October 24, 2004

New Column

My latest Tech Central Station column is up. It's about Turkey's dicey relationship with the European Union: Turkey and the Problem of History.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 24, 2004 10:08 PM

Anybody remember "Sick Man of Europe"?

The history of Turkey, (or perhaps more properly, the Ottoman Empire) was quite intertwined with European history from the late middle ages to its demise in WWI. Turkey has also played a part in 20th century European affairs, and it really continues. The Westernmost part of Turkey is in Europe.

The EU balks at Turkey because if the Turks were to join, they'd be the second most populous country in the EU, with all that implies. Only Germany would have more people.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 25, 2004 06:17 AM

Annexation?! What in the world are you talking about. It seems you do not understand how the EU works.

Posted by: novakant at October 25, 2004 06:43 AM


Since we can't comment over at Instapundit, I'm just going to use this thread.

BTW, really enjoyed the EU/Turkey piece.

But at Instapundit, you write:

Arthur Chrenkoff says there are two Iraqs.

Just very reminiscent of John Edwards.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at October 25, 2004 07:18 AM

The military in Turkey was setup as a guarentee of the constitution. It won't be doing its stated function if it didn't overthrow government that went over the line.

What many American does not realized is that military institution is often the only thing that guarentee a government to exist. Often, they're a seperate branch of government, answerable only to themself.

Posted by: BigFire at October 25, 2004 08:53 AM

I had a hard time figuring out what you are trying to say until the last paragraph. If I understood you correctly you seem to be saying that Europe should let Turkey into the EU despite ambivalence (on your part as well). You are correct. Turkey has been fighting Islamic terrorists (funded by the Saudis) for years. They really are the front line, and if Europe turns its back on Turkey they will only be giving ammunition to Turkish fundamentalists who will be quick to say, "you see? Europe doesn't want you. You better bow down to Mecca." Turkey has looked towards Europe since Ataturk dragged them out of the Ottoman Empire in 1917. They have been proudly and rigidly secular ever since. Despite the Islamic roots of the current party in power the army stands ready to guard separation of mosque and state. Turkey needs to be admitted to EU. It will be to Europe's advantage in the long run.

Posted by: Mara at October 25, 2004 09:03 AM

Michael, you castigate Europeans for being "post-historical" and thinking everything can be worked out by treaties and negotiations. But it's precisely because Europeans are so "mired in history" that they overwhelmingly reject Turkish membership in the EU. Now, there are good and bad reasons for opposing Turkey in the EU, but most of them have to do with "history" and "tradition" in one way or another.

As for Kagan's thesis: who is really "post-historical," who "mired in history" here? Take the Iraq war. The pro-war American position was that democracy could be spread in the Middle East within a fairly short timetable, despite the fact that there are no democracies in the Middle East outside of Israel. The anti-war European position was that no, that's not possible, you can't make non-democrats into democrats overnight, it's not their "tradition," "history," "culture," etc. etc. Democracy takes a long time to grow, people have to grow it themselves, etc. etc.

Seems to me that the pro-war Americans were the subscribers to the post-historical paradise here, whereas the Europeans were arguing quite realistically. I think the same is true on the Turkey issue.


Posted by: Penny at October 25, 2004 09:46 AM

Mara wrote:

"Despite the Islamic roots of the current party in power the army stands ready to guard separation of mosque and state. Turkey needs to be admitted to EU."

Mara, if Turkey is admitted to the EU, the role of the Kemalist military will be very much pruned back in domestic Turkish politics. That is not the least of the reasons the Turkish Islamists want the EU membership so badly. All in all, it will be far easier to be a conservative Muslim or fundamentalist Islamist under liberal and tolerant EU legislation than under the Kemalist military. Many conservative Turks prefer Germany for just this reason.

Witness the case of the Turkish imam, Metin Kaplan, the so-called "Calif of Cologne." For years this guy (as his father before him) preached the destruction of the west under the benign aegis of German law. The only reason he was deported was for ordering the assassination of a competitor, and still, it took years to get rid of him. In Turkey, he would have had no chance.


Posted by: Penny at October 25, 2004 10:00 AM

Many conservative Turks prefer Germany for just this reason.

Penny, I don't know if you are aware that most of the Turks in German are of Kurdish origin.

I'm not sure how you reach the conclusion that the military will be pruned under EU membership. I find this hard to believe. I would think that one of the selling points for Turkish membership is the fact that Europe would then have the largest army in Europe at their disposal.

Posted by: Mara at October 25, 2004 10:28 AM

As Mara pointed out I also had hard time understanding the point of the article until the very end. However as it seems the readers that have posted comments on this site have a very good understanding of the facts. As every one of them shares very good points.

I would like to raise two or three points if you will.

[""Europeanize" at least one part of the House of Islam"]. The word I would prefer is to modernize not Europeanize. It is integrate not assimilate or to get assimilated [or annexed(!).]

I would like to remind Mr. Totten the importance of our history together with Europe which is as important as our geography. [And if geography is the question; Cyprus is yet another one].

When Turkey was signing the EEC agreement in the 60's, Charles De Gaulle stated that "Turkey is as part of Europe as France is".

We share a common 1000 years. The Ottoman Empire was not a jihadist empire. Or fundamentally Muslim empire. A little knowledge of history is enough to prove that. Our understanding of our religion is very different then the other muslim states.

Many historians believe that the Byzantium Empire had inherited the Roman Empire, and the Byzantium was inherited by the Ottomans. Policies/governance/military. Even the lions that the empires possessed were transferred.(Lord Kinross may be one example as a historian)

I hope ordinary people will understand these and many more facts one day and stop judging us[Turks] with what the rest of muslims are up to. We need to be understood.

Thanks for the opportunity.


Posted by: Doruk at October 25, 2004 12:23 PM

Worth a read:



Posted by: Barney at October 25, 2004 01:53 PM

Whoa! Barney!
I took a look at Abraham's Insider Report and found it so filled with distortion and innuendo that I wouldn't know where to start differing with it (actually, I read about two thirds of it before I gave up in disgust). This guy seems to be judging the Islamic world according to a bunch of extremists. This would be like Muslims judging all of us according to the likes of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

Posted by: Mara at October 25, 2004 02:51 PM


The standard figures are upwards of 2,000,000 Turks in Germany and about 500,000 Kurds. What I don't know is how many of the Kurds are also considered Turks. But anyway, most of the Turks in Germany are not Kurds, but come from other Anatolian provinces.

I didn't say the Turkish military would be numerically reduced, but that its role in domestic politics would be restricted. Right now, it can depose governments. That would most definitively not be the case in an EU-Turkey. There would certainly be other safeguards to prevent an anti-democratic, Islamist government from coming to power, but I believe that a Turkish EU-membership would very seriously reduce the Turkisk military's ability to safeguard the laicism of the state.

The Ottoman empire "not a fundamentally Muslim empire"? It was THE Muslim empire! The Ottoman sultans assumed the Caliphate in the early 16th century (Selim I). It was not abolished until Attaturk.


Posted by: Penny at October 25, 2004 04:17 PM

The majority of Turks in Germany are of Kurdish ethnicity.

You're mixing posts. It was Doruk who said, The Ottoman Empire was not a jihadist empire. Or fundamentally Muslim empire. A little knowledge of history is enough to prove that. Our understanding of our religion is very different then the other muslim states.

This is debatable, but I think he's right. The Ottoman empire was based on a militaristic model. It was a conquering empire, but didn't take its inspiration from Islam anymore than the British empire took its inspiration from Christianity. The Ottomans were not Arabs, and there has always been a tension between the Islam of the Arabs and the Islam of the Turks which was much more tolerant and liberal in its outlook.

Posted by: Mara at October 25, 2004 04:24 PM

Mar, I agree with you a lot. A lot. I add some of my own observations.
For sound geo-political reasons most politicians really salute Turkey as member of Europe, except some Christian politicians who feel God wants no Islamization of Europe.
Most people are against, because they fear it will cost a lot of money. Recently 10 Easteuropean countries joined Europe: politicians enthousiastic, Westeuropeans not at all. It is all about money (and fear of jobs).
Some 15 years ago Germay was reunited. West-German Kanzler Kohl promised poverty in the East-Germany would disappear within a few years. Well, it costs a LOT of money. Indeed, houses and roads in Eastern Germany are up-to-date now but unemployment in the eastern half is very high and no solution for that. The yearly Day-Of-Reunification is no big holiday in Germany.
Why is Norway no member of Europe? They have a lot of oil and Norwegian people calculate they are better off outside Europe.
I hope and guess that a lot of boring statemanship and muddling-through of European politicians will bring Turkey into Europe.

Posted by: Ben Winden at October 25, 2004 05:36 PM


Sorry, I didn't mean to impute Doruk's comment to you, I just forgot to include his name. But whether the Ottoman empire was fundamentally Muslim or not is really not debatable. The Ottoman Caliphs claimed the highest Islamic authority for half a millennium and destroyed all other pretenders to that position. Their conquests they saw explicitly as expanding the House of Islam. When they besieged Vienna, it was to conquer the infidel. Of course they were "based on a militaristic model". That was how you spread Islam! And Christianity, too, for more than a thousand years. It makes no difference that the Ottomans weren't Arab, because Islam was never a racial religion. I'm not saying that Ottoman Islam was not "tolerant" and "liberal" at times and in places. It was. But the Ottomans understood themselves and their rule as fundamentaly Muslim, and to say they did not is really quite not to know what one is talking about.

As to the German Turks being mostly Kurdish in origin: I will check for myself. In the meantime, please remind me of your original point with this observation?


