October 12, 2004


Is Turkey Muslim or Modern? Europe Asks: Attempted adultery ban veils progress -- and could foil bid for EU membership. (Tracy Wilkinson, October 12, 2004, LA Times)

[T]he tug of war between conservative tradition and modern aspiration has never been more visible than it is now, as the nation of 69 million attempts to become the first Muslim-majority member of the European Union. On Dec. 17, the 25-state bloc is to decide whether to formally open membership negotiations with Turkey, after a conditional green light from the EU's executive body last week.

"I know it's a cliche, of Turkey being the bridge between East and West, between the modern and the traditional. But it's true," said Fatmagul Berktay, a political scientist at Istanbul University. "We are in between in every sense."

Turkey straddles two continents, serving as the crossroads of civilizations for millenniums. Today, the European side of the divide is the more prosperous, but the majority of Turks live in the larger, poorer swath that sweeps over the mountains and plains of Asia Minor toward Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

The paradox is also embodied in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who began his political career in an openly Islamist party but later formed his own centrist organization. Steering Turkish law toward EU standards, he has frequently backed down on issues that are important to his more conservative followers.

Most Turks are eager to join the EU, convinced that membership will bring prosperity and greater cultural freedom. Many in Europe oppose letting Turkey into the club, concerned that the country's poverty, its history of political instability and, truth be told, its overwhelming Muslim character are too far out of sync with the predominantly Christian West.

After making steady progress toward bringing its laws and human rights practices into line with European standards, Turkey badly stumbled last month with an attempt to criminalize adultery.

Although it was eventually squelched, the proposed law, an effort to mix religion and state, inflicted significant, perhaps irreparable, damage to its bid to join the bloc, said diplomats, officials and analysts in a series of interviews over the last two weeks.

Turkey would do well to recognize that it, like the United States, is not a modern nation and that it is modernism which is destroying Europe. What sense does it make to join up with people who think banning religious symbols is healthy but banning adultery evil?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2004 2:56 PM

For crying out loud, since when is adultery a solely "religious" problem? If nothing else, it's breach of contract. Can someone explain to me why it should be legal?

Posted by: Timothy at October 12, 2004 3:10 PM

What's wrong with leaving adultery as a civil matter ?
Many people in the US who commit adultery end up broke and alone, which seems punishment enough.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 12, 2004 3:15 PM

Ah, yes. The fabled tolerance of the Euro-Left. They only tolerate a view or a culture like their own, or which advances their own agenda. Since this doesn't fit either criteria, it can't be tolerated, with no compromise even considered.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 12, 2004 3:21 PM


It's not enough.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 4:14 PM

Surprising that oj is so bullish on Turkey while giving China's prospects the thumbs down.

In a recent book review, Spengler wrote:

Turkey, I have argued in the past (Careful what you Bush for, August 3), once again is the sick man of Europe, and its loss of grip frees the dogs of a new Great War. Those in the West who still view Turkey as a pillar of Western influence in a troubled region should read Snow sitting down. At length, American policy analysts have sounded the alarm over Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's perceived Islamist agenda, eg Michael Rubin in National Review Online on August 10. Pamuk portrays a Turkey whose center cannot hold because it has rotted away.
Posted by: Eugene S. at October 12, 2004 4:22 PM

It's amusing to see France, Germany et al. pretending that they are still "Christian" countries when it suits their other purposes.

Posted by: Steve at October 12, 2004 4:33 PM


I'd be bullish on China if it had an Islamic core or if its Christianiuzation proceeds quickly enough.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 4:49 PM

What benefits it a nation to have an Islamic core?

In the 20th century Turkey was relatively successful in spite of, not because of, its Islamic core.

Kemalism locked the monster into a cage, but now the door is open.

On the other hand, Mr. Erdogan is a decent man, and Turkish society may have made just enough progress in the past 80 years.

I honestly don't know.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 12, 2004 5:18 PM


No. it was successful because it had both an Islamic moral core and a secular state. Joining Europe means destroying that moral core.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 5:27 PM

Adultery is more of an excuse than a real dispute. The EU is looking for any possible straw in order to exclude the Turks because everyone in Europe remembers Vienna in 1689.

The great question I've never understood is why can't the Turks decide to be Methodists or Mormons or something rather than Muslims. Islam is an anchor, a hobble on any group trying to at least appear civilized. The quicker that that death cult of the Moon God is thrown on the dung heap of history the better off the world will be.

Posted by: Bart at October 12, 2004 10:24 PM

The future of Europe is Islamic--who are the dungheap dwellers in this equation?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 11:21 PM

I thought Europe is post-modern while the US remains modern.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at October 13, 2004 1:37 AM

The future of Europe might be Islamic...

It's easy enough to spy a leak in the dike, and to imagine that if the hole grew large enough, the sea would rush in and cover the land; however, most serious leaks get repaired, and Europe's "Moslemization" is far from complete.

Although it's possible that all European nations might allow themselves to be gradually and peacefully overtaken by Muslim immigrants, I'll be quite surprised if there isn't bloodshed.

Europe's decline, and the future acceleration of that decline, cannot be disputed, but whether they'll end up majority Islamic is a very open question.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 13, 2004 5:54 AM


We'll have mmore in common with Islam than with Europe in a few decades--so we won't be saving the Euros and they never save themselves.

Posted by: oj at October 13, 2004 7:29 AM


Bernard Lewis flatly stated that at the end of this century, Eourpe will be Islamic. EU Commissioner Bolkestein seems to be resigned to this inevitability (see earlier discussions here and here.)

What he didn't say was what kind of an Islam it will be. It could be something resembling the nascent civilized "Euro-Islam" proposed by a tiny handful of thinkers like Bassam Tibi. It could be that the outwardly modern, in reality fundamentalist Islam proposed by Trojan horses like Tariq Ramadan wins. Atheism and christianity in Europe won't disappear. For all we know (which is very little), the 21st century could be a time of creative ferment in Europe, not in spite of but because of the turmoil of the coming conflicts between the indigenous population and the immigrants. At the same time, the Anglosphere -- weighed down by the heavy burden of policing the world and upholding freedom and human rights -- could be expending its energy until it is no more than an empty shell.


You say that a moral core and a secular state are the twin pillars on which a successful society rests. I agree. But you speak from a Judeo-Christian perspective. "Render unto Caesar," and before that, the Hebrews petitioned for a king in spite of Samuel's dire warnings until they got one; thus was secular government divinely sanctioned.

I am not aware of any foundation for separating the sepulchral and the secular in the Koran.

In the Muslim world, either the Mullahs rule or the secular ruler has to constantly appease them and keep them mollified by doing their bidding.

It has not been proven that Islam can coexist with human rights, individual liberty, freedom of conscience, rule of law, and all the other things we hold dear. Turkey achieved progress for its people (and everything I know indicates that the Turks look with a mixture of pity and revulsion on the Arabs) by putting shackles on the Beast. Under the wary eye of the Turkish military (the guardian of the Kemalist constitution) the shackles are now being taken off.

Who knows anything anyway? We are just a bunch of folks shooting the breeze in our undershirts, sixpacks at the ready. Or if you prefer, we are the drawing room of the Internet, reclining on leather upholstered furniture and musing with a glass of Jerez Amontillado while our host occasionally rises to put another log in the fireplace. Eventually that hazy glow settles in and we feel smarter (or maybe it is mild inebriation).

Who knows something? Maybe Bernard Lewis does. Maybe Niall Ferguson. Or perhaps we the hive mind do, assimilating hundreds of thinkers and distilling the quintessence of the choicest fruits. Or so we think.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 13, 2004 7:39 AM

Eugene--well said.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 13, 2004 7:59 AM


"We are just a bunch of folks shooting the breeze in our undershirts"

Speak for yourself. I never log on to Brothersjudd without putting on a tie. Besides, you shouldn't be sipping sherry this early in the morning.

Your eloquence is that of the despairing, semi-inebriated existentailist in a Paris cafe. Having discussed the meaning of life up and down for hours, he suddenly loses heart and concludes nothing is knowable and nothing matters (or he didn't get the girl). Thus he becomes the unwitting ally of the world's murderers and torturers.

Ideas matter. Ideas have consequences. Despair is a sin. Just because we can't see or control the future doesn't mean we can't influence it. Orrin, would you mind putting another log on the fire. Thanks.

Posted by: Peter B at October 13, 2004 8:42 AM

Eugene S.:

Sure, by straight line extrapolation.

However, we can see from the failure of Malthus and Paul Ehrlich's predictions that straight line extrapolation is a pretty poor way to guess the future course of human events.

Orrin believes that the Europeans are spent, and will roll over and die.

I merely hypothesize that some nations or cultures might yet have a spark, and will not allow themselves to be swallowed by Muslims.
The anti-immigration nationalist movements of France, Germany, and Belgium won't go away.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 13, 2004 9:42 AM


If they fight back they'll likely lose.

Posted by: oj at October 13, 2004 9:51 AM

Malthus worked under the faulty assumption that agricultural produce was more or less a constant while population of course expands geometrically.

We have seen in the last half century that even in some of the most over-populated parts of the globe, we can produce enough food because of GM and other changes. However, we are also seeing a new challenge as the water table is being dissipated or fouled in many areas of the world, and I don't know what kind of rabbits we can pull out of the hat to deal with this. Desalinization?

Some cultures are irretrievably backward. Tibetan Buddhism and Islam certainly are. The Euros have allowed the Muslims Orcs to infest their territory and are going to pay the price in civil war over the next half century. As the need for oil decreases, which its very scarcity will cause as people find alternatives, the Islamic World will start starving again, as there is no development of any alternative to the oil extraction. This will cause the excess population to flow into Europe with the resulting conflict.

Europe has the chance to get its act together and the rise of a Thatcher in the decrepit Britain of the 70s gives one hope that even as sclerotic and hide-bound a nation as France can change when hit with the cold shower of reality. Italy is already taking harsh steps against 'asylum-seekers' while accepting an increasing number of under-employed Eastern Europeans.

Posted by: Bart at October 13, 2004 10:44 AM