- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Arguably, among the most pressing questions of our time are: Can Islamic nations enjoy the benefits of secular, tolerant and accountable government — and will they be able to do so in the future?

A bellwether may prove to be Turkey, the modern and very secular state created some 80 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the ashes of a theocratic Ottoman Empire defeated in World War I. His legacy has been one of the best hopes for believing Muslims could practice their faith without being subjected to the dictates of repressive theocracy.

It is important to note that the guarantor of that secular government in Turkey — sometimes at the expense of democratic rule — has historically been the country’s military. For this reason among others, the armed forces remain Turks’ most highly regarded institution.

Ending Ataturk’s experiment and restoring the Muslim caliphate it supplanted has long been a goal of Islamofascists, adherents to a dangerous political movement whose global reach and terrorist methods have largely been enabled by decades of investment by the world’s repressive Islamist regimes, led by Saudi Arabia. The rise of Islamofascism has prompted some in the West to hope Turkey would continue to serve as a model for the Muslim world even after an avowed Islamist named Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002 parlayed a minority of votes into a monopoly of power.

This delusion contributed to the European Union allowing its negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU to be skillfully used by Mr. Erdogan to checkmate Turkey’s military. Thus, had the armed forces acted to prevent Mr. Erdogan’s creeping Islamofascist coup against the country’s secular institutions and traditions, they would have been blamed for keeping Turkey “out of Europe.”

Six months ago, this column documented the comprehensive nature of Mr. Erdogan’s takeover. To recap:

• The Turkish government and economy is being corrupted by billions of dollars in what is known as “green money,” from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states awash with petro-windfalls. There is reason to believe some of this unaccountable cash is finding its way into Turkish businesses, creating revenue streams used to consolidate the Islamists’ power base and finance Islamofascist terrorism.{bullt

• The Islamists are employing classic fascistic techniques, using “green” funds and the power of the state to go after strategic targets such as: enterprises of businessmen who support the democratic opposition; banks they own or rely upon for financing; Turkey’s large Alevi minority — whom intolerant Islamofascists try to vilify and persecute as “apostates”; working women (a key ingredient in Turkey’s successful economic and social modernization); the secular bureaucracy; and the press. Particularly worrisome is that consolidation of media ownership has resulted in considerable self-censorship and, of late, propagandizing against the West (including notably a spate of wildly popular, virulently anti-American books and movies).

• A special focus of the creeping Islamofascist coup has been Turkey’s traditionally secular educational system. It is being steadily adulterated by madrassa-style imam-hatip and other “schools” where students are taught only the Koran and its interpretation according to the Islamofascists. The age at which such indoctrination can begin has been lowered to 4 years old.

• The prime minister, himself an imam-hatip graduate, has also mounted assaults on two other fronts that reveal Mr. Erdogan’s ominous plans not only for the country’s educators but for another critical Turkish institution, as well: the judiciary.

First, a local prosecutor, clearly acting on orders from higher up, indicted a prominent secular academic — a university rector named Yucel Askin — on preposterously trumped-up charges. Their subsequent dismissal by a court has only intensified Mr. Erdogan’s determination to subvert the judiciary. Tens of thousands of Koranic school graduates are being appointed as judges, assuring they will increasingly serve as instruments of Sharia religious law.

Worse yet, Mr. Erdogan has lately demonstrated that when he does not get his way in court, he is prepared to dispense with the judiciary altogether. This was the upshot of another government-inspired assault on the country’s secular universities, a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights by a female student who insisted on wearing a prohibited hijab (headcovering) to class.

When this appeal was rejected, Mr. Erdogan angrily declared, “The court has no right to speak on this issue. That right belongs to the ulema (clerics).”

• This statement demonstrates the cynicism of Mr. Erdogan’s purported efforts to have Turkey join the European Union. Far from being willing to adhere to European human rights and other standards, he has simply viewed the EU accession process as a means of keeping the army from once again intervening to preserve secular rule — probably the last remaining threat to his consolidation of Islamofascist power.

Emboldened by the success of this gambit, Mr. Erdogan has now gone after one of Turkey’s most highly regarded generals, Land Force Commander Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, who is widely expected to become the head of the Turkish military this summer. He is a courageous and outspoken anti-Islamist and the regime clearly views his ascendancy as a threat and had the same local prosecutor who went after the university rector file no-less-absurd charges against Gen. Buyukanit.

Fortunately, the cumulative effect of Mr. Erdogan’s Islamofascist assault on Turkish democracy is becoming more apparent to his countrymen and opposition appears to be rising at home. It behooves the European Union to reinforce the political effect of such sentiment by making clear that Islamofascist behavior will preclude Turkey from membership, not efforts by the Turkish military to counter the Islamists’ takeover.

And the U.S. and other freedom-loving nations must make it clear they view an Islamist Turkey as no model for the Muslim world and a threat to Turkey’s standing as a valued member of the Free World.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. He blogs at www.WarFooting.com.

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