Culture War – Turkish style

I just finished reading the novel “Snow” by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. The central conflict in the story is between the protagonist, Ka, a educated, secular, urban, European-leaning Turk who travels to a rural city of Kars. There he encounters fundamentalist Islamists, Kurdish nationalists and others who feed on the resentment many of the locals feel for urban intellectuals like Ka. They believe that Ka and others like him have betrayed the traditional Turk and Muslim way of life.

Young girls, it seems, have gone so far as to commit suicide because the local authorities won’t let them wear head scarves. The school’s headmaster is murdered by an Islamist. It’s a tangled tale of love, betrayal, religious and political fundamentalism–and snow. Excellent book, funny and sad.

And I guess it’s not totally fiction. Fast forward to today’s news: via LA Times:

ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Turkey’s highest court today decided against outlawing the ruling party (AKP), which had been accused of attempting to advance an Islamist agenda in officially secular Turkey… .

The case against the AKP was brought by prosecutors after the government tried earlier this year to lift a ban on the wearing of Muslim head scarves in public universities. That prohibition has its roots in the decision of modern Turkey’s highly respected founding father, Kemal Ataturk, to ban religious dress in public institutions.

Miss Turkey 2007 Winners

Woman wearing traditional Islamic headscarf appears in Turkish parliament

Talk about a culture war. Turkey’s highest court came within a vote of outlawing the ruling party. Over head scarves. That would be like the Supreme Court in this country outlawing the GOP for requiring prayer in public schools.

Of course that won’t happen. For one thing, the government here generally doesn’t outlaw political parties. For another, in this country religious displays by high government officials isn’t banned, it’s expected. For another, if the high court in this country were to outlaw a political party, it would most likely be the Democratic Party. And it wouldn’t be for insufficient devotion to secularism. Democrats, we are told, stand in the way of prayer in schools, and putting the ten commandments in the courthouse; Democrats are conducting a war on Christmas, and so forth. Turkey’s culture war is just like America’s. In a parallel universe.


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