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Friday, May 30, 2008

A dilemma for Turkish secularism

"A dilemma for Turkish secularism
By James D. Lamond
Commentary by
Friday, May 30, 2008

Within the next couple of weeks a decision will be made by Turkey's Constitutional Court about the status of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leaders. The AKP has been accused by a chief prosecutor of violating the Turkish Republic's founding principle: secularism - introduced by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to transform Turkey into a modern European state. The irony is that the AKP has proven more modern and European in outlook and policies than its critics, and may be thrown out of power despite this. While Ataturk was the sole wielder of power during the early republic, he did set up institutions of democracy. These have been tested, even overruled, in the decades since Ataturk's death, and continue to be tested today. This most recent accusations directed against the AKP come as a response to reforms the AKP has implemented. The secular establishment, however, has argued that the AKP is pushing through reforms and promoting liberties selectively, in order to advance an Islamist agenda. The most emblematic of these reforms was a constitutional amendment abolishing the ban on headscarves in universities, which caused an uproar and led to the current challenge."

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