Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SECULAR TURKS ARE AT A CROSSROADS: One Turkish City Countering Fear of Islam’s Reach - New York Times 

One Turkish City Countering Fear of Islam’s Reach - New York Times

Konya is still deeply attached to its faith. Mosques are spread thickly throughout the city; there are as many as in Istanbul, which has five times the population. But in a part of the world where religion and politics have been a poisonous mix and cultural norms are conservative regardless of religion, it is an oasis: women here wear relatively revealing clothing, couples hold hands and bus segregation is a distant memory.

“We’ve been wearing the same dress for 80 years, and it doesn’t fit anymore,” said Yoruk Kurtaran, who travels extensively in Turkey. “Things used to be black and white.”

Now, he said, “there are a lot of grays.”

The shift shows the evolution of Turkey’s Islamic movement, which has matured under Mr. Erdogan, abandoning the restrictive practices of its predecessors and demonstrating to its observant constituents the benefits of belonging to the European Union.

It also follows a pattern occurring throughout Turkey, where the secularists who founded the state out of the Ottoman Empire’s remains are now lagging behind religious Turks in efforts to modernize it.But secular Turks, like those who took part in the recent protests, do not believe that Mr. Erdogan and his allies have changed

Turkey is now one of the world's most fascinating places to monitor. It is wedged between the modern, secular European west and the Islamic, traditional Middle East. Turkey's economy is growing by leaps and bounds but is the cultural and social issues that dominate the Turkish debates.


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