Turkey regresses

For many years Turks were very pro-Western. Indeed, they considered themselves part of the West. But, maybe, partly because the EU members baulked at Turkish EU membership and the cultural upheaval it might cause, Turkey is undergoing its own cultural upheaval, where the authorities are insisting on ethnic, religious and historical distinctness from the West. Secularism fades as the number of religious schools rises. Evolution is disappearing from the curriculum, and the objective in schools is to raise “a pious generation”. The Turkey of Kemal Ataturk is disappearing, and the country is sliding back into xenophobia and chauvinism. Rapprochement with a newly resurgent Russia is threatening NATO.

An historian once postulated that religions have surges and fall-backs. Islam surged under the Prophet, of course, fell back during the later middle ages, had a surge (into Western Europe/ Vienna) in the 17th Century, fell back under Western colonialism, and has been surging back with a vengeance recently, maybe under the threat of technologies it cannot combat. For whatever reason, the fact is that, hidden from our sight there are tens of thousands of Turks who passionately support and defend pluralistic democracy. There is a dicotomy in Turkey between the modern West of the country and the mass of Anatolia, which never really accepted the changes Kemal Ataturk made. Two countries, really.

I remember a conversation with a young Turkish businessman on a plane trip. He told me that he and his friends bought into Western ways in toto. His English was perfect and he loved visiting London. But, he said, travel a hundred miles east of Istanbul and it is like time travel back into the 13th Century.

What are we doing to support these educated, Westernised Turks (who haven’t been bullied or arrested)? Trump will do nothing – he is frightened of moslems; terrorists, don’t you know.
We should offer them a safe home in the West – they would be an economic asset.

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