 suspects have been arrested. They are ultra-nationalists from Malatya . According to their own statements, their goal is to protect Islam from Christians.
Malatya is an Islamic stronghold — like Trabzon , the town where, protests against the Mohammed caricatures in February 2006, reached such a fever pitch that a priest was shot by an Islamic fanatic. It’s also where, in early 2007, a young ultranationalist murdered an Armenian-Turkish publicist Hrant Dink — also Christian from Malatya .

Now, Christians were once more victims of an attack. The Turkish stance is to call this an exceptional case. But three exceptional cases equal a pattern. Not a good climate for Turkey ‘s EU-entry hopes.

What this means is that Prime Minister Erdogan’s government urgently needs to clarify its stance on freedom of religion. The principle of laicism in Turkey ‘s constitution provides for a strict separation of church and state, as well as religious freedom.

But in reality it means it is subordinate to the state. Why else would a state agency for religious matters control just about every activity that has to do with Islam? It is a sad truth that the laic state, in which Christian and Jewish minorities should also feel at home, only exists on paper.

Resolving the issue of religious freedom also means resolving the issue of the structures of religious freedom — for example building up church congregations.

Attacks like those on Wednesday should never happen again. It is not enough for Erdogan, who may well run for the presidency, to openly declare himself a secular person. Europe has long demanded that Turkey clarify its position, meaning: more freedom for the Christian minority. And rightly so. Any country that wants to join Europe needs to adopt a European identity.