Saving Turkey from Its Old Self: More US, Less Europe

Turkey needs to be saved from itself. It can be saved by having the United States as its model for a modern secular state, and not any European country.

The late visionary leader Mustapha Kemal Ataturk wanted to build a modern Turkey from the ashes of the collapsed empire. He looked West for a model of what a modern state looks like. He emulated the strict secularism of Europe.

Turkey has changed and many Turks are increasingly more observant. The harsh Turkish secularism has the state banning women wearing headscarves from college campuses. Contrast that with the US justice department suing a school district to enforce the right of a Muslim teenager to wear a headscarf to school. I was at the CAIR annual convention in DC a few month ago when representative Keith Ellison alluded to this rather odd reality.

The US Constitution first amendment establishment clause has been read to mandate a separation of state and religion- the free excercise clause guarantees freedom of worship.

Americans are more religious than Europeans. The American approach to religion in the public sphere is more sophisticated and nuanced than the European almost fundamentalist secular approach to religion in the public sphere.

For Turkey to save itself, it needs to reinvent itself and its secular creed by becoming more American and less European.


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