3 years ago

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

struction of a center

struction of a center for pilgrims. 58The Islamist Erdoðan maintains continuitywith his ultranationalist predecessors by refusingto respect the historic, ecumenical character ofthe Patriarchate of Constantinople—i.e., its titularascendancy over the other patriarchates of the300 million-strong Orthodox communion worldwide—andby requiring that the patriarch be aTurkish citizen by birth. Last October, the Turkishauthorities allowed the right-wing NationalistMovement Party to conduct Islamic prayers atthe ancient Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Virginat Ani. 59RAGING CHRISTOPHOBIAPadovese believed that there would be noend to the war against the church in Turkey untilthe public as a whole rejected the widely-acceptednegative stereotypes of Christians as dangerous,subversive aliens within society, and he especiallyblamed the popular Turkish media for perpetuatinga climate of hate. Hehighlighted as an exampleMore than half of two cases involving theTurkish Muslims late Fr. Santoro. In the first,he was run out of a villagenear Trabzon by abelieve thatChristians should group of children whilenot be allowed local adults incited theto express their youth with applause. Thelocal newspaper reportedreligious viewsthe incident with the headline“Priest Sighted on thein public.Coast Road,” as if hispresence there justified the mob action againsthim. 60 The second case followed Santoro’s murderwhen the daily Vatan alleged that the assassinatedpriest had been guilty of distributing moneyto young people to entice them to visit hischurch. 61Turkey’s Christians were especially alarmedby the mass popular hysteria whipped up by the2006 blockbuster Valley of the Wolves, an actionpackedadventure film set in post-Saddam Iraq.Reviewing the movie in Spiegel, Cem Özdemir—amember of the European Parliament of Turkishdescent—decried its pandering to “racist sentiments”and its making “Christians and Jews appearas repugnant, conspiratorial holy warriorshoping to use blood-drenched swords to expandor reclaim the empire of their God.” 62Far from distancing themselves from themovie, ultra-nationalists and those at high levelsin the Islamist camp praised it. “The film is absolutelymagnificent … It is completely true to life,”exclaimed the parliament speaker (and later deputyprime minister) Bülent Arønç. Unconcerned aboutthe damaging implications of the film’s negativeimages of Christians and Jews, Turkey’s PresidentGül refused to condemn it, saying it was no worsethan many Hollywood films. 63 Erdoðan’s piouswife is reportedly a fan of the racist film. 64The Christophobia of the boulevard press and“Istanbulywood” can also be found in state documents.A national intelligence report, exposed bythe Cumhuriyet newspaper in June 2005, revealedsimilar dangerous sentiments that are at odds withthe principles espoused by Erdoðan at showcaseAlliance of Civilizations events.Titled “Reactionary Elements and Risks,” thereport put Islamist terrorist groups on a par withChristian missionaries, who, it claimed, cover Turkey“like a spider’s web” and promote divisions insensitive areas such as the Black Sea and easternAnatolia. According to the report, the Christianevangelizers included Catholics, Orthodox, andProtestants, as well as other Christian and non-Christian groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnessesand the Baha’is, with the latter concentrating ongovernment officials, liberal businessmen, and performingand other artists. 65Echoing the tenor of the intelligence report,58 Catholic News Service, Aug. 3, 2009; Hürriyet, Aug. 6,2009.59 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Oct. 1, 2010.60 Asia News, Feb. 8, 2006.61 Ibid., Mar. 14, 2006.62 Spiegel Online (Hamburg), Feb. 22, 2006.63 The Times (London), Feb. 17, 2006.64 Deutsche Welle (Bonn), Feb. 20, 2006.65 Compass Direct News, June 22, 2005.50 / MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY SPRING 2011

Turkish state minister Mehmet Aydøn, who overseesthe state’s Directorate for Religious Affairsand who has served as an advisor to the NationalSecurity Council on religious issues, arguedthat the goal of Christian missionaries wasto “break up the historical, religious, national,and cultural unity of the people of Turkey,” addingthat much evangelizing was “done in secret.”66 This claim was echoed by Erdoðan’s interiorminister Abdülkadir Asku, who told theTurkish parliament that Christian missionariesexploited religious and ethnic differences andnatural disasters to win the hearts of poor people.Having highlighted the secret and subversivenature of this allegedly devious effort, he notedan embarrassingly small success rate: 338 convertsto Christianity (and six converts to Judaism)out of 70 million Turks during the previousseven years. 67DEEP PREJUDICEWhen Erdoðan, as an Islamist oppositionpolitician, announced in 1997 that “the minaretsare our bayonets, the domes our helmets, themosques our barracks and the faithful our army”—lines from a poem of by Ziya Gökalp, a nineteenthcenturyarchitect of Turkish nationalism based ona synthesis of Islam and Turkish ethnicity—hewas not only making a statement about the role ofIslam in promoting the interests of the Turkishstate but also indicating the unity of religion andnationalism in Turkish perception. As historianBernard Lewis explained, “One may speak of ChristianArabs—but a Christian Turk is an absurdityand a contradiction in terms. Even today, afterthirty-five years of the secular republic, a non-Muslim in Turkey may be called a Turkish citizen,but never a Turk.” 68Much has changed in Turkey over the pasthalf century but not the fundamental character ofTurkish nationalism. The Turkish nation still thinks66 Forum 18, July 10, 2007.67 Compass Direct News, June 22, 2005.68 Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London:Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 15.of itself in terms of Islam and Turkish ethnicity,leaving little scope for the full integration of non-Muslims into the life of the nation. Most Christiansin Turkey belong to ethnic minorities. Inthe case of the Greeks and Armenians, they areidentified in the publicmind with historicallyhostile states. RomanCatholics and Protestantsare linked with theWestern powers that imposedhumiliating conditionson the Ottoman Empire,notably the capitulationsfor the protectionof non-Muslims and thesponsorship of Christianmissionary activity.There is littlescope for the fullintegration ofnon-Muslimsinto the life ofthe Turkishnation.Four academics of Turkish background havehighlighted this Islamo-Turkish supremacism in a2008 EU-commissioned report. They argued:Despite laicism, the Turkish state has notbeen able to overcome the segregation of non-Muslim minorities and to integrate them intothe nation as citizens with equal rights. Whilethe Muslim Turks have been the “we,” thenon-Muslim minorities have been categorizedas “the other”… they have been rather perceivedas “domestic foreigners.”The authors make further observationsabout the prevailing concept of nationality inthe context of the need for the state to end religious-baseddiscrimination:Notwithstanding the spirit of the foundingtext of the republic, the notion of Turkishcitizenship was shaped according to the legalcontext that prevailed before theTanzimat reforms of 1839. Although the newrepublic defined itself as a secular state,Sunni Islam has been functional in the nation-buildingprocess as a uniting, commoncultural factor of the majority of Turkey’sinhabitants. A person who is not a Muslimis usually referred to as a minority person ora Turkish citizen, but not a Turk. Turk designatesan ethno-religious characteristic of apolitical community. 69Eibner: Turkish Christians / 51

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