In his piece titled “For Turkey, A Clash of Civilizations” Rod Dreher, editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News, writes the following:
Mustafa Akyol, a 35-year-old Istanbul journalist who often defends the AKP in his column, says the party miscalculated when it tried to criminalize adultery and to create alcohol-free areas in some towns. That gave secularists an excuse to accuse the party of setting off on the slippery slope to Turkey’s Talibanization. “From my point of view, this is just a conservative moral policy which even sometimes I criticize – but this is not the way to sharia,” Mr. Akyol says. “If you can’t negotiate and agree on these things, you push [observant Muslims], and you tell them there is no place for your lifestyle in this country.”
“Since there’s a justified suspicion of Islamism in the world, they’re calling anybody with an Islamic identity who wants to get involved in politics a Taliban. The thing we have to remember is that the Muslim world is really diverse. It’s not always a clean debate between ‘good’ secularists and ‘bad’ Islamists.”
The affable Mr. Akyol is himself a practicing Muslim, at ease with European and American thought. He believes it is certainly possible for Islam to be reconciled to liberal democracy and points out that the modernizing ideas of Fazlur Rahman, the late University of Chicago scholar who was a towering figure of contemporary Islamic thought, are highly influential in leading Turkish Islamic circles – including the AKP leadership. Mr. Akyol also points to the popularity of Islamic teachers like Fethullah Gulen and Mr. Gulen’s mentor, the late Said Nursi, who advocate a more liberal form of Islam that seeks dialogue with other religious traditions, for the sake of resisting materialism.
Mr. Gulen, like Mr. Nursi before him, ran afoul of the Kemalist state and had his views suppressed. This crushing of even moderate Islam is exactly the kind of thing that feeds religious radicalism, Mr. Akyol argues. That, and the class snobbery of secularists. Among the elite, he says, religious consciousness is considered a mark of the rube. But this stereotype, which the journalist admits has more than a kernel of sociological truth, is giving way to a new reality that secular elites are reluctant to accept.
“What’s happening now is that Islamic people are changing. Their children are getting an education, and they’re getting some power,” says Mr. Akyol. “In Turkey, this is a class issue, too. The upper classes are afraid of the lower classes becoming as high as themselves.”