Malaysia vs. Turkey

Article published on Sept. 26, 2007
community published
Article published on Sept. 26, 2007
Recently Turkey found itself in yet another peculiar discussion. People started to ask a weird question: “Can Turkey turn in to another Malaysia?” Everything started with the ex-Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke’s comments about Turkey. A month ago, he described Turkey as the "Second moderate Islamist country after Malaysia”. That was enough to start a frenzy in Turkey.
The whole public discussions about the EU membership and the presidential elections suddenly ceased and people started to ask each other “After all are we turning in to an Islamist country?” Most prestigious newspapers of the country started to send reporters to Malaysia in order to get more detailed information from that country. After 85 years of its establishment, Turkey still gives the impression of a country in search of its identity. Does religion play a role in the country’s governance? Where will Islam stand in this country, inside or outside of the state? The AKP government itself makes it harder to respond these questions. malezya.jpg

The “Malaysia” discussion is based on the headscarf issue again. In Turkey headscarf is considered as a political symbol for years. The religious groups who were in favor of the Islamist rule in the country used the headscarf card to push the secularists to the corner. The constitution prohibits the headscarf in the universities and in public sphere. So called moderate Islamist ruling party AKP probably will change that article in the new constitution that they are still working on.

Malaysia also experienced a tension between secularists and Islamists. Headscarf was a delicate issue in that country also. Last week, Hurriyet (a Turkish newspaper) wrote that, right after the Malaysian government let women with headscarves to enter the universities and to the public sphere, a huge transformation towards Islam unleashed. The main question is, Can Turkey become a similar case? My answer is no and the reason is the EU. malezya2.jpg

As soon as the AKP government gets some negative signals from the Commission they will step back like they did before. A couple years ago they tried to prohibit the sexual intercourse before marriage by law. But the harsh reaction from the EU made them abandon that meaningless agenda. They will try to implement some religious notions to the country but EU won’t let that happen. At least I hope that they won’t let that happen because if they will, the Turkish army may use this opportunity to intervene to the political process once again. It certainly won't be a coup but they will find a way to rise the tension.

Photos: Hurriyet Newspaper/ Schools in Malaysia