Posted by: Penny at October 25, 2004 06:05 PM

Why are you all so willing to give Turkey a pass on their civil rights violations. If you are a Kurd in Turkey you are not even allowed to give your kids Kurdish names. Not to mention, not being allowed to speak Kurdish. A Kurdish woman who won a seat in the Turkish parliament, made her acceptance speech in Kurdish, she was arrested and was in jail for at least 13 years if she is even out now. Look at Indonesia for example, it used to be a very nice place to visit, the muslims began blowing up bombs near resorts. Suddenly people start going there, the people become poor, and then the muslims move in and the whole place goes to hell.Keep believing that the Muslims are peaceful at your own peril.

Posted by: barney at October 25, 2004 06:24 PM

oops meant "stop going there then"

Posted by: barney at October 25, 2004 06:48 PM


Here's a quote from the "Petition of the Kurdish Community to the German Parliament" from December 1999 (translated from German):

"500,000 people of Kurdish heritage live in the Federal Republic Germany. Every third one of us is a German citizen. We are together 150,000 German citizens of Kurdish heritage and have a claim to respect and recognition of our culture..." etc. etc.


There are over 2,000,000 Turks in Germany. As far as I can tell, people of Kurdish heritage do not tend to consider themselves Turks. How do you arrive at the conclusion that "most Turks in Germany are of Kurdish origin"?

And what difference does this make anyway?


Posted by: Penny at October 26, 2004 06:59 AM


Here's a quote from Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a noted German historian and opponent of Turkish EU-membership for historical and cultural reasons:

"Childhood marriage is still common in Turkey, a practice that flies in the face of the European sense of justice. Erdogan's oldest son married a minor. 2 out 3 men still pay a bride-price and consider women property. Every second woman is married without her consent. Every tenth man has more than one wife."

For those who read German, the whole article is at:


(These data are are pretty well-known. See, for example http://www.allaboutturkey.com/marriage.htm
Erdogan's son's bride was 15 years old at the time. A special court decision was apparently necessary to allow her to marry. Belial Erdogan met her through an official matchmaker).

I'm sorry, but suchlike cultural practices simply do not belong in modern Europe. Only a post-historical dreamer could think so.


Posted by: Penny at October 26, 2004 07:46 AM


Here's an email I just recieved from the Tuerkische Gemeinde Deutschlands (Turkish Community of Germany) on the Kurdish question:

"Your question can be reduced to the following: 'when is somebody of Kurdish origin?' Since the end of the 70s, millions of Kurds have emigrated to the Turkish metropoli in the western part of Turkey. In Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir, more than 1 million people from southeast Anatolia are currently living. The workers who came to Germany in the 60s and 70s were mostly from Turkish ethnic heritage, whereas the refugees of the 80s and 90s had a large proportion of Kurds. But since all, Kurds as well as Turks, have a Turkish passport, there are no statistics about how many Turks of Kurdish heritage are living in Germany. There are about 2.5 million people of Turkish heritage in Germany, many have meanwhile become German citizens. It's not really possible to say how many of them are of Kurdish origin, especially since many of the latter now speak better Turkish than Kurdish because of the long suppression of the Kurdish language. More I cannot say.

-Dr. Harald Winkels"

Posted by: Penny at October 26, 2004 08:05 AM

Don't know if this helps, but it might...I live in Kreuzberg, Berlin, the most Turkish part of Germany. My children attend a Turkish-German kindergarten. No one I know there considers themselves Kurdish, and everyone speaks Turkish and German, not Kurdish. This doesn't mean, of course, that there are no Kurds in Kreuzberg - I've seen the occasional Kurdish demonstration against the Turkish government, so I know there are - but the idea that most Turks in Germany are of Kurdish origin seems outrageously far-fetched.

Posted by: Ian Jennings at October 26, 2004 09:12 AM

A Christian/Jew could rise in Ottoman bureaucracy. As a matter of fact most of the Ottoman ambassadors to Europe were people of Christian origin.

Ottomans conquered Christian lands. If their goal was to spread Islam would Greeks, or others be able to live without converting.

Did the "fundamental" Sultan decided to deport non Muslims as Ferdinand of Spain expelled Jews from Spain when they rejected converting to Christianity(15th century)? [Not to mention "fundamental" Ottomans welcomed these expelled Jews]

Some Ottoman Sultans mothers were Christian. Suleiman the magnificent (only) wife Roxelane, also known as Hurrem sultan was also the mother of Sultan Selim. How fundamental is this?

The most elite unit in the ottoman army (Janissaries) were all made by Christian converts.

If Islamic expansion was a goal then why would Turks worry about the middle east. Or distract themselves with Persians when they could constantly attack the nonmuslims if they wanted to.

If you visit an Ottoman palace, Topkapi palace for instance, all wall writings talk about, Justice, tolerance and the value of our diversification as one nation.

