Monday, August 16, 2004

Talking Turkey

Michael Rubin, in "Talking Turkey" at the National Review, faults people inside and outside the Bush Administration for referring to Turkey as an "Islamic democracy."

"We are a democracy. Islam has nothing to do with it," he quotes one professor as saying. " ... If I called the United States a Christian democracy, what would that say to you?"

Good point. He also describes the nuances of the internal struggle between democratic and Islamist forces in Turkey. These might not be obvious, at first glance, to American observers. For instance, a debate over admissions requirements for Turkey's universities.

Most graduates from Turkey's religious high schools do not currently have the arts and sciences base taught in secular secondary schools to win admission to the university. Because university degrees are prerequisites for many government jobs, Erdogan needs the seminary students' lack of qualification waived if he wishes to have his supporters increase their grip on the bureaucracy.

And, of course, the role of the media:

Turkish newspapers -— 80 percent of which (by circulation) are held by the pro-government Dogan Holding group -— have provided a platform for the AKP's augmentation of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rhetoric. "Our constituents demand it," several AKP officials told me. ... On June 25, 2004, the usually reliable Turkish daily Cumhurriyet identified Gul as the source for Seymour Hersh's story that dozens of Israeli Mossad agents were operating in northern Iraq; Hersh's allegations turned out to be false, but have taken hold in Arab media and among Iraqi insurgents. The result is a significant boost in anti-Americanism, not only in Turkey, but across the region.

Turkish media, of course, spread the awful lie, begun by a U.S. anti-war activist, about mass rapes of Iraqi women by American troops that are widely believed in Turkey and may have motivated at least one suicide bomber there.