We arrived in Turkey at a very interesting time. The Battle for Turkey’s Soul is afoot, pitting the “sons and daughters” of Atatürk (as well as the Turkish military) versus the “headscarf republic,” or Islamists. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish secularists have marched in Istanbul and Ankara at the slightest hint that the prime minister and president of this country both could come from the AK Party. Yet there are some people here that believe that the silent majority favors a government that has strong ties to faith.
Turkey is fascinating because it is the only majority Muslim country that is devoutly secularist. Atatürk’s mission to fashion Turkey into a modern republic included banning religious dress within state institutions. Therefore, for instance, women who wear headscarves and wish to study at the university must remove their scarves in the classroom. A revelation (to me) during these few weeks of constitutional crisis is that Prime Minister Erdo?an sends his daughter to school in the U.S. so that she can study at university AND wear a headscarf. It’s the difference of freedom from religion (Turkey) and freedom of religion (U.S.).
I cannot even personally begin to understand nor analyze the situation in Turkey. And, I don’t know if I want to – at least not in this forum. One thing I have come to learn in the few weeks that I have lived here is that Turks take themselves very, very seriously. As Jan Morris writes in the forward of Mary Lee Settle’s excellent book Turkish Reflections: A Biography of a Place: