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Two banks of one river: Secularism and Islam within Turkey

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 19:05

These days an attention of international community is riveted to dramatic events in Arab world, which will leave a significant mark in history of these and other countries because of their size and importance. Serious fears that an explosion of popular resentment could spill over to other regions exist. These revolutions are directed against corruption and dictators’ outrage, human rights violations and poverty of the vast majority of the people. Recent events in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain show that the revolutionary wave is expanding its geography.
The country we are considering is Turkish Republic, which is located near the region taken by uprisings. The question would the Arabian wave of convulsions splash out to Turkish banks?
It should be noted that Turkish Republic is one of the few Muslim countries where Islam is separated from state. This country, located in the heart of Muslim world, has a featured combination of Islam and democracy.
Turkish Republic was declared in 1923; then country settled down to a democratic development course under guidance of Kemal Ataturk. Government machine didn’t give religion any possibility to participate in Turkish politics. However, after coup in 1980, state policy in view of Islam was modified and ‘Turkish Islamic synthesis’ strategy was adopted. The ruling authorities began increasingly relying on religious institutions to win support of Muslim elite that had become a significant force in Turkish society.
According to the current Constitution, adopted in 1982, army received a right to interfere in government policy if main principles of state functioning like national unity, republican form of government or secularism were broken in its view. In other words, army guards ideas of Ataturk covering the goal of saving the secular state. During Turkish republic existence several major military coups with the direct involvement of army were staged. In addition, there were cases of political parties’ prohibition and remove of political undesirables.
Nevertheless Islamic factor gains an increasing importance in Turkish politics. Role of Islam in political life has become notably intense. If earlier stands on Istanbul streets were full of erotic magazines, then at present more girls with hijab and more men with beards appear. Last election was won by Erdogan’s party – in this way Turkish people expressed their support of Islamist party. Thus, despite the fact that Kemal Ataturk’s ideas are dominant in Turkish society, state can’t ignore the growing importance of religion in people’s life.
Therefore, Erdogan’s government has an important goal to preserve the harmony of secularism and religion. This would give an opportunity to provide religious parties legal acts while insuring eternal principle of secularism.
Turkish model of building the secular state in a Muslim society is flexible and guarantees stable development and sustained economical growth. Constructive relations between religious communities and secular government act as an important supposition for preserving national reconciliation as well as inhibit the growth of religious radicalism.
Regarding this, it’s important to notice, that it’s necessary for Kyrgyzstan to learn the experience of Turkish Republic in solving problems of secularism and Islam relations. State policy on religion wasn't developing. Indifference of government authorities and official Muslim leaders in view of state’s destiny led not only to political crisis, but also to crisis of ‘spiritual authority’. State sees a threat to democracy in Islam, and it makes difficult to build an effective system of relations between secular government and religion.
After recovering democracy, liberal legislation had created in Kyrgyzstan favorable conditions for various Islamic movements functioning, and religious situation became very complicated. Political instability and tough socio-economic situation have provided fertile ground for religious radicals. There fertile ground for spread of radical Islam and an expansion of its influence has formed in Kyrgyzstan.
At the moment it’s necessary to build harmonious relationship with religion; only in this case we may preserve the unity of state, national amity and be able to hind the growth of religious extremism. Our country needs an effective mechanism for coordinating state interests and religion.
All these problems of secularism and Islam mutual relation are successfully solved in Turkey. Economic growth is noticeable, economic growth rates show dynamism and achieving the continuity of industrial production. Erdogan’s government continues the policy of economical liberalization, opening an access to the domestic market for foreign investors. Today the economy of Turkey is valued like world’s seventeenth. Specialists predict further significant rise of Turkish economy. With such a high rates of GDP Turkey may leave many advanced countries behind.
Negative point of Turkish scheme lies in government changing by undemocratic means. In some cases power was forcedly taken by military order. This may become the reason of splashing the Arab turnover wave onto Turkish banks, but without devastating consequences. Libyan course of events isn’t possible in Turkey, because a specific model of secular state taking people’s interests into account contribute dynamical way of the society development.

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