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Stuffed Turkey

January 11, 2014 - Harry Eagar
Following on the post about whether Islam is compatible with democracy comes this factoid about Turkey, always held up by the easily impressed as an example of a Muslim majority state that is also a secular democracy:

"More journalists are in jail in Turkey than anywhere else in the world, including China and Iran."

Their crimes, needless to say, are political.

One of my daughters visited Stamboul last year and observed that "nobody prays," although government-paid muezzins issue the call. Easy to believe. Istanbul has a long history as a big city, one of the most diverse in history. The countryside, however, was never secularized, despite the savage religious repression of Ataturk (who had men who would not wear hats with brims executed, something to think about when discussions of forcing women to cover up today arise).

The phenomenon is hardly unique to Turkey. Something similar can be seen between Beirut and the rest of Lebanon, Cairo and Egypt and even (believe it or not) Riyadh and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey was actually the harbinger of the Arab Spring, because a decade ago a more or less free election was held, and the result was a move away from secularism. It was a slow-motion crash, and I took a lot of abuse from people who considered themselves friends of Turkey (all liberals) for pointing it out.

The Jan. 5 post might just as well have been titled "Is Islam compatible with secular despotism?" and the answer also would have been no. Muslim citizens, when given the chance to choose, almost always choose religion.


Article Comments



Jan-14-14 1:59 PM

Yes, much influence over the Silk Road, but Singapore is hardly 200 years old as an urban center, so the link to Turkey must be modern.

200 years ago, it is said that tigers killed someone every day on Singapore, which before than had just had a few fishing villages.


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