Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Turkey Elects Devout Muslim as President

A new twist in Turkey: a devout Muslim was elected as Turkey's President. As the MSNBC story says, he has a "background in political Islam," which sounds ominous to me.

But what's most fascinating to me is that I didn't know this particular aspect of Turkey's politics: the military is strongly secular, and will resist any movement of the government toward religion. In fact, the military has replaced four governments since 1960 for being too religious. They're none too happy that a religious President has been elected.

Of course, that's the opposite of the US. Our civilian government holds power over the military, and the likelihood of such a thing happening here is almost nil. And, I'm not so much bothered by the fact that the new Turkish President is a devout Muslim, any more than I'm bothered by the fact that the US President is a devout Christian. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I'm equally bothered.

It doesn't mean, however, that Turkey will necessarily move away from secularism in government, nor that the new President has any intentions to attempt such a feat. In his own words:

“Secularism — one of the main principles of our republic — is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles,” Gul said. “As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias. I will preserve my impartiality with the greatest of care.”

It'll be interesting to watch how this plays out.

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