02/25/2011, 00.00
TURKEY-MIDDLE EAST
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Ankara a model, with hegemonic temptations, for the new Middle East

by NAT da Polis
It is not enough for Turkey to be held up as an example of a Muslim country that is a member of NATO, aspires to joining the EU and has united political Islam with a parliamentary democracy. A survey suggests that is not Erdogan who Islamizes Turkey, but Muslim Turkey that has chosen a “light” political Islam.
 Istanbul (AsiaNews) - In the ongoing crisis in the countries of the Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula, all Muslim, there are many who have held up the Turkish example as a model for political and social development to imitate, in that region of the world that is the principal source of hydrocarbons.

The Turkish model is indicated as an example because, although it is a Muslim country, it has managed to develop a program that allows it to be a member of NATO and a candidate for the EU. And under the government of the Islamic AKP party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has managed to combine political Islam with a parliamentary democracy, the latter seen, we must not forget - as noted in diplomatic circles - always in the context of the Muslim world. Because recalled by the intellectual circles of Istanbul, although this country calls for respect for democratic rights in other countries in the region, within its own borders we are still far from the conception of democracy as it is perceived in the West, except for certain areas in the big urban cities. Thus, religious minorities are still awaiting their approval, the Kurdish issue remains suspended, anti-government media groups are still being supressed, et cetera.

The question is whether Ankara, which from the outset made no secret of wanting to have its say regarding the Middle East, will be content to act as a simple model for other Arab countries that are trying to get rid of old regimes, or will demand a leading role in future developments in the geopolitical balance.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, ideologue and theoretician of political Islam and the so-called father of neo-ottamanisim, as opposed to Erdogan - who sees politics primarily in terms of business - a few days ago, called on to explain the causes of the crisis faced by countries in the region, argued that it is due to two factors: first, the state of subjection in which they lived and second, the status of continued psychological cold war between them and Israel, moreover also stressing the importance of the so-called social networks in these Muslim societies. But, according to a careful observer of Turkish affairs, Aris Abacis, Ankara too, after Davos has helped to reignite the Cold War between Israel and Arab countries, in the wake of the clash between Erdogan and Perez in the spring of 2009, Turkey thus re-entered the ring in the contest for the new balance in the Middle East as an active player.

In this framework, we pose some important questions, namely whether the hegemonic temptations of Turkey on the Muslim world are in agreement with its European aspirations and whether these very aspirations will place it on a collision course with the main protagonist of the new equilibrium, the United States of Barak Obama. The U.S. president after his first speech to Turkish parliament, in April 2009 and later in Cairo, in which he envisaged a very different approach with the Islamic world from the bankrupt policies of George Bush, now sees those two countries, Egypt and Turkey, which had given some support to Israel, set off on very different routes, those of a political Islam, with all the excesses that may lead to further, more serious economic crisis.

In fact, following these considerations and in view of forthcoming elections on 12 June, the Associated Press carried out a survey a few days ago, revealing very interesting results. 50% of Turks declared themselves in favour of the country entering the EU and 52% were in favour of the Turkey’s permanence in NATO. Interestingly, 85% said they find the religious factor important in life, while 63% were in favour of students being free to decide if they want to wear the headscarf in universities. 63%, then said they were opposed to the participation of religious leaders in politics.

Regarding diplomatic ties with Israel, 53% were in favour of their interruption, 55% expressed themselves against the United States and 49% against Obama.

Regarding the winner of the elections, Erdogan garnered a handsome 54%, as he is considered the only major leading figure at present in Turkey. The majority of Turks, finally, fear unemployment.

In short, an analysis of the survey appears to show that it is not Erdogan who Islamizes Turkey, but Muslim Turkey that has chosen a ”light” political Islam, according to Abacis Aris.

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