October 22, 2009
Worldfocus Radio: Turkey torn between East and West

Martin Savidge hosts Gareth Jenkins, a British analyst and author, and Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist, to discuss whether Turkey is leaning West or moving East. Some highlights from the conversation include:

  • The ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) has been accused of being both too Islamist and too pro-Western
  • Islamism in Turkey has more to do with values and identity than imposing Sharia law
  • While Islam is more prominent in Turkey today, the paradox is that the Islamicization of Turkish society began with secularist military after the 1980 coup
  • Turkey’s religious minorities feel more threatened by hard-line (secular) nationalists than the ruling AK Party
  • It’s wrong to think that Turkey’s Islamist groups are posing threats to democracy while the secular groups are serving democracy — it’s not simply black and white
  • On eroding relations between Israel and Turkey, when Israel bombed Gaza, Turks sympathized for the plight of the Palestinians and the level of anti-Semitic rhetoric rose in Turkey, but before the Gaza war, Turkey was trying to establish peace between Israel and Syria
  • The Turkish government has not been critical of other ruling Muslim governments — like Sudan — for human rights abuses
  • On Turkey’s increasing resentment toward the European Union, there have been racial and religious prejudices by prominent members France and Germany
  • Do Arab countries fear a dominant neo-Ottoman Turkey in the Middle East? Or, is there a growing sympathy in the Arab world for Turkey asserting its Muslim identity?
  • A Turkey that has prestige in the Muslim world and keeps its ties with West is good for peace and stability in the region


Gareth Jenkins is a British analyst and author based in Turkey since 1989. His book Political Islam in Turkey: Running West, Heading East? was published last year, and his history of modern Turkey is forthcoming.

Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish journalist and a regular columnist for the Istanbul-based Hurriyet Daily News. His upcoming book on liberalism and Islam addresses the East-West divide. Having criticized both secularism and Islamic extremism, he has lectured extensively about faith, science and tolerance.

For more on Worldfocus’ coverage of Turkey:

Host: Martin Savidge
Producers: Lisa Biagiotti and Ben Piven

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