Turkey, a country which has been criticized for an ’axis shift’ until as recent as a couple of months, is now almost worshipped as a model country. It is presented as if it was the natural and should-be- model for the Middle East. The same critics can now point at Turkey as a good example. Should or can Turkey be a model for the Middle East? What is its difference and what can be its contribution to the region?
Multiplicity in the economy
At a closer look, Turkey’s economical multiplicity, which also sets the foundations of her democracy, seems to be its primary difference from Arabs, Iran and Russia. Turkey’s economy is quite pluralistic both in terms of its products and actors in economy. It is able to produce may be millions of different products considering that many economies in the Middle East is more than % 80 dependent on a single product (petroleum or gas), even in Russia the dependency on petroleum is over % 70. In Turkey however neither, textile or tourism nor automotive can solely dominate the economy. It is possible to refer to a balanced distribution. Similarly unlike Arabs, Iran and Russia, the economy is not in the hands of a few families, or a political group. Although with also the presence of the very wealthy, Turkish economy is supported by tens of millions of people.
We are a very productive people. Anybody with a bit of capital sets up a kiosk around a corner or establishes a manufacturing plant. This multiplicity is the assurance for both the Turkish wealth and Turkish democracy. In a society with such a balanced and self growth, it is not possible for a single party or democracy to dominate the country on its own.
Turkish Islam and Turkish Secularity
A second area Turkey can set an example, religion-politics relations. The understanding, which we may call the ’Turkish Islam’ or ’Turkish secularism’, is a living proof of possibility of the co-existence of needs of modernity and basic principles of Islam. With Turkey’s evolution from the militant secularism to an understanding of moderate secular state, the difference of Turkish Islam from the others appears more distinctly.
Turkish Islam doesn’t radicalize the people nor does it encourage the religious towards violence. More importantly it rescues Islam from being a stagnant religion of 1400 years ago to be a functional religion that renew itself in the face of modern problems. As a matter of fact, Turkey, in history, had undertaken such a function as to continue a relatively urban Hanafi tradition it used to follow. With the rise of self-confidence of republic in the face of religion, Turkish Islam once again starts to assume the roles it is expected to perform both in the country and in the region.
On the other hand, when Iran is considered, Shiism, like a strict ideology, both radicalizes the regime inside and aggravates the conflicts of sects in the region. Similarly the Saudi Vahabism and some other movements become to be the source of radical Sunnism. The bonds between the religion and modern life, in the relatively secular Arab countries such as Egypt and Syria, seem to have seriously been severed. It seems like the salaats that are performed or Koran listened to have no applicable constructive effect on the individual and the society. The religious rituals, without being noticed, have become parts of Arab folklore or some kind of shields against change in the hands of the masses fighting against the difficulties of the modernity (unemployment, urbanisation, isolation, not being able to democratize)
The Turk Who Can Say No
The third important and distinguishing attribution of Turkish ’modal’ is its unique self-confidence and honorable stance in front of the West. No matter how unfair we may be to ourselves, Turkey is a country which, behind its discreet and pragmatic presence, can stand up for its rights and take them and challenge all the world shall it be necessary. Republic’s pacifist foreign policy is full of such examples. For example Cyprus Peace Operation is a real challenge. From Armenian problem to EU relations, Turkey has an honor that surprises West and East alike.
Turkey, putting ABD through multiple shocks in March 1st memorandum, could insist on what it thinks to be right at the expense of isolation in the discussions about the embargo towards Iran. Mavi Marmara and ’One Minute’ crisis are the evidences of Turkey’s principled and honorable stance.
It is obvious that Turkey has courage and self-confidence way beyond its power. And this self-confidence rises by the day. It should not be expected from an Arab to perceive this easily and act accordingly in a short period of time. Because the recent history of Arabs is full of examples of abasements.
Even in the Palestine issue alone, the Arabs have been abased several times. The Arab leadership was quite harsh towards its own people yet as much tame in foreign relations. As a result of all these, there appeared ’a type of Arab who cannot say no’ on legal grounds.
The Arabs, who could not seek their rights on legal grounds, spread around their abasements with organizations such as El Kaide, Hezbollah and Hamas. Thus Turkish self-confidence can be distinguished here, too, from the region. Turkey, when necessary, defends its rights at the risk of war while trying, as much as possible, not to get entangled in terror and violence. As a consequence, the Turkey- West relationship is, unlike Arabs’ yielding relations and Iran’s relations full of enmity, a relationship between equals. If Turkey makes it into the EU as a full member state, it will proceed to be the hope for the relationships of East and West from Palestine to Iraq or Lebanon to Afghanistan almost all of which are failing.
We will continue to observe these differences, which are real national wealth of Turkey, in the next article.
Translated by ’‡isil Okant
26 February 2011