The AKP may not be the same as Hamas, but their ideology does kill innocent people.
12:00 AM, Jul 24, 2007 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
TURKEY'S REELECTION OF incumbent prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP, or Justice and Development Party, has reenergized the low-level debate in Washington about foreign Islamic parties that claim to respect democracy and secularism. But for the AKP--no less than its rivals in the Turkish military and secular state structures--the positive element lacking in their outlook involves pluralism, more than either politics or prayers.
Turkey is now divided between two forms of intolerance: a secular element that only accepts Islam under strict state supervision, and a religious faction that similarly restricts its approval to Sunnism. Neither respects Turkey's minorities: the heterodox Alevi Muslims, who fear the AKP because it excludes them; the Kurds, whose situation is dangerous for Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition there as well as Turkey itself; the small Greek Orthodox population, which suffers curtailment of its most elementary religious functions, or the Armenians, who still clamor for truth about the deportation and massacres they suffered at the end of the First World War.
Many American commentators would like to see "Islamic democratic" parties emerge across the Muslim world--notably in Egypt, with a presumed option of American accommodation with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Both Erdogan's AKP and the Egyptian MB (the latter having been the godfather of Hamas among the Palestinians) talk the talk. They say they opt for ballots over bullets, and since voting and renouncing violence are the words Americans love to hear, the chance at supporting parties representing a "tame" Islamist ideology is attractive to many inside the Beltway.
Having trusted secularists who delivered little, many Turks want to give religious believers a chance in government. And the AKP, in its electoral propaganda, asks for no more than an opportunity to administer the existing state in a more conscientious and clean manner. Its functionaries and apologists profusely deny any intent to introduce sharia law--a source of literal horror among many Turks--or otherwise expand the role of the mosque in Turkish life.
But will the "Islamic democrats" of AKP walk the walk? The question is acute in Turkey, because that country's combination of unstable factors means that no outcome can be certified as secure.
No such compromise between the AKP, the military, secular civilians, or, most important, religious and ethnic minorities, is in sight in Turkey, and, if anything, the common Turkish nationalist and Sunni-centric habits of both the secular military and the AKP have become more aggravated.