A (Secular) Turkish Delight

Any general arguments against the safeguards provided to all religions by the maintenance of a secular public sphere should take into account whether it is better to live as a Christian in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

Thanks to Turkey’s decidedly secular state (in a country where 95% of the inhabitants adhere to the Islamic faith, a large majority of whom practice this faith very piously), a Christian is uniquely free in Turkey, in comparison to most other Muslim countries in the Middle East, to live according to the precepts of his or her religion.

Turkey’s secular state is in the spotlight today as UK Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his support for Turkey’s bid at joining the European Union. Cameron rightly noted that without Turkey’s membership, the European Union would be “not stronger but weaker . . . not more secure but less . . . not richer but poorer”. Alluding to France’s role in putting obstacles in the path of Turkey’s membership bid, Cameron hit upon a salient element in the opposition to Turkey’s candidacy:

Those who wilfully misunderstand Islam, they see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies or cultures. . . .

All of these arguments are just plain wrong. And as a new government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them.

Cameron seems to be right in identifying protectionist, nationalist and prejudicial motivations behind opposing Turkey’s EU membership. This is because, from a rational perspective, it seems that every European country should be eager to promote the Turkish model of a secular democracy established in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Put simply, this model deters the ascendacy of an Islamist state that does not provide any protections of religious freedom, such as seen in most of the rest of predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. However, we do not see this type of eager endorsement by European democracies happening on a large scale; the debates surrounding opposition to Turkey’s membership often refer to Europe’s Christian heritage and ethos and that Turkey does not share this tradition (despite, of course, the fact that the universal Christian Church was headquartered in Constantinople for an extended period in the early days and the Apostle Paul’s epistles to and ministry among the scattered primitive churches in the Greek cities of Western Turkey).

But Turkey’s secular state is patterned after the French principle of laïcité, which translates simply as “secularism”. In practice, it means the separation of church and state. This model is rigorously enforced in France itself.

In contrast to other Muslim countries in the Middle East, Turkey opted for a secular state in the 1920s when its new nation was founded out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. By secular state is simply meant that care was given to create a secular public sphere for the benefit of the people for the purpose of avoiding the establishment of an Islamist state — political organs cannot be used to establish or enforce religious doctrines of Islam. Citizens were not thereby forced to stop being Muslims or believing very piously in Islam. However, the effect of a laïcité approach is to restrict religious expression for those working as civil servants, in the government, or in state-run schools, particularly universities, where the students themselves, and not just the teachers, are subject to heightened restrictions on religious expression.

The famous and controversial issue in Turkey relating to restrictions on religious expression in the university setting is, of course, the ban on wearing Islamic headscarves by students attending state universities. In the context of Turkish laïcité, the ban was upheld when appealed in Turkish courts and then at the European Court of Human Rights in 2004 and again in 2006. In 2008, after the election of a party with Islamist tendencies in 2007, the Turkish Parliament amended the Turkish Constitution to loosen the laïcité principle enough to allow a woman to wear a headscarf in state-run universities. (To the American mind, this is eminently reasonable and, in fact, the established norm — more on that below.) But a few months later, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that removing the ban was against the founding principles of the Turkish Constitution, thus reinstating the ban.

Turkey is not a perfect country. A lot can be improved in Turkish society and politics, and in internal and external Turkish relations. Some of this is relevant to the debates about Turkish membership in the EU (e.g. treatment of certain ethnic minorities and of course the Maastricht and Copenhagen convergence criteria, which as we know are not being complied with by most current EU members either). But perhaps the laïcité principle is appropriate in Turkey as a means to provide a real secular public square in a predominantly Muslim country, which otherwise would perhaps succumb to the tendency to establish an Islamist state, implementing Islam as a religion through political channels through the force of the state. It should hopefully not be controversial to point out that this would be inimical to fundamental religious freedoms of all citizens as those who do not subscribe to Islam would be subjected to its precepts and perhaps disallowed from exercising their own religions, as is the case elsewhere in the Middle East.