Ottoman understanding of religion was based on tolerance. It was not fundamentalism. If you want more information on their philosophy of religion you can research on Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, who was a the most important Muslim philosopher within the empire whose legacy still lives on in Turkey. (Sufism could be researched too)

On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire and Ataturk’s Turkey is different. Lets say marrying more than one woman/man is PRISON in today’s Turkey. Or before you get married in Turkey the couple have to pass a check up test involving blood and sometimes DNA tests to prove that they are not relatives and fit to be married. People that marries relatives are present ofcourse but they chose to be religiously wed which is not legally accepted in Ataturks Turkey. 2 out of 3 pays for a wife, now that is interesting statistics. Seems very credible too. If Hans says it must be true.

As I said before, Turks need to be understood not stereotyped.

I am sorry for the length but I had to share.


Posted by: Doruk at October 26, 2004 09:38 AM

Lots to respond to this morning. Good comments from everyone really.

I restate that one can certainly debate whether the motivation of Ottoman Turks was religious or imperial, but I am dubious about the following quote: "Their conquests they saw explicitly as expanding the House of Islam." This simply isn't true. They were expanding the house of Osman (Ottoman), not Islam. The Ottomans ousted the Seljuk Turks, and consolidated their hold on Seljuk territory. These people were not motivated by Islam in the same way the Christians were motivated during the crusades. They were a clan or tribe involved in conquering territory and defeated another Turkish origin clan to do so. After the defeat of the Seljuk Turks the Osman Turks consolidated and expanded, but their motivation was not primarily the expansion of Islam. Even to this day Turkish Islam is far more tolerant than the Islam of Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Mara at October 26, 2004 09:43 AM

it will be far easier to be a conservative Muslim or fundamentalist Islamist under liberal and tolerant EU legislation than under the Kemalist military. Many conservative Turks prefer Germany for just this reason.

It isn't easy to tell a Turk from a Kurd, as Dr. Winkels states, but it is true that Turkey cracked down very hard on Kurdish revolts in the eastern provinces during the 80's and as a result, there was a migration during that time to Germany.

My point, which I didn't state clearly, as that the Turks in Germany are not necessarily sympathetic to Turkey. They have their own motivations, but I don't think death of Kemalism is one of them.

Posted by: Mara at October 26, 2004 09:56 AM

Hans-Ulrich Wehler's quote isn't credible because his statement is too biased to be taken seriously.

There may be some childhood marriage in Turkey, but it's illegal. There may be some polygamy, but it's illegal. A dowry is not the same thing as a "bride price". There is polygamy in Utah, and it's tolerated, but we wouldn't want Europeans to judge us accordingly. There may be child marriage in Appalachia, but we wouldn't want to be judged accordingly. And if you check the wedding gift registry at Macy's you'll see that dowry isn't entirely dead here either! Enough said.

Posted by: Mara at October 26, 2004 10:13 AM

Doruk, Mara,

The issue is not whether Ottoman Islam was liberal or tolerant. The issue is whether it recognized a distinction between church and state. It did not. Until Attaturk. And then the Ottomans empire no longer existed. That's what I mean by "fundamentally Muslim." I did not say "fundamentalistically" Muslim, Doruk. There seems to be a linguistic misunderstanding here. Of course Ottoman Islam was totally unlike Wahhabi or Deobandi Islam.

Let me put my position another way. Pro-Turkey-in- the-EU-people often argue (like Michael) that Istanbul is a "European" city, and emphasize the many points of contact and channels of confluence between Turkisk/Ottoman and European civilization. This is all very true. But New York and Boston are also "European" cities in this same way, and no two countries could have more in common and shared history than America and Europe. But still America is not Europe (as Michael likes to emphasize). America is American. Ditto Russia: St. Petersburg is a European city, and Europe and Russia share centuries of history and culture. And yet Russia is not Europe, but persists in being Russian (as we see especially these days).

Turkey is not Europe in this same way. It will and should remain Turkey. And outside the EU.


Posted by: Penny at October 26, 2004 01:56 PM

I gather you've never had the pleasure of visiting Istanbul to enjoy the very European pleasure of sitting in a sidewalk cafe drinking Turkish wine while shoveling down plates of fresh anchovies. Perhaps you haven't wandered down Istiklal Caddessi poking around the antique shops, English bookstores, restaurants and art galleries. It's unfortunate that you haven't had the opportunity to visit the wonderful churches, the synagogues and beautiful mosques or see it's great museums and palaces. People are fashionably dressed, or not - in levis and t-shirts. It is one of the GREAT European cities and it's heritage is at least as Christian as it is Moslem. Perhaps it isn't as European as Paris, or Rome, but it is as European as Sarajevo or Athens, and they're part of the EU. Present day Turkey was once part of ancient Greece, and after that it was part of the Roman and later Byzantine empire. It has as years and years of shared history with Europe. If, as I hope, the EU makes the wise decision to accept Turkey they will be voting with the future instead of sticking to outdated stereotypes of the past.

