With secular Turks fearing a growing Islamic trend in the country, on Friday Turkey's military -- a staunchly secular institution that has saved the country from Islamism a few times in the past -- issued a none-too-veiled threat:
It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in this debate and the absolute defender of secularism. When necessary, they will display their attitudes and actions very clearly. No one should doubt that.
The concern is that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul of the ruling, Islamist AKP party may end up in the presidency, described as the country's "last bastion of secularism." Gul's wife is a headscarf-wearer and he himself is considered anti-secular by many Turks. Though the AKP claims not to be Islamist, it has promoted religious education, banned alcohol in municipalities, and tried to remove a ban on headscarves in public places that goes back to the days of Turkey's pioneer of secularism, Kemal Ataturk.
Hours before the military's warning, Gul failed to win enough votes in a first round of parliamentary voting that the opposition boycotted. The opposition is calling for new elections as the best way out of the stalemate, and on Sunday a few hundred thousand pro-secular demonstrators in Istanbul demanded that the AKP-led coalition resign.
The situation, however, led senior EU official Olli Rehn to huff and puff that it is -- the Turkish military that poses the danger. "This is a clear test case whether the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularization and democratic values," he said Saturday, and warned that democratic values are "at the core" of Turkey's (in any case very unlikely) prospects of joining the EU.
Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt chimed in: "There can of course be differences of opinion about which person is the better suited to become president. But in a European constitutional democracy the military has no role to play in this process."
Leave it to the EU to blindly apply principles to a case where they do not fit. In fully developed democracies, military interference in an electoral process is of course unthinkable. But given that Turkey is not a fully developed democracy, how much better a flawed but still functioning, more or less pro-Western democracy than a country tacking toward Islamism with all that means for its citizens' freedoms and for its geopolitical affinities.
Similarly in the Palestinian case, the EU dogmatically applies principles while seeming to ignore the specifics, pushing for a state that could only, in reality, be a Muslim dictatorship and a danger to its neighbors Israel and Jordan. Although the Bush administration has gotten on that bandwagon by, more than any of its predecessors, explicitly adopting the cause of a Palestinian state, the U.S. has an intimate military alliance with Israel and at least tends to take its security concerns more seriously.
The Europeans, for their part, have warmly embraced the Palestinian cause since the 1970s when it was represented by a gun-toting Yasser Arafat then in the prime of his career of airline hijackings and other terror. Their excuse has always been that since the Palestinians in the West Bank (Israel having left Gaza by now in any case) are a majority but lack full political rights, they have to be granted those rights -- that is, their own fully sovereign state. Lost is the fact that, since all other Muslim Arab states are dictatorships and are rife with anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western attitudes, there is no reason to think the Palestinian fruit of these ostensibly moral concerns would be any better.
Why does the EU sternly upbraid the Turkish military even in a situation where its power might be essential to saving the country from Islamism? Why does the EU keep funneling huge sums of aid to the Palestinians even in the era of Hamas rule? The answers lie in obtuseness, hypocrisy, opportunism -- and above all, the dhimmification of a continent that has maneuvered itself under the Arab-Islamic thumb.
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