The laïcité principle is not appropriate in the United States or in the United Kingdom (or perhaps in many other countries), but that does not mean that a rigorously secular public sphere (that nevertheless does not infringe on citizens’ private religious beliefs) is inappropriate in some situations, such as in Turkey — and perhaps elsewhere throughout the Middle East it could be a guiding principle to help those countries become more just to their citizenry. But in the United States, religion and politics/public life are related in a different and more accommodating way such that the extreme of laïcité is not called for. This is thanks in large part to our intellectual inheritance of the moral philosophy of the English Enlightenment (worked out by Hobbes, Hume, Locke and their seventeenth century peers) in our founding institutions. The thinkers involved in this movement broadly sought to outline a system of moral philosophy that did not derive strictly from religion but rather that tied in to more general principles and could therefore be more widely applicable than in the narrow contours of specific creedal frameworks.

The American founders were shaped by this English intellectual inheritance in crafting the institutions of government that would best fit in the context of American liberty and beliefs. An accommodating toleration, stemming straight from Locke and transmitted via continual waves of emigration, was central to this project. As de Tocqueville noted in his observations in the 1830s, the unique co-existence of religion and liberty in the American system was a defining characteristic of the young American republican democracy. (Of course, at the same time during the 1830s that de Tocqueville was collecting his notes from his 1831 visit to America to write his landmark book about Democracy in America, Mormons were being driven about the country, from state to state, experiencing a very real deprivation of their liberty because of their religious beliefs — Mormons should be in a unique position to recognize and value the protections offered by a robust institutional separation of church and state, as is now theoretically found in the American system with the incorporation of the First Amendment against the states).

Given this foundation of American republican democracy in a moral system that subtly unites the possibility of religion with real liberty, laïcité is neither necessary nor appropriate in the American polity. But this does not mean that it is not appropriate in other contexts. Context really matters. Societies that do not benefit from the same conflux of Enlightenment-era moral philosophy and Lockean religious toleration will perhaps find themselves needing to shore up the line against elements seeking to establish or impose theocratic political institutions, subjecting citizens of other religions or of no religion to the religious doctrines of a specific group. This is injurious to real liberty.

In the United States, however, relevant protestations are not out of place in cases where perhaps too much emphasis is put on getting religion out of the public eye — a symptom of laïcité. Getting religion out of the public eye was never meant to be part of the American project. But neither was subjecting American citizens of one religion or of no religion to the religious doctrines of a religion to which they do not subscribe, as is done in many Middle Eastern states that do not employ Turkey’s secular model. So, for instance, school prayer in public schools can be properly restricted in the United States because inevitably the Evangelical creedalist majority in a Texas town will prevent the Mormon child from praying or participating in the prayer (or, in another location, the Mormon majority will in some way negatively impact a Baptist child’s prayer or ability to participate in the prayer). But a politician or the President can and should be perfectly comfortable talking about religious experience or perspectives as he or she goes about the daily work of negotiating legislation or speaking with constituencies (this would be prohibited by laïcité). The individual’s religious principles will guide him or her in every action, which includes legislation. American democracy accommodates this obvious point. The Lockean liberty, and the moral philosophy of the English Enlightenment more broadly, that animated the Founders — which were both concepts thoroughly infused with principles of (Lockean) religious toleration — were themselves an outgrowth of the unique co-existence of religion and liberty identified by de Tocqueville in American democracy.

* * *

For Turkey’s membership bid to the EU, everyone is a winner: the European Union reaches out to the Muslim world by incorporating into its polity a predominantly Muslim country with a rigorously secular public sphere that prevents the establishment of an Islamist state, even if large numbers of the populace might ultimately want that; the Muslim world sees Turkey as a model of a democracy constituted of faithful Muslims who are living their religion and yet still taken seriously as an economic and political partner (rather than a Banana Republic Regime merely tolerated for its natural resources). Europe is enriched culturally and demographically with the presence of millions of adherents of Islam, and the Middle East has further reason to take Turkish laïcité seriously as a pathway to opportunity.

Comments

  1. Great thoughts, John. I appreciate the post.

  2. Thanks, john.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    Mexico is another interesting case. There are restrictions on foreign clergy and mixing of religion and education, and sometimes those affect the LDS Church. Effects on the LDS are incidental, though, to a structure meant to limit domination by the Catholic Church, so in net the work of the LDS Church probably benefits by the space provided by those laws far more than it is hindered by them.

  4. Yes, excellent point John M. that sometimes there might be incidental effects that spill over but are perhaps a tolerable side-effect of the over-all project that derives ultimately from the particular context at issue.

