Sunday, April 29, 2007

300,000 Turks March Against Islamism

In Turkey, the Parliament elects the President. It is not merely a ceremonial post, as the President can veto legislation. And over the past several years, the secular President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has vetoed several pieces of legislation that threated to introduce Islam into Turkey's secular government and education system. But now, with the President's term expired, the Islamist AKP party, which has a maority in Parliament, voted for Abdullah Gul, an Islamist, as President. Opposition secularists boycotted the vote, and because it is unclear whether the Constitution requires a certain number of legislators to be present for the vote, the matter has now gone to the judiciary for a decision. In any event, neither the military, who last led a coup in 1997, nor much of the Turkish citizenry appear happy to see the strictly secular system of Turkey coming under threat:

At least 300,000 Turks waving the red national flag flooded central Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government, saying the Islamic roots of Turkey's leaders threatened to destroy the country's modern foundations.

Like the protesters _ who gathered for the second large anti-government demonstration in two weeks _ Turkey's powerful secular military has accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of tolerating radical Islamic circles.

"They want to drag Turkey to the dark ages," said 63-year-old Ahmet Yurdakul, a retired government employee who attended the protest.

. . . Sunday's demonstration . . . came a day after Erdogan's government rejected the military's warning about the disputed presidential election and called it interference that is unacceptable in a democracy.

The ruling party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, failed to win a first-round victory Friday in a parliamentary presidential vote marked by tensions between secularists and the pro-Islamic government. Most opposition legislators boycotted the vote and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court.

The military said Friday night that it was gravely concerned and indicated it was willing to become more openly involved in the process _ a statement some interpreted as an ultimatum to the government to rein in officials who promote Islamic initiatives.

Sunday's crowd chanted that the presidential palace was "closed to imams."
Some said Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc was an enemy of the secular system, because he said the next president should be "pious."

In the 1920s, with the Ottoman Empire in ruins, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk imposed Western laws, replaced Arabic script with the Latin alphabet, banned Islamic dress and granted women the right to vote.

The ruling party, however, has supported religious schools and tried to lift the ban on Islamic head scarves in public offices and schools. Secularists are also uncomfortable with the idea of Gul's wife, Hayrunisa, being in the presidential palace because she wears the traditional Muslim head scarf.

"We don't want a covered woman in Ataturk's presidential palace," said Ayse Bari, a 67-year-old housewife. "We want civilized, modern people there."
Read the article here.

Photo by AP

No comments:


View My Stats