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Turkey's bloodless civil war


DP Veteran
Nov 25, 2008
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British Turk
Political Leaning

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article with the catchy title “Intrigue in Turkey’s bloodless civil war.” It was referring to the ongoing “cold war” climate between Turkey’s Islamic-leaning ruling party - the Justice and Development Party (AKP) - and the country’s old laicist elites, who describe themselves as “Kemalists” and seek to keep religion and politics entirely separate. But that’s just the latest “battle” in the “cold war” between political Islam and Turkish laicism that started nearly a hundred years ago.

Understanding the history of the two sides and their relationship with one another is key in resolving Turkey’s cold war so the country can make peace with itself.

It started in 1923 when the Turkish Republic emerged out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, immediately launched his “cultural revolution.” He believed that Islam had no place in the state’s affairs and embarked upon a campaign to subordinate religion to the state: he abolished the caliphate; closed all religious schools, orders and institutions; replaced Islamic law with Swiss civil law, German trade and commercial law, and Italian criminal law; replaced the Arabic script with the Latin one; introduced compulsory education and female suffrage; and banned the display of religious symbols in public institutions.

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