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:
- Watch the Worldfocus signature video: Rising Islamist groups challenge secularism in Turkey
- Read Do Islamist groups pose a threat to democracy in Turkey? by Dr. Ömer Taşpınar, the director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution
- Visit our extended coverage page: Turkey between East and West.
Host: Martin Savidge
Producers: Lisa Biagiotti and Ben Piven