After some time reviewing the Honduran constitutional crisis, I have chosen to test another example of a country where the constitution has generated controversy: Turkey. Although I think Turkey has turned out to be a success in bridging Islam and the West, I want to be clear that Turkey is not a country without its faults. Its refusal to accept responsibility for the Armenian genocide during World War 1 is deplorable. Also, Turkey’s suppression and tried forced assimilation of its Kurdish citizens and their civilization is inexcusable.
Notwithstanding these two issues, Turkey represents an Islamic country that’s a modern secular democracy, fully inclusive of woman’s political rights. Atatürk is the father of the nation and his legacy is still in full force now.
Turkey is incorporated with the west being a member of such organization as NATO, the G20 and the OECD. The country is a parliamentary representative democracy with three branches of government including, executive, legislative and independent judiciary. Turkey has good relations with the West, and is now also reaching out to other regions of the world. One interesting fact that distinguishes this country from the majority of the Islamic world is its relationship with Israel. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel in 1949 and is regarded as one of Israel’s closest allies both militarily and strategically.
A significant controversy surrounding the Turkish democracy is that the army’s involvement in government. The Turkish army has taken on the role of the guardian of secularism and the constitution. The country’s current ruling party, the AKP, has been carefully treading towards a more Islamist stance. In reaction to the AKP’s politics, the military issued a statement in 2007 that made it clear it is still a power broker. The statement entailed that the army is going to be a party in all discussions over secularism and cautioned they are ready to perform their responsibilities to protect the characteristics of the Republic. This suggestion was annulled by the constitutional court and led to the AKP receiving a fine. During this deliberation, the constitutional court came within one vote of an all out closure of the AKP.
Although controversial, there are many people who claim this profoundly instituted secularism and contemporary approach has led in Turkey’s economic success, considered both a”developed” country and a regional power. This issue is divisive within the country, with many claiming that the present system of military enforced secularism is anti-democratic. If the country compromises on its secularism, could that be the first step towards a religious state? If so, is the current alternative not preferable to a model like the theocracy in Iran? At least under the present model democracy and personal freedom exist as long as religious based laws aren’t changed or instituted? On a relative basis, even with its issues, is the Turkish system not preferable to many other people in the middle east? My hope is that these questions fuel constructive conversation around the search to improve coexistence among nations and religions of this world.