Thursday, June 23, 2011

Turkey and the Arab Spring

On an entirely different topic ...

Reading a recent story on Turkish objections to Syrian repression, it occurs to me that Turkey is in an interesting position with regard to recent events in the Muslim world. 

In a very real sense, it did it first. The reforms of Ataturk did not establish a full-blown western European democracy, since they left the military with the undemocratic job of preventing the recreation of a religious state. But they did create something closer to a stable, modern, democratic state than any then contemporary Muslim society that I know of. And the project, although fraying a bit at the edges of late, has been remarkably stable over time.

Measured by population, Turkey is only about the fifth largest Muslim country (sixth if you count Nigeria), a little smaller than Egypt, a little larger than Iran. But its per capita income figure is higher than any of the other Muslim countries of comparable size, the only serious competitor being Iran; by that measure at least it is a success.

Which raises the possibility that Turkey, which has for quite a while been trying to fit itself into the western European community with some difficulty, may, if all goes well, find itself the central figure in a new community of at least moderately free and democratic Muslim countries. 


At 4:06 PM, June 23, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

find itself the central figure in a new community of at least moderately free and democratic Muslim countries

That opportunity has already passed. Turkey is in the grip of Islam, and purges have already been conducted of army officers that might object to the full implementation of Sharia. Turkey is lost to Islam. Allowing it to join the EU would be a mistake of Europe-ending magnitude.

At 10:05 PM, June 23, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Community? Who is the other one?

At 10:19 PM, June 23, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Who is the other one?"

I specified a new community. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Morocco, ... . Whichever of those manages to get through its current conflicts and establish something as close to a modern system as Ataturk did.

I'm not claiming I know any will do so, merely offering a possibility.

Given my own legal and historical interests, a still more interesting outcome would be a modern Islamic system in which the gates of interpretation, closed for a thousand years, were reopened in order to construct a legal system consistent with Koran and Hadith (or at least as consistent as existing Sharia is) but better suited to the modern world. But that doesn't strike me as likely.

At 3:31 AM, June 24, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But than again, considering the staggering amount of repression the Republic has been fed since Ataturk, and indeed even these days, to keep it ‘stable’, perhaps Turkey is far les of an example. If the Muslim world seeks example to emulate, I say let them follow the UAE: decentralize and canonize, and competition among cantons (or emirates) will provide efficient governance, at least compared to now.

It almost seems a replay of the XIX century in Europe, when nations had to chose between the model of a centralized beaurocracy (France- Turkey) and a decentralized polity (Switzerland – the UAE). Europe made the wrong choice, and so will the Arabs.


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