Sunday, July 6, 2008

Turkey's Loopy Liberal Set

The secularists in Turkey don't get it. They're trying to get rid of the conservative government (this time apparently, with a coup!) because Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his parliamentary majority tried to overturn a law barring women from wearing the hijab on campus.

The secularists see this as an affront to Turkey's constitutional mandate for separation of Church and State—and I get that they feel threatened by the conservatives—but Turkey's liberal set completely misunderstands the idea of separation of Church and State: It doesn't mean the state can prohibit individuals from following the rules of their religion. It means the state can't force people to follow the rules of someone else's religion (or any religion).

It's supposed to work like this: Public institutions like schools, banks, legislatures, the police, the army, and hospitals cannot endorse or promote a religion, nor discriminate based on religion. This means, for example, a public school cannot make women wear the hijab, but it also means it cannot stop a woman from wearing a hijab.

Take a current example of how Separation of Church and State works in the U.S. If my girlfriend needs Plan B, the state can't force her to go without Plan B because someone else's religious views frown on Plan B. They could, however, find a way to accommodate an Islamic pharmacist from personally filling the prescription by assuring another pharmacist is on duty who will fill the scrip.

The liberals in Turkey are being crazy.

The most important line in this morning's story about the securlarists' coup plot, though, is this: "Erdogan's party, formed in 2001 by politicians who once belonged to Turkey's Islamic movement, denies it has an Islamic agenda, noting that it has backed reforms to help Turkey start EU membership negotiations." (emphasis, mine.)

Economics is the bottom line. If Turkey joins the EU—and economic liberalism has always been a part of Erdogan's agenda—the secular class in Turkey has nothing to fear from the otherwise self-righteous Islamists.

The Republican People's Party (the liberal opposition) should focus on the ballot box instead of coups and convoluted court rulings. They should hone their message—bashing the conservatives as reactionaries and sexists all they want—and win an election.

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