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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finally, Turkey Looks East -

The NYT has a lovely op-ed piece by Turkish writer Elif Şafak, in which she reflects on Turkey's new-found role as a model and on what it means to fuse East and West, democracy and Islam in a secular state. Below are some short excerpts but I recommend reading the original.

In Şafak's view, Turkey is not, as it is sometimes claimed by outsiders in the West, in thrall to political Islam. As she puts it:
Turkey defies clichés. Turkish society is a debating society, with some people passionately in favor of the governing Justice and Development Party and some passionately against it. At a recent event I heard an academic applaud the government for curtailing the power of the military, while a journalist criticized it for conducting groundless trials against army officers and restricting the press.
I couldn't agree more with her when she laments that "it is this complexity that outsiders fail to recognize..." If nothing else, this puts a charitable spin on my own confusion here on this blog (painfully evident in my previous post).
A society with a multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious empire under its belt and 80 years of experience as a constitutional republic, Turkey has managed to create its own passage to democracy, however flawed.
She concludes with a quote from a 20th century "Turkish novelist, literary critic and poet named Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar," who
was probing the way Turkey straddled an uneasy gap between East and West. “Our most important question is where and how we are going to connect with our past,” he wrote. In other words, how could we blend Islamic and Eastern elements with a modern, democratic, secular regime?
His question is as vital today as it was yesterday — for Egypt, Tunisia and many other countries in the Arab world — but Turkey has already provided many answers.
Finally, Turkey Looks East -

Here is Elif's most recent books, in case anone is interested:

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