Posted by: Mara at October 26, 2004 02:45 PM


Here's a link from someone you probably think is a freedom fighter, in it you will find mention of the Vienna battles.


Posted by: barney at October 26, 2004 03:46 PM


I've been to Istanbul. But Istanbul is easy to love, because it is--I fully agree--a great European city. But spend a few weeks among traditional Turkish families in small towns off the touristic beaten path in Anatolia. Or do an intership in a police station near the Kurdish territories. Or an exchange program in one of the new state-funded Islamist "Imam Hatip" schools Erdogan & Co. wish to institute ("the backyard of our party") and put on the fast track (no entrance exam!) in the university admissions process.

It's here that the rub is for Turkish EU-membership, not in picturesque Istanbul.

We will see whether there is even a "vote" on the issue or not. I hope there is, but I don't think there will be.

Anyway, good to know you Americans have our best interests at heart, even when we do not.


Posted by: Penny at October 26, 2004 03:50 PM

I think the Imam Hatip schools have been ruled out for University admission at this point.

I know Anatolia very well, and while it is true that you will find many villages that are backwards the same can be said for many towns in this country, and in many European countries. I think you are holding Turkey to a different, higher standard because they are not Christians. Turkey doesn't have to jump higher than Bulgaria or other eastern European countries, or does it? Is there a different standard for Turkey?

Posted by: Mara at October 26, 2004 04:02 PM

The Ottoman empire "not a fundamentally Muslim empire"? It was THE Muslim empire! The Ottoman sultans assumed the Caliphate in the early 16th century (Selim I). It was not abolished until Attaturk.

This is false. The idea that the caliphate was passed from the Abbasids to the Ottomans is a myth constructed in the late 18th century as a response to the humiliating treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. As part of their geopolitical power play, Russia forced the Ottomans to acknowledge the tsar as "protector" of the large Christian population living in the Ottoman empire. As a face-saving measure, the Ottomans counter-claimed a similar authority over Muslims living outside the empire. In support of this claim, the Ottoman government resuscitated the archaic notion of the caliphate, spreading the story that the last Mamluk sultan in Cairo transferred his caliphal dignity to Sultan Selim in 1517.

Of this supposedly historic event there is no written record prior to Küçük Kaynarca, in spite of the fact that the intervening period is moderately well documented. Indeed, the literature contains very little mention of the caliphate at all between 1258 and 1774 -- five centuries. Even under the late Abbasids, the caliphal title was little more than a formality, rather like that of the Holy Roman Emperor. Under the post-KK Ottomans it was a legal fig leaf to cover the sultans' utter lack of authority beyond the empire's boundaries (and to a large extent even within them).

Like most brands of nationalism, the ideology of a proselytizing caliphate is a modern phenomenon. True, it is based on invocations to ancient history, but the stories invoked are historical myth not historical fact. Yes, al-Zarqawi writes of the Ottoman siege of Vienna, just as Palestinian suicide bombers tell stories of Hassan Sabah's death leapers, and Serb soldiers sing songs of Lazar Hrebeljanovic.

Myth does certainly matter in understanding Islamic culture today, but it's not history. If the question is the political and religious motives of the Ottoman Empire, al-Zarqawi's letter is not a reliable source.

Posted by: mdl at October 27, 2004 12:35 AM

The Ottomans spread Islam -- by the sword. There was a good deal of similar Christianity spread that way.
Christianity long ago (Treaty of Westphalia, perhaps?) gave up spreading it by sword (despite N. Ireland).
Islam still accepts conversion by the sword. This is perhaps the key modernization that Islamists must be forced to accept -- and I'm sure force will have to be used.

Michael's fine American perspective misses the importance of "nation" -- where the Kurdish nation is NOT a state. Language, especially, defines national identity. Turkey hasn't yet evolved into a multi-national state respecting human rights.

The question on the table is whether to even begin discussions. Given real, and plausible, fears of Islamicization and de-Christianization, it is no surprise that many already-besieged Christians are not keen to see more non- and anti-Christians joining.

In any case, Turkey is most likely to join a French-German anti-American group, though it must solve its problems with Greece, first (especially Cyprus).

The discussions are important to avoid having the Turks go in a different direction; but Turkey achieving the "same bar" that Bulgaria achieves for entrance will be really really tough for Turkey -- and the local politicians need an external scapegoat for why they need the "painful" reforms.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 27, 2004 06:27 AM

In any case, Turkey is most likely to join a French-German anti-American group, though it must solve its problems with Greece, first (especially Cyprus).
Liberty Dad, You better tell the Greek Cypriots, not the Turks. The recent referendum to re-unify the island was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots, and rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

Islam still accepts conversion by the sword. Can you cite any sources for this statement?

local politicians need an external scapegoat for why they need the "painful" reforms. Isn't this often the case in politics?

