Turkey’s government is increasingly becoming more Islamist, according to experts at a recent panel. It has created a regime that is increasingly hostile to western values and more dangerous than ever before. The regime is increasingly viewing Christians as western agents, and the overall atmosphere has become increasingly difficult for Christians to exist within. Church and Christian school closures were widespread during the last year. Turkey’s Christians anticipate experiencing even more difficulties in the coming year, as they continue to be caught between the rising tide of Islamic nationalism and extremism.
01/05/2018 Turkey (Algemeiner) – “Deep trouble” in Turkey’s relationships with Europe and the United States was a recurring theme in the December address of Michael Meier — representative to America and Canada for Germany’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), or the Foundation for Social Democracy. His introduction to the Middle East Institute (MEI) and FES’ eighth annual Turkey Conference, at Washington, DC’s National Press Club was an appropriately gloomy preface to the discussion of Turkey’s troubled past and present.
During the event, San Diego State University political science professor Ahmet Kuru examined how Turkey had become increasingly undemocratic under 15 years of rule by the AK Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I don’t really think that elections matter in Turkey,” Kuru stated, given that President Erdogan can manipulate or cancel elections at will. Such authoritarianism in Turkey and elsewhere means that those who study elections in Central Asia and the Middle East “study something which does not matter at all.”
“Turkey is taking an Islamist, populist path” under Erdogan and his AKP, Kuru stated; the Turkish “understanding of Islam is more and more becoming a political Islam, rather than Sufism, mysticism.” As a result, he added, Turkey’s “educational system is already Islamicized,” while YouTube videos have shown police officers taking Islamic oaths. Furthermore, television shows on Turkey’s Ottoman Empire past are “creating a fantasy; Ottoman in wonderland.”
Kuru views Erdogan’s Islamist rule as more threatening than prior secular authoritarianism under the followers of the Turkish republic’s post-World War I founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “This regime is more dangerous than Kemalism, because Kemalism did not have religious legitimacy; [it] never claimed that the opposition is infidel,” he noted. Meanwhile, he continued, “political morality is totally gone,” as corruption in the country presents an “unprecedented ethical crisis … with a constituency, which claims to be very moral” because of Islamic and nationalist convictions.
Fellow panelist, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Aykan Erdemir, confirmed Kuru’s analysis from the perspective of a former Turkish parliamentarian. Erdogan has been able “to criminalize the opposition,” Erdemir declared, with judicial harassment techniques like the false charges aimed at discrediting the former lawmaker in Turkey. Yet, Erdemir added, Erdogan is deeply interested in “keeping the illusion going that Turkey is not a dictatorship,” so he “has to come up with some sort of opposition-like looking actors so that there can be a ballot box at the end.”
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