Turk Leaders Religious, but Economy Strong
By Bashir Goth
The minute the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was declared, Turkey's stock market jumped to a record high. The local business community welcomed the AKP victory as a choice of stability and continued economic prosperity over instability and chaos, while foreign investors hailed the AKP government's handling of the economy even before the elections were held.
With 7% average economic growth over the last five years, the Turkish people voted with their pockets and for the continuity of the economic and social stability of the country. Who cares whether the prime minister's wife wears a headscarf, when you know you can get a good job, send your children to a good school, and have the government assurance that it will not interfere in your personal life regarding such issues as what your daughter or son wears at the beach or on the street, or whether you desire to spend your night in the mosque or the bar.
I was watching the AKP rallies during the elections and I saw women wearing the latest Western fashion trends and hairstyles and youths of all walks of life all supporting the Islamist-rooted AKP. After living almost five years under the AKP rule, these people would have kicked out Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party if they had failed on the economic front, infringed in any way upon people's personal rights or stifled freedom of speech. But the fact voters returned them to power with an overwhelming majority speaks louder and clearer than whatever humbug uninformed political pundits breathe into the unassuming media.
Secularism is enshrined in the Turkish constitution and the AKP government has proven its respect for it day after day over the last four and half years they were in power. Even amid the euphoria of his victory, Erdogan was quick to reassure the Turkish people that his government would safeguard and respect the country's principles and the rich diversity of its people.
With his previous record right before our eyes, there is no reason to assume that Mr. Erdogan will not live up to his promise. To suspect the AKP of having a hidden Islamic agenda because its leaders observe Islamic rituals or their wives wear headscarves is like inviting Muslims to look with suspicion at Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union because it carries the word Christian in its name. In fact one may argue that the AKP are ostensibly less rigid in their religiosity than George W. Bush. I don’t recall anytime they claimed God to be on their side.
The election victory of AKP is a gain for secularism because liberal views and personal freedoms cannot thrive without economic prosperity, and the AKP brought economic boom to Turkey and promises more. It is again that economic growth that will stem the primary sources of social ills and deprive extremism of one of its favorite breeding grounds.
Embracing the AKP, therefore, and allowing Turkey to join the EU will not only be a visionary step forward and an initiative for reconciliation with the Muslim world, but it will also deal a fatal blow to the fallacy of the clash of civilizations and expose the Islamists' hollow argument that the West is against Islam as a religion. To shun Turkey's AKP will not only be to repeat the bitter experiment of Algeria, but it will make the West-Islam gulf irreparable.Read more in Washington Post