    The United States really is blessed in this aspect of context: as de Tocqueville points out, it really is hard to imagine a more favorable cultural, intellectual and circumstantial context in which to found a new republican democracy. Thanks to this unique context, America is not in need of laïcité, but neither is it entirely free from the imperative to separate church and state in its own accommodating framework.

    (I should note that Germany is another example that one could argue perhaps swings too far away from laïcité or even American separationism to the side of accommodation in arguably privileging certain religions in the eyes of the state over others. Some other European countries find themselves in this position as well.)

  5. Aaron R. says:

    John, does Germany still use lists of ‘cults’ as the basis for legislation? I seem to recall you mentioning a number of European countries that do not recognise the rights of specific faiths in a podcast you did sometime ago. Germany was the country that I recall most clearly from that discussion.

    Interesting thoughts, btw. I’m glad that David Cameron is taking this position.

  6. John F.

    I have spent a lot of time studying Turkey. Here is my takeaway.

    1. Due to the secular Turks low birthrate Turkey is steadily turning into a Islamic state as the population growth has been primariy amongst those with Islamist tendencies. I would predict that within the next 20 years Turkey is more similar to Saudi Arabia then France. In you post you failed to mention that the political party that currently holds power in Turkey is in fact an Islamist party that is slowly but surely choking the life out of the more secular aspects of the Turkish government and society.

    2. For all the talk of Turkey being secular there has been a lot I mean a lot of discrimination against Christians. The current Christian population is tiny because of mass discrimination and ethnic/religious cleansing by the majority Turk population in previous wars esp with Greece. There were millions of Christians in Turkey prior to 1920. Now there at best 150K. I think this is the proof in the pudding. When your minority population is forced out at gunpoint or actually killed (see Armenian genocide) then you are not a secular tolerant state.

  7. Aaron R. says:

    John, I seem to recall, from a podcast you were involved in, that Germany creates and uses lists of ‘cults’ as a basis for specific legislation that attempts to limit the the power of these organizations. If that is an accurate recollection, do they still use those lists?

  8. Aaron R. says:

    sorry, my earlier comment did not appear when I previously posted it.

  9. Interesting (and educational) post. Thanks.

    I’ve heard Turkey’s secularism as being very much under attack and possibly vulnerable. I’ve also heard that Turks in general share most of the muslim world’s bitterness toward the west. If true, it could make for a very awkward union with Europe.

    Integration of peoples doesn’t happen well when there are large cultural differences. People like to interact with people like themselves, and they self-segregate. That breeds suspicion. Suspicion breeds conflict. If religion strongly shapes the culture, in can be viewed as the “problem”.

    Dallin Oaks made some interesting remarks about diversity which I think apply. Unless cultures share commonalities which trump their differences, they won’t stay unified. That’s why France insists on laïcité — it’s become their “higher ideal” which you have to grant precedence or you’re in conflict with what it means to be French.

  10. re bbell, as to your point # 6, please see my 7th paragraph:

    The famous and controversial issue in Turkey relating to restrictions on religious expression in the university setting is, of course, the ban on wearing Islamic headscarves by students attending state universities. In the context of Turkish laïcité, the ban was upheld when appealed in Turkish courts and then at the European Court of Human Rights in 2004 and again in 2006. In 2008, after the election of a party with Islamist tendencies in 2007, the Turkish Parliament amended the Turkish Constitution to loosen the laïcité principle enough to allow a woman to wear a headscarf in state-run universities. (To the American mind, this is eminently reasonable and, in fact, the established norm — more on that below.) But a few months later, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that removing the ban was against the founding principles of the Turkish Constitution, thus reinstating the ban.

    This acknowledges that a party with Islamist tendencies came to power in 2007. But as you say the proof is in the pudding: they tried to loosen the ban on headscarves by amending the constitution (an example of their Islamist tendencies) but the Constitutional Court ruled this violated the principle of laïcité enshrined in the constitution and reinstated the ban.

    Now, many or most Americans (such as myself) would actually see that result as somewhat unfortunate on the particular issue because we would want Muslim women to be able to wear a headscarf to university if they choose. But what it shows is that the secular public sphere that has been put in place in Turkey is working as a buffer to Islamist tendencies.