The Ottomans spread Islam -- by the sword. And this is different from Christianity how? The fact that the Ottomans were Moslem is not in dispute. The disagreement is about whether spreading Islam was the primary motivation for the Ottomans, and that simply isn't true. The Ottomans were a lot of things, but religious zealots they were not.

Posted by: Mara at October 27, 2004 08:45 AM

Sorry. In the post above I meant to end the italics in the last paragraph after "by the sword." I should preview first!

Posted by: Mara at October 27, 2004 08:48 AM

When a recent report by an independent commission was revealed about Turkey's bid for the EU entrance, the chairman of the commission started out with a little joke.

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari: We are[EU] examining three candidate countries[Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey] for entrance. If they pass the exam they will go in, if not they will not go in.

In the exam we ask Bulgaria the question "Which country was attacked by nuclear weapons in the history of mankind?"

We ask Romania, "What year was that attack?"

And we ask Turkey, "How many people died? and if you don't mind what were their names?"
I assume my position on the fundamentalism issue is clear. Tom Grey could read my earlier views about his views on spreading islam by sword. If that was the case eastern Europe would be either Islamized or Swordized right. There were no Human rights activists, no TV’s. They had all the power in the world and what did they do? They let everyone live their peaceful life as long as they were loyal to the royal family. They even protected the Orthodoxy.[Sultan Mehmet II]
Another interesting point, Turkish is an Altaic language. It is a language that is very similar to Hungarian and Finnish.
The migration of people and the mixture of Europe could be traced back.
They teach kids in Turkey that, Turkey is a bridge in between east and west literally and hypothetically. But in my opinion Turkey is a country stuck between the two. I see it as a Mediterranean country that is closer to Europe.

When it comes to fundamental muslim arabs in the middle east, they see Turkey as a country that betrayed their religion. They see Turks religion as not Islam but Kemalism. On the other hand they use the success of the Ottomans as a tool to spread their fanatic views.

I didn’t want to say this before but here it goes. Caliphate was a political tool used by the Sultans.
About religious schools, people that graduate from Imam Hatips’s have to achieve higher scores to get into Universities in Turkey than normal high school graduates.

If you visit an anatolian village today you will see how pure, honest and hard working people are. You can also observe many similarities with villagers in Greece, Spain or Italy. And you can figure a fundamental difference with the middle east, namely freedom. I haven't been to a village in eastern Turkey so cannot generalize it there. I am aware of the difficulties people lived through. I also know democracy works and things are improving. I can write a book about the messed up parts of Turkey but I prefer focusing on positives.
As Ataturk said, “There are many states, however, civilization is one”. And that is what Turks chose. To be civilized and modern. We had very difficult time leaving the middle age behind. We should have reborn with the renaissance of Europe. Our renaissance happened in the 1920’s. We have traveled long way since then and we will continue to travel towards light.

All this fuss about EU is actually about Turkey trying to express herself and trying to be understood.

I will finish by saying something controversial but true[i think], if Turkey was a Christian state, or the cold war was not over we would not be even writing these reviews.


Posted by: Doruk at October 27, 2004 10:24 AM

Don't get caught teaching Christianity or selling Bibles in Turkey.

Posted by: Barney at October 27, 2004 11:35 AM

Apropos of Barney's comment: Last time I checked, it was not possible for Christian churches to legally incorporate in Turkey or own any property. Any updates here from our Turkey experts, Doruk? Mara?

And to all pro-EU-Turkey folk: would you also recommend Russian EU-membership, should the situation change there in the next decades? The issue has been raised.

To respond to Mara's question about the "higher standard" for Turkey: I would not actually say I hold Turkey to a "higher standard" for EU-membership. I would say, rather, that I don't think Turkey belongs in the EU no matter what standard it meets.

I do very much hope Turkey meets high standards, such as those represented by the EU "acquis communautaire," for example, but I wish that about all countries, Turkey no more nor less than, say, China. And I would hope Turkey and the Turks would want to meet such standards irrespective of whether they get EU membership or not.

I have my doubts about Erdogan & Co. on this count. The bill to criminalize adultery, for example, was withdrawn only under EU pressure, and not before Erdogan became momentarily unpleasant about "outside interference in domestic affairs." The fact that such a bill was even proposed in the first place does not, to my mind, bespeak a very deep committment to "European" social standards.

The way Turks of Erdogan's ilk talk about "reform" is a bit too means-to-an-end for my taste. For a European, such things are ends in themselves.


Posted by: Penny at October 27, 2004 12:58 PM

Well, Penny, there's probably not much I can say to change your mind about Turkey. However, I can definitely tell you that churches and synagogues both operate freely there. I've even attended services there. On a personal note, I always had a lighted Christmas tree in my window at Christmas, and the neighbors all loved it! You may be aware that Islam considers both Judaism and Christianity as "people of the Book" - they are referring to the Old Testament, which I think they also honor.

