Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute is always worth reading to keep a finger on the pulse of changes in Turkey. In today’s Op-Ed he describes the man-on-the-street attitudeswhich represent a sea change from those of Attaturk’s secular republic.
In the past, actions considered offensive to Turkish national identity, such as support for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, terror attacks, would have been a virtual casus belli for the Turks. Not anymore. Recent WikiLeaks reports have disclosed that Russia has been helping arm the PKK, producing barely a raised eyebrow from the Turkish public — a far cry from the angry protests that would have been expected in years past.
Today’s Turks are focused on taking issue with people and ideas they consider offensive to Muslims. While a negative reaction to perceived anti-Muslim sentiments is understandable from the Turkish people’s perspective, this new morality is based on a la carte morals and selective outrage: Turks take issue with perceived offensive behavior by Westerners against Muslims, but they give carte blanche to similar behavior by Muslims against Westerners or even against fellow Muslims.
The roots of this new selective morality lie in the transformation of the Turkish identity under the AKP. In decades past, the Turks considered themselves both Muslim and Western simultaneously, for they saw no conflict between these identities. Now, however, many Turks view the two identities as being mutually exclusive. Increasingly, many are siding with a politically defined “Muslim world” as opposed to the West.
Students of Turkey’s history will recognize this change not as something new, but a return to something old. Perhaps secularism was indeed a transient deviation from the norm in Turkey.