    As to the Armenian genocide, as that happened almost 100 years ago, it is unclear what bearing that has on living as a Christian in modern Turkey, especially after 1984, at which time there was a firm retrenchment of the secular state. Again, in Turkey, the secular state is a good thing — because of it, Turkey is not an Islamist state. At the same time, 95% of the country is Muslim and not prevented from exercising their religion.

    Might a secular state be good in other places as well?

  11. Aaron:

    Belgium and France keep such lists. In Belgium the list is maintained by a quasi-governmental Information and Advice Centre Concerning Harmful Sectarian Organizations. (Some in the Belgium government apparently are sincerely surprised/confused that an adherent of a religious organization that appears on the list of “harmful sectarian organizations” would be upset/concerned about that fact — it is, after all, only for the benefit of Belgian citizens that the list is maintained.)

    In Germany, the Church was considered together with other new religious movements when a parliamentary inquiry was established to consider “Cults and other Pseudo-Psycho Groups”. The report concluded with the enlightened observation that “cults” was a divisive way to refer to these groups but nevertheless employed that terminology.

  12. NJensen says:

    Until Turkey recognizes (not even claims culpability for) the Armenian Genocide, they should not be allowed entrance into the EU.

    For all of the Turks living in Germany, it is difficult to comprehend how they do not follow Germany’s example of contrition when it comes to genocide.

  13. Aaron, your question sent me down memory lane and I looked up an old post of mine from 2005 over at ABEV. That can give you a brief background of the list in Belgium, at least as of 2005.

    I am reminded of the Belgian Parliament’s laughable but sincere and very earnest statement that “the fact that a group appears on the list of harmful sectarian organizations, even on the initiative of any state authority, does not mean that the Commission supposes it to be a sect or, a fortiori, to be harmful”.

    The Advice Centre referred to in my comment # 11 is administered by a state administrative agency called the Administrative Agency for the Coordination of the Fight Against Harmful Sectarian Organizations, but the presence of a group’s name on the list is not meant to imply that the group is harmful or a sectarian organization (that is code for “cult”)? It really would be funny if it didn’t have such real consequences.

  14. John F.

    I think that based on the historical and demographic trends in Turkey we are not that far from Turkey becoming an Islamic state or at least acting like one. Even when Turkey was claiming to be a secular state it initiated actions against Christians. One such action was the government sponsered Instanbul Progrom of 1955 which drove most of what was left of the Greek Orthodox community out of Instanbul

    Turkey is a really interesting topic for study I must say.

  15. re # 12, that’s certainly one of the arguments some European countries are using to oppose Turkey’s membership. The question arises whether this is pretextual to take the pressure off of their real concern, i.e. not wanting a predominantly Muslim country in the club?

  16. bbell, sure, lots can be improved in Turkey. Ditching the secular state there isn’t the way to get there. As you point out, it actually needs to be further strengthened.

  17. John,

    I sure hope that the secular Turks can retake things in Turkey but their influence is in serious decline as they refused to reproduce in large enough numbers to compete with the baby making fervor with the more Islamist portions of Turkish society. This demographic argument I think is the most compelling one against Turkish EU membership

  18. If the EU doesn’t let Turkey in you can be certain it will shift toward Islamicism. The other side of the coin is the EU does share some pretty strong cultural tendencies and the EU is quite different. That’s a somewhat weak argument though, because the EU is already marching east where the cultures are already different (France, Germany, Austria have similarities… Hungary and France of Hungary and Spain not so much). But Turkey is another order of magnitude in different cultural differences.

    Really I see the big problem being immigration. Citizens in EU countries have the right to move around do they not? Turks are vastly poorer and will present issues in the other economies as they are more freely allowed (entitled even) to move about the EU.

    This seems similar to allowing free movement and resettling to the USA for anyone from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, etc. It would cause some serious problems. Borders are important for a reason, are they not?

    So I want EU to let in Turkey because I fear doing otherwise would push them toward Islamicism, and I also recognize it might not be in individual nation’s interests to allow completely free movement of all Turkish nationals into their countries.

  19. bbell, the Turkish Constitution is binding on the baby-makers just like everyone else.

    If Islamists take power and change or eliminate the Constitution, including its establishment of a secular public sphere, then that will not be an argument in favor rejecting secular public spheres, will it? Rather, that will be an argument in favor of strengthening the secular public sphere to protect all religions from the reaches of one particular dominant religion.

  20. Aaron R. says:

    Thanks John. I will give it a look.

  21. I think #18 hits on an important point–I think the main reason for not wanting to let Turkey in is the immigration issue. I know Germans tend to be racist/xenophobic towards those from the Middle East (including Turkey). They already have a fairly large immigrant population from the Middle East. Not all of them are legally there (although many are). Many Germans do not want to let even more in.

    Imagine the US wanting to join forces with Mexico and open up the borders. Not going to happen. Same with Turkey/EU, unless Europeans become more accepting of other people.

    (Examples of racism I saw first-hand in Germany: an older gentleman tells a 7-year-old half-German/half Turkish kid, born and raised in Germany, that the kid wasn’t German; a Bible-thumping woman complains that things are crappy in Germany because of all the immigrants; etc. Basically the same kind of things that go on here in regards to Latinos).

  22. By the way, I disagree with #18 in that I favor more open borders, or at least more opportunity for people to pass through borders. Unfortunately, Germans (and perhaps other Europeans) do not.

  23. Turkey has some non-trivial problems, and from talking to people from various countries here in Europe, I can tell you that I don’t think the failure to admit to the Armenian genocide (mentioned @12) is just some picky little pretext. That said, I strongly agree that creating a reasonable, serious plan for admitting Turkey in the near future is beneficial to Europe, to Turkey, and to the world. As you correctly point out, Turkey is the natural bridge-of-understanding between secular democracy and the Muslim world.

    A couple of years ago, the (soccer/football) Europe Cup was hosted here in Switzerland, and it was cool to see Turkey included among the rest of the countries of Europe. It seems like a silly little thing, but don’t underestimate the political impact of football in Europe. ;)

  24. Re @18 & @21: I’ve talked to some Turkish friends here in Switzerland, and they said that EU membership with some restrictions on immigration is one of the options on the table. I’ve also talked to a German colleague who confirmed that an open immigration policy is one of the big concerns. She said that the integration of the Turkish community in Germany has essentially failed, and that the Turkish people born in Germany are more conservative than in urban Turkey (and they’re often shocked by the permissiveness when they visit Istanbul).

    I would suspect that part of the problem is that Germany doesn’t allow an option for immigrants to become German, so there’s less motivation to assimilate. France is more an “assimilationist” country (very much like the US), and it’s my impression that France has done better than Germany at assimilating the Muslim-immigrant population (though, like the current immigration situation in the US, it’s far from perfect). Of course, for historical reasons, the Muslim immigrants in France are more from North Africa than Turkey.

  25. Oops!! @23, I meant failure to admit to the Armenian genocide (mentioned @12) is not just some picky little pretext. (sorry, wrong typo to make…)

  26. chanson, I think you had it right the first time — you said you don’t think it is just a picky little pretext.

  27. Now I’m going to go buy a box of Turkish delight. This thread has made me hungry.

  28. lol, I guess, in retrospect, it was clear the firs time. ;)

  29. t

  30. I live among many Armenian-Americans near Los Angeles, many of whom are in the US because their grandparents escaped the Turkish genocide. My association with them colors my openess to welcoming Turkey into the EU. I absolutely think Turkey must admit to and apologize for the Armenian genocide before they are admitted into the EU.

  31. Last Lemming says:

    She said that the integration of the Turkish community in Germany has essentially failed

    While this statement might provide some insight into the mindset of certain German elites, it is grossly premature as a statement of fact. I returned to Germany for a brief visit a few years ago after having served a mission there from 76-78. One of the most noticable changes was the degree to which Turks had been integrated. I could no longer tell at a glance who was Turkish and who was German. There was an actual Turkish economy, complete with bridal shops. Dönner stands were ubiquitous (I went home in 1978 never having heard of them–they’re basically gyros). All of this is a far cry from full integration, but it is major progress and there is no reason it cannot continue.

  32. Long time lurker, first time commenter here.

    I am actually pretty tired of this whole “They should join, they should not join-discussion”, but having read all the comments [esp. # 18 and 21, the terms German and racism still don't go along :)], I simply had to post.