Posted by: Mara at October 27, 2004 01:52 PM


Yes, I am familiar with that fact. Although Mohammed's own reading of that "Book" was somewhat spotty and tendentious (he says the Jews worshipped Ezra, Sura 9:30), and he was very angry at the Jews when they refused to acknowledge him as Prophet (see Sura 2:61, for example, which Anwar Sadat was fond of quoting in the pre-peace days to describe what punishments Muslims would impose upon a defeated Israel).

But in any case, the appropriate standard for our discussion is not what a given religion honors or doesn't honor, how liberal and tolerant it is or not, but to what extent a society is free from it and its grip on matters social, political, educational.


P.S. I have nothing personal against Islam. I feel quite the same about Catholicism in Bavaria, my Heimat, and Southern Baptism in the American south, my current place of residence and where my kids attend school.

Posted by: Penny at October 27, 2004 02:23 PM

But in any case, the appropriate standard for our discussion is not what a given religion honors or doesn't honor, how liberal and tolerant it is or not, but to what extent a society is free from it and its grip on matters social, political, educational.

In that case, you should feel comfortable with Turkey becoming part of the EU since it is a secular society in all respects, and very proud of it. In fact, it's kind of funny that we're having this conversation because Europeans used to say that Turkey was not democratic because it used to suppress religious parties. Now that it allows them to operate freely, it appears that this, also, will be held against them. They're sort of damned if they do, and damned if they don't.
I think you can understand the meaning of Doruk's joke about Turks having to name all those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki before being allowed entrance into the EU.

Posted by: Mara at October 27, 2004 04:19 PM

"In that case, you should feel comfortable with Turkey becoming part of the EU since it is a secular society in all respects..."

I simply disagree, Mara. See my comments about the AKP above. I do not trust them. I think that their committment to secularism is skin deep. It has not been all that long since the Erbakan days, and lots of the same people are involved.

Yes, Turkey is kind of damned if they do and don't. They need the military to kick out Islamist governments, which in turn violates the principle of civil democracy and religious freedom. It's their history, the legacy of Ottomanism rapidly, violently, and incompletely modernized. I feel very sympathetically towards the Turks. But their "salvation" is not Europe's responsibility and would, in my view, be beyond Europe's capacity, if the EU is to be anything more than a free trade zone.

And the fact that the question of Turkey in the EU often gets seen in such a quasi-salvific way ("damned") worries me that much more.

But what do you think about Russia in the EU?


Posted by: Penny at October 27, 2004 05:04 PM


Or let me ask you this: why must it be full EU membership? Why not a "privileged partnership" (Angela Merkel) or some other solid compromise, as many have proposed? Surely something like that would do far more justice to Turkey's special relationship to Europe, as well as to European public opinion, democratically consulted. Why must it be all or nothing? So little in political life turns out well with maximalist demands.


(Sorry, Alexandra is my real name, but call me Penny)

Posted by: Penny at October 27, 2004 05:23 PM

The Ottomans spread Islam -- by the sword.

This is simply not an accurate description of the Ottoman conquest. It doesn't even take much imagination to see how false it is. Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece were under Ottoman rule for five centuries, and yet all three nations remained predominantly Christian. Likewise for Hungary and Romania for a somewhat shorter period of time. There were also large Christian communities in Constantinople, Lebanon, and Egypt. If the Ottomans spread Islam by the sword, why weren't all these populations killed long ago?

The Ottoman conquerors' religious tolerance is not just incidental, it was instrumental to their success.Their preferred strategy was to expand by offering themselves as allies to popular uprisings within a neighboring state. They fought hard where they had to but gained more through infiltration and assimilation. The new local leaders gained the support of the Empire in exchange for sovereignty. The Ottoman bureaucracy was plugged in at the upper level, but local leadership was left to its own devices. This was standard procedure in the Ottoman conquest. There are numerous examples of Orthodox Christian populations eagerly soliciting Ottoman protection because they preferred Ottoman rule to the more oppressive intolerance of the Catholic knights of the Crusades.

Posted by: mdl at October 27, 2004 06:44 PM

Churches/Synagogues can open-up foundations and own property. This was changed with the last package that the parliament passed to fulfill the criteria. (It might be the one that is before the last one)

Russia is too big to integrate in the EU. It lacks most of the democratic criteria, and the power in that country will not compromise with the west.

About why not a privileged partnership.
Turkey first applied for associate membership of the EEC under Article 237of the Treaty of Rome. Which states, any European country can apply for EEC membership.(as far as I remember)
Turkey & Greece applied for full membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959. This application resulted in the 1963 Association Agreement envisaging Turkey’s gradual integration and eventual FULL membership into the EEC, as long as it fulfills the political criteria.

