Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Selective religious freedom is not freedom: The Turkish Case

What some observers see as “Turkey’s bloodless civil war” was perhaps best captured in the words of Bülent Arınç, then parliamentary speaker and today deputy prime minister, in the run-up to the presidential election in 2007, “They [secular Turks] don’t want a Muslim president!” Yet Turkey’s former presidents or potential rivals to Mr. Arınç’s favorite candidate were neither Christians nor Jews, or anything but adherents to Islam. For Mr. Arınç, “Muslim” meant a “Muslim like me.”

Turkey’s bloodless civil war is between pious Muslims who want the public space to be dominated by their interpretation of religion and less dogmatic and secular Muslims who believe in strict separation of state and mosque. Mr. Arınç’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has advocated greater religious freedoms since it came to power in 2002, but its favoritism toward a chosen practice of piety has deeply polarized Turkey. Turkey's “war of religion” is not between two religions, nor is it between the faithful and atheists; it is a contest between believers of the same faith with divergent interpretations of its strictures and/or different levels of observance.


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