    First off, I am European. German. Am I for Turkey joining the EU? No. For me, there are various reasons, but the most important one’s are:
    1. Geography (the largest part is in Asia and you will never ever change that)
    2. Violation of human rights
    3. Christianity vs. Islam (go and try to build a Christian church in Turkey)

    I don’t think the fact that the Turkish population is poorer counts, I guess the Romanian people are not richer and we let them join. :)

    And I also don’t think we are racist towards those from the Middle East, but agree that assimilation is the problem. I, along with many others, do for example love the “multikulti” (multicultural) parts of Berlin with a high Turkish population, but I do also know about their problems. (And I do also know, that you cannot compare the Turkish quarters in Berlin to a Turkish city, don’t know how to put it, but I guess they have been “Germanized”): How come, that after almost 40 years in Germany, you still can’t speak a single German word? And yes, I do also blame our government for that.

    I did really like this link http://markmeynell.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/turkey-and-religious-freedom/
    about Turkey and religious freedom, I agree with everything but the last paragraph :)

    And last but not least for Aaron: Yes, we do have lists like that, but we don’t talk about cults, we use the word sects. That is even part of religion classes (yes, we have that, Roman catholic or Protestant; also Muslim in cities with a high Muslim population).

    *Random collection of thoughts over*

  33. And 31:
    In my opinion you can still tell who is German, Turkish, Russian or whatnot. A few examples are hair colours, the form of the face, height, the way of dressing or applying make-up, etc.

    Even Americans in their white tennis sneakers are pretty easy to spot ;-)

  34. Gretel, “Sekte” translated literally into English is “sect” but the way it is used in German with reference to minority religions has the connotation of “cult” and so this is the translation that more appropriately conveys the intended meaning. You will note that in German no one refers to the Evangelische Kirche as a “Sekte” — but this would be the case if Germans actually did only mean “sect” when they say “Sekte”, because the Evangelische Kirche is a “sect” that split off from the Catholic Church just like all other protestant churches. But Germans mean the English word “cult” when they shout “Sekte” at passing Mormon missionaries or JWs who knock on their door (or Scientologists who have a display up at a U-Bahn station).

    Anyway, I envy you living in Berlin — that’s where I served my mission! Loved it and would love to live there again professionally.

  35. John Mansfield says:

    Reminds me of a Mafalda strip, where Susanita tells Manolito to hide because she learned that there is “libertad de culto” in all the country, and he isn’t. The joke plays on “culto” meaning cult or sect, but also “cultured.”

  36. Gretel,
    I love Germany, and would like to move back there (if I could only find a job there that would fit my qualifications).
    I served my mission there about ten years ago. A lot of the people in Germany are not racist. However, attitudes towards Africans and Middle Easterns (and Eastern Europeans as well) were similar to how people in, say, Arizona view Latinos.
    We didn’t work extensively with any immigrant group, but I had the chance to meet and befriend those from several cultures. A 17-year-old investigator who had Middle Eastern parents but who spoke perfect German had no problem integrating with German peers. But German police openly do what we in the U.S. refer to as racial profiling (if you’re not white or sound like you’re speaking a non-Western European language, you’re a target for the police, and they will ask for papers). And older immigrants have enormous problems integrating.
    I returned from my mission grateful that racism in the US wasn’t quite as bad as it was in Germany. Unfortunately, things have changed in the U.S. in the past few years, and I believe the two countries are now about equal as far as racism goes.

  37. Re: 36. During the Romney-Prop 8 campaigns (I was anti-Romney/pro-Prop 8), I learned that anti-Mormon bias hadn’t disappeared in California and elsewhere, but was simply dormant and waiting to rise up again when provoked. I don’t think we Americans have ever lost our ingrained racism either, it just becomes more prominent in tough economic times. Mormons are easy scapegoats, and immigrants are even easier to scapegoat.

  38. @37,

    “I learned that anti-Mormon bias…was simply dormant…”

    Interestingl. I learned that the lessons of Romney and Prop 8 are completely different. Romney was opposed by the right, Prop 8 by the left. Antipathy of the right was inherited legacy, that of the left was bought and paid for. The former was inevitable, the latter of very recent origin and easily avoided.