Now, Turkey have fulfilled the political criteria. The only concern in the commissions report is implementation, Turkey is working on that. Turks are depending on the agreement that EEC signed with them. They say, we were recognized as a European country(which was not even a question back then I don’t know why people started debating this today), we fulfilled the criteria, and now we don’t want excuses or changes of plans.

I am not sure but the first agreement(Ankara) stated 40 year plan for full membership. If Turkey gets in in 2015 they will be 10 years off track which I don’t think is a big deal considering the 2 and a half military interventions. We also have to keep in mind the invitation of full membership to EEC in the 70’s which Turkey declined.


Posted by: Doruk at October 28, 2004 09:52 AM


I believe you are misspeaking in this sentence.

Islam considers both Judaism and Christianity as "people of the Book" - they are referring to the Old Testament, which I think they also honor.

There are no christians in the Old Testament. Christians came about after Christ was born which is in the New Testament. Although the Old Testament always foretold of Christ.

Posted by: Barney at October 28, 2004 10:04 AM

Doruk wrote:

"They say, we were recognized as a European country (which was not even a question back then [in 1959/63. I don’t know why people started debating this today)"

Well, I think it's because in the 50s and 60s the EEC was mostly an economic affair. Thus the name. It was only in the 70s, with the detente, that things slowly began to take a political/cultural turn and that a common European foreign and security policy started being debated and large-scale reflection over what it meant to be "European" got started again--especially after 1989. All those issues were on the back burner in cold-war, divided, Nato-Europe, when Turkey was an important ally in the fight against communism.

And of course, the 70s and the 80s also saw a massive wave of re-Islamization throughout the Muslim world, which also strongly affected Turkey, especially young people.


Posted by: Penny at October 28, 2004 11:34 AM

Yes you are all true but the EEC agreement outlined the political shape the EEC will take in 50 years. Everything was planned from the start.


Posted by: Doruk at October 28, 2004 01:18 PM


You're mistaken about "People of the Book". It definitely includes both Jews and Christians. I'm not sure why you're trying to exclude the Old Testament. Muslims believe that each generation was given its prophet and each was given its book.

When the Qur'an discusses People of the Book there are frequently references to both Jews and Christians or to both the Torah and the Gospel. See, eg, 3:65-67, 4:171, 5:68, 9:29-30. More generally, 3:33-60 is all about the Gospel. The discussion of Abraham which immediately follows (3:65-67) is on exactly your point about how there were no Christians before the New Testament.

There's also basic history. If Christians were not People of the Book, then Christian communities could not be dhimmi, which they were in many many times and places.

Posted by: mdl at October 28, 2004 09:08 PM

"More than a third of Turkish women believe they deserve to be beaten if they argue with their husbands, deny them sex, neglect children or burn a meal, according to a survey reported by the Anatolia news agency yesterday.

The survey found that 39 per cent of women said their husbands were right to beat them. In rural areas, the figure rose to 57 per cent."

Even in urban areas 1/3 of women think their husband is right to beat them?!?

63% of Turks think polygamy is acceptable. 63%!!! They should do things to bring Turkey closer to them but should not let them in the EU. Culture matters. Just because you have the superficial characteristics in common like street cafes doesn't mean you're compatible.

Posted by: lindenen at October 28, 2004 11:23 PM

The sources that were cited by "lindenen",
are from a cite called Gene Expression.(gnxp.com).
The introductory sentence of the webcite: "You came through a search engine looking for gene expression. This site is not a technical resource - it is a weblog run by opinionated scientists whose primary focus is the relationship between genetics and human nature. We invite you to look around; you might be interested in our main page or our genetics section."

What's next citing from naziparty webites?


Posted by: Doruk at October 29, 2004 09:48 AM

Oooh, genetics = nazis. Ooooohkay.

Fine then. I'll link to the original article links.

Ok to hit us poll

"The poll of 8,075 married women by Hacettepe University, Ankara, was funded by the EU and the Turkish government.

"A culture of violence in Turkey is putting women in double jeopardy. Not only are many not safe in their own homes, but they also are denied access to justice," said William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Some acts of violence involve traditional practices, including so-called honour crimes and forced marriage.

A study in east and south-east Turkey found that 45.7 per cent of women were not consulted about the choice of husband and 50.8 per cent were married without their consent. Women who refuse their family's choice are at risk of violence and even death."

Polygamy poll.

"A RECENT poll in a Turkish newspaper included an eye-catching statistic. A substantial majority of the population — 63% — thought it perfectly acceptable for a man to have more than one wife."

So what do you say now?

Posted by: lindenen at October 29, 2004 11:34 AM

I checked these polls on Euro Statistics webpage and the Turkish government webpages. All your citings are not direct documents. I could not find this study that were financed by EU & Turkey.

Even if I did, the articles you forwarded are focused on a small experimental group in southeastern Turkey.

I will keep looking.

Posted by: Doruk at October 29, 2004 01:11 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn