Feature

Turkey: Can democracy and Islam coexist?

A court case threatens Turkey's religious ruling party.

What happenedAn adviser to Turkey’s Constitutional Court this week said that the court shouldn’t shut down the ruling Justice and Development Party. The country’s top prosecutor, citing an attempt to lift a ban on Muslim headscarves at universities, has accused the party of trying to turn Turkey’s secular democracy into an Islamic state. (Istanbul’s Hurriyet)

What the commentators said“The most hopeful democratic experiment in the Islamic world is at risk,” said Marcus Gee in the Toronto Globe and Mail. If the attempt by Turkey’s secular establishment manages to shut down a popular and successful government, this will thwart the will of the people. “Worse, it will undermine a promising attempt to show that Islam and democracy can thrive under the same roof.”

"It is secularism that is failing the test of democracy in Turkey," said Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou in The Washington Post. The ruling party's brand of Islamism "plays by democratic rules"—it's big offense was trying to lift a ban on female university students wearing headscarves. How can the U.S. remain “quiet about this assault on Turkey's democracy”?

It’s hard to deny that there are some in power who would love to get rid of the secular system, said Mehmet Ali Birand in the Turkish Daily News. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a “big mistake” with the headscarf business, and there’s no question some of his allies have a “hostile attitude against the secular system.” But a political assault in court—even if it has some merit—will only inflame tensions.

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