TURKEY’S first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, came to power in 1996 vowing to put a mosque in Istanbul’s main square. In the heart of the old European quarter, Taksim Square, with its monument of Ataturk and his revolutionaries, remains a symbol of the secular republic. Mr Erbakan was ousted a year later.
Now a successor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is making his former mentor’s dream come true. Secularists have taken to the streets in protest at what they call the Islamists’ “revenge” against the republic. Yet the bulldozers have moved in. Hundreds of trees are to be felled to make room for a replica of the Ottoman army barracks demolished by Ataturk’s successor, Ismet Inonu. The city’s mayor, Kadir Topbas, who comes from Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, insists that the complex will house art galleries and cafés, but secularists say this is just window-dressing for the new mosque.
Above Taksim Square from tourist website
There is, if you read the above link, more than an aesthetic challenge to secularism in Turkey.
One day I hope that Turkey will join the EU, sooner rather than later, so that the Western European tradition of secularism can be further strengthened. There are, not least with Cyprus and military interference in civil affairs, issues to be resolved. I hope that opportunity of membership has not already been missed.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog