The American Interest

Turkey Goes Islamic

On November 3, Islam triumphed politically in Turkey, rendering the entire U.S. strategy in the Middle East tenuous and causing dismay in Europe.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, barred from public office for Islamic agitation, led his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to a landslide victory over his secularist opponents in NATO’s only Muslim nation.  Muslims will control over two thirds of the seats in Turkey’s parliament, but Erdogan will not be able to lead the government for now, as he is still banned from holding office.  He proudly proclaimed—before reinventing himself as a “post-Islamist” democrat—that “the mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

The forces supported by Turkey’s Westernized elites have been routed.  All three parties in the ruling coalition failed to gain parliamentary representation.  But in his pitch to the West, Mr. Erdogan minimized his party’s Islamic connections by stressing his “reformist” and “democratic” credentials.  As Lebanon’s Daily Star commented, Erdogan and his followers decided to pursue a strategy designed to fight the regime from within:

Erdogan . . . decided to avoid referring to Islam at all.  In fact, the AKP leader has stated publicly that the issue of women’s veils does not even figure on his list...

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