by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 8, Shawwal, 1431)
Turkey has always been an important player in the Muslim world. During Ottoman rule, it was the leading edge of the Islamic world. Its armies marched triumphantly into Europe reaching the gates of Vienna in 1683.
Turkey has always been an important player in the Muslim world. During Ottoman rule, it was the leading edge of the Islamic world. Its armies marched triumphantly into Europe reaching the gates of Vienna in 1683. Much earlier, Sultan Muhammad II who rightly earned the title of Fatih (liberator) took control of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) in 1453. He was barely 21 years old at the time. Today, this is celebrated by a stunningly beautiful exhibition, titled Panorama, on display in Istanbul to which millions throng every week from all parts of Turkey.
As Turks rightly celebrate their past, they can be equally proud of the strides their leaders have taken for the future. Two events can be identified as turning points in recent history: the rise to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in October 2002 and its consolidation ever since; and the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 that left nine Turkish peace activists dead. The second may even be more significant than the first. The fortunes of political parties rise and decline with the flow of politics but the martyrdom of nine peace activists seems to have galvanized the entire Turkish population. Even otherwise secular Turks did not remain immune from being touched by the drama on high seas last May. The arrogant Zionists overplayed their hand this time and will definitely pay a high price for it.
Turkey has undergone a perceptible change in policies since the rise of the AKP to power. AKP leaders have been careful to play according to the rules. They are aware of the pitfalls of pushing too hard too fast. The measured steps taken so far, the last of which was the September 12 referendum that it won with a comfortable majority of 58%, has given it a commanding presence on the political scene. General elections, due next year, may be held sooner. There were two articles in the 26-article referendum package that were crucial: reform of the Constitutional Court and curtailment of military powers. The Constitutional Court is a blunt instrument and an important pillar of the “Deep State” through which the secularists maintain their grip on power by frustrating the will of the people. Until now, the 14 judges to the Constitutional Court were appointed by the president and served for life. Under the approved referendum, its strength has been increased to 17 and the three new judges will be appointed by parliament. Judges will serve for only 12 years. This will begin to dilute the dictatorial powers of the Constitutional Court that have been used against parties that do not show adequate subservience to Kemalism. Similarly, military courts are now barred from trying civilians. An additional provision is that military officers involved in coup plots will be charged for treason. While this may not necessarily dampen their penchant for coup-making — witness Pakistan where carrying out a coup is a treasonous offence, but the military has repeatedly stormed presidential or prime ministerial palaces to grab power — Turkish politicians are not as craven as their Pakistani counterparts.
Turkey is well on its way to playing its rightful role in the Muslim world. The pathetic Arabian regimes are on their way out. Together with the Islamic State of Iran, Turkey can play a major role in reshaping the entire political and socio-economic landscape of the Middle East and indeed the larger Muslim world. No one should doubt that the US and the Zionists would sit idly by and allow this to happen. It will depend on the wisdom and sagacity of Turkey’s leaders with the help of the people to chart their country through these challenging times.