    Anyway, playing the role of victim after spending 40 million dollars to thwart the aspirations (justified or not) of another group in opposition is rather a tough sell (and this is true of gays just as for Mormons). Such coordinated political action is not the hallmark of a weak people.

    The simple truth is that bigotry is at root a rational (if immoral) strategy, with demonization and shame its most powerful tactics, serving the mission of promoting one’s own values at the expense of another’s in a broader cultural or economic conflict. It is so difficult to eradicate precisely because it is so effective. There is nothing irrational about it. Both sides engage in it with near impunity.

    “Mormons are easy scapegoats…”

    Scapegoats are falsely-blamed innocent bystanders punished for the actions of others. The word does not suit those leading the charge in battle. Nor are immigrants true scapegoats: they are cultural and economic interlopers that upset the status quo, whether for good (as I strongly believe) or for bad (as most Arizonans apparently believe). In any change, there will always be winners and losers. You cannot reasonably expect the losers to just go quietly.

  39. Thanks for this blog thread but I find it pretty shameful of Americans and Europeans to insist on accepting the Armenian lobbyist view on genocide; we Americans have little to be proud of in relations with Blacks and Indians and other historical ethnic groups; almost all European nations drove the Jews out or killed them off – only the Ottoman Turks accepted them and gave them homes not only in 1500’s but during WWII. One comment said you should try to build a Christian church in Turkey? There are over 160 religious organizations officially recognized and protected in Turkey already. The only denied requests to establish churches any where in Turkey has been in towns where no Christians live. LDS members also meet in Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir and there have been recent baptisms of Turkish citizens – which is a slight departure from earlier LDS policy not to baptize any who intend to live in Moslem lands – even in Turkey.

    I too lived in Los Angeles and I know the pressure put on Armenian-Americans to accept the Armenian lobbist views and campaigns, but why do they refuse to allow an international committee to study and resolve the situation? Basically, the lobbyists seem to prefer a conflict over the term genocide so they can continue to get donations from Armenian Americans. They even want a gag-rule so none can discuss the historical record. It was 1915 – WWI. And Armenian records show about 1.8 million in the Ottoman Empire and international records show clearly how many were resettled in the southern (Lebanon and Syria) provinces of the Empire to attempt to stop radicals (Marxist-Leninist type families and extremist imports from Paris and Russia). The numbers shown for immigration to Russia (Armenia) and to France and to resettlement in Syria show that the number of missing Armenians (killed or dead from storms or illness or whatever) must be about 400,000 maximum while as many or more Turkish speaking people were evicted from Russia-Armenia and also that many Turkish and Kurdish speaking people were killed by Armenians as shown by French and Russian documents in their military and diplomatic archives. Let’s study the record and decide – however, the Ottomans did arrest and even hang their own officials for not taking proper care or taking advantage during the movement of Armenians from the battle-potential areas, whereas even known killers of Turks have been and still are recognized as national heroes by the Armenians. There are two sides – let’s study both and not just be swayed by ethnic lobbyists.

    As for saying a religious political party took over in 2007 – this is wrong in that they won election before that and have been in power now for some 8 years in which the economy and stability of Turkey has prospered. The Prime Minister states he used to be against the EU, now he favors joining it. Furthermore, their new Constitution reinforces the granting of religious freedom of worship to all religions once again as it did in 1982 and the religious party in power is the leader in gaining more freedom than any of the liberal parties have ever done. The 1955 incident was brutal and still remembered by my Orthodox friends in Istanbul – and it was engineered by a secret organization by bringing in henchmen from the East – we now all know that – but it is accepted by almost all Turks as a black page in their history of tolerance for others. Let’s be fair – what other nation can match the long history of Ottomans-Republic for their tolerance of other religions? Before Christopher Columbus ever sailed for America, the Ottomans were establishing religious organizations for Orthodox people – including the Armenians who became the “favored nation” and served in the goverment as well as parliament experiements in the latter years of the Empire. And there are still Armenians living in Istanbul; these include one family I know who moved to France and then moved back to Istanbul because of the narrow-minded, ferocious anti-Turkish claims of the French Armenians. And by the way, an Armenian Turkish citizen served as Istanbul branch president for some 6 years and he and his mother are very devoted and active LDS members.

