844) The Turks . . .

“Those Crazy Turks,” the best-seller, is probably an epic and no more than a collective yearning for an entirely different social fiber -- a longing for a nation that existed 80 years ago and does not any longer. “The Valley of the Wolves” is pure fiction, and a collective desire for the power and glory today's Turkey does not possess. Both productions have something in common: They reflect what the present-day Turkish demography would like to be like, but is not. . .

But who, really, are the Turks in the year 2006? Anyone can guess what the dynamics of today's demography are, judging empirically; but there are also some statistics to gauge the “Turkish attitudes,” though with ambiguous reliability, like all other statistics. If the polls are close to reality, the Turks have extraordinarily confused minds.

For example, only 43 percent of Turks support European Union membership today, down from 60 percent six months earlier (and 75 percent two years earlier). And 54 percent of them are happy with their living and the (pro-EU) AKP government. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Turks believe that the Europeans are hostile to Muslims -- the same Europeans they want to share a common vision with...

According to a recent poll, only 9 percent of Turks prefer Shariah rule in Turkey. From a reverse angle, according to the same poll, only three in every four Turks oppose Shariah rule in their country -- the remaining one, or 25 percent, either supports or is undecided about Shariah rule.

That should not be surprising in a country where 51 percent identify themselves with Islam first (and only 19 percent with Turkishness). That 51 percent compares with 38 percent in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim country. Probably on the same “identity sentiments” 69 percent of Turks believe it is a bad thing if non-Muslim religions proliferate in their country -- a kind of religious xenophobia. And probably on the same sentiments 44 percent of Turks are sympathetic to HAMAS and 53 percent support Iran.

Otherwise, only 44 percent of Turks are happy about democracy; 50 percent think all means are just to achieve their end goals; 72 percent think everyone should be free to express their opinions; and 63 percent think that a fortune cannot be made without cheating.

Meanwhile, anti-American sentiment is at 69 percent (visibly up from 50 percent in 2002), and at a time when Turkey and the United States have just sealed a “shared vision document,” and only a few months after a close aide of their popular prime minister advised the Americans “to use this man [their prime minister] instead of putting him to the drain.”

When we sum up the statistics and add a little bit of real political affairs, this happens to be the profile:

Turks are Macchiavellian devout Muslims who see their future in the EU at a decreasing rate.

They are happy with their government, whose strategic goal is to integrate them with Europe, although most of them see the Europeans as hostile.

Most of them don't believe in the virtues of democracy but advocate free speech.

A significant minority of Turks lean towards Shariah rule in their country; half of them define themselves as Muslims, and less than a fifth as Turks, although there is common belief that nationalism is on the rise; more than two-thirds of them are religiously xenophobic; and about half of them are sympathetic to the “holy causes” of Hamas and Iran -- vis-à-vis “Westernism and Semitism.”

A crystal-clear majority of Turks hate America but support a government that not only “looks to America” but also is “programmed to look pretty to Washington” on survival instincts.

What does that picture tell? A bunch of Macchiavellian Islamists who hate the West but look to the West for a better living? A pragmatic love-hate relationship towards the West? A genetic leaning towards the East but at the same time an opportunist leaning towards the West?

Perhaps Andy, a good American friend, has an explanation:

“… A recent statement by [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan received unusually wide distribution in the United States. Mr. Erdogan stated, relative to the Palestinian situation, that [Yasser] Arafat started out as a terrorist but eventually changed into a respected statesman and that given some time, Hamas would take the same path. This is, of course, some of the most astounding nonsense ever uttered, except, perhaps, any statement by Kim Jong Il.

"… The fact that the United States and Turkey are now engaged in a joint attempt to produce such an unimportant document [the shared vision document], and it is the best we can now do together, demonstrates how little the United States expects of the current Turkish government.

"… I think the AKP reflects the attitudes of a broad spectrum of Turks. Their principal opposition seems to be cut from the same bolt of cloth, just with a different conception of who should run the operation.

"… About the Turkish belief that the United States is simultaneously a close ally of the Turks and also a great danger to the Turks, I would say that neither proposition is true.”

Andy, who had been in Turkey four decades ago when “constant riots swept the city [Ankara], many of them directed at injuring any American caught on the street,” says, from his perspective, little has changed in 40 years. If he is wrong and there has been a demographic change since the 1960s, the change is probably in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Burak Bekdil


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