    Will the Turks ever give up on Europe – maybe. Will they ever become like Iran or Saudi Arabia? Come on guys and gals be serious! Who is feeding you all that tripe? Look at the President Abdullah Gül; he used to work in Saudi Arabia – and purchased his first ever automobile there from his earning from the Development Bank – and that car was one his wife had seen in Istanbul and had remarked how nice it looked when they were eeking it out on a student budget. And then he proceeded to break the Saudi law by secretly taking his wife and kids and the car out of the town and teaching her to drive! If caught they would have been arrested, deported, punished severely … but he taught her to drive – in Saudi Arabia! And you think he or she would want to turn Turkey into a Saudi affair? Come on! Be serious!

    Turks love their religion – but many are Alevi or Bektashi – not Sunni. There are also Shii and some 10,000 Baha’i in Turkey. And yes, after WWI, Greek Orthodox people were exchanged for Moslems from Greece … thus a drastic drop in those minority populations was obtained back then … but don’t merely mark it off from the one side or from violence … we had an American LDS couple beaten up in Greece – the locals thought they were Turkish. That does not happen in Turkey which is basically safer for tourists than many other countries – with some bad exceptions of course. In Istanbule, there is an Armenian sports club – and Armenian social/culture centers, Armenian cemetaries, Armenian schools, Armenian churches … but the population has dwindled … but the Armenians in Istanbul do not complain about their situation as much as the Armenians in LA who claim they all suffered family losses in 1915 – and it was in LA that terrorists calling themselves Armenians began a long dismal series of killing Turkish diplomats and others in order they said to bring attention to the “genocide” … they even shot a 15 year old girl right in the head from point blank range – in Athens – but her own grandfather had been active in Europe protecting and saving Jews from the Nazis and had also been active in trying to stop Armenians being rounded up in WWI – and let’s remember there were Ottoman Armenians fighting in the Russian armies against the Ottomans whereas there were no American Japanese fighting on the Japanese side in WWII. The Ottomans specifically exempted any Armenian family that had a member in the Ottoman army, Ottoman parliament or Ottoman government; others were excluded when Bektashis applied to the courts saying the Armenians were relatives. Let’s not believe everything the ethnic lobbyists put out … neither on the Turkish side nor the Armenian side – that’s what I suggest.

    “Mormons are easy scapegoats” – sure – so are the Turks in the eyes of Europeans and Americans being bombarded by Armenian lobbyist claims. But my First Sargeant in the US military told me about Turks in the Korean War – they came in and saved a lot of American soldiers – and a young lady when asked in USA if she knew anything about Turks replied that she knows they saved her father in Korea. As my Sarge said he rather have the Turks on our side than against us.

    There are some Turkish people who can not speak German but there are many many more who speak German and many who speak German but not any Turkish. You can see them in the Erasmus programs from Germany and elsewhere coming to a Turkish university to learn about their “homeland” … there are more Mercedes Vans in Istanbul than you can see anywhere else – there are people in Istanbul and the other cities who dress, speak and think much as any American or European – and have the funds to go along with it. But there are poor people too – no doubt about that – but according to one French economists in 10 years France also will accept the Turks in the EU because their economy is growing so rapidly. It is already number six in Europe and gaining on all the others. In ten years he says the French businesspeople will insist on Turkish inclusion. We’ll see. To say the Turks have not adjusted to or been included in the German situation is quite naive and short-sighted … look at New York, there are lots of Poles, Chinese, Koreans, Jews, etc who prefer to live in their own neighborhoods and speak their own languages and carry out their old cultures, but they are Americans and quickly correct you if you say otherwise. If you know Germany, think about the train stations in the 1960’s – almost no food avaiable – now look at the station food corners – that is a real Turkish influence, they used to sit there – so Turkish tea and Turkish delights came too – and then döner kebaps and other food and then even German customers came – so we have good food in the train stations in German now – thanks to the Turks.

    In LDS Istanbul meeting one lady told about a class in BYU in which the instructor talked about two men – one positive and helpful and the other not … and then explained that the two were actually the same man – and she was married to that man. And if we always look at the negative, we ourselves become negative and make the situation more negative … see the positive .. that’s what she was explaining to us this past Sunday.

    I probably will not respond to any Armenian claims or whatnot – there is no reason to take this blog thread off course … thanks for being on line.

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