To: Member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the European Parliament
Honorable Member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the European Parliament:
The Atatürk Society of America (ASA) noted in the media a report regarding Turkey’s EU membership, which will be considered by your Commitee today. I am instructed by the ASA Executive Board to draw your attention to unintended but disastrous consequences that political bodies like your Committee could be misled by such reports devoid of any scientific or rational knowledge of matters under consideration. Please note at the outset that we are an American independent political science organization which has no interest in the admission or refusal of Turkey in the EU. While the original text of the report is not yet available to us, based on the information given by the media the Report under your consideration seems to claim, inter alia, that:
1. Kemalism is an ideology;
2. This so-called ideology is based on creating a public fear of danger to national unity, thus it gives the military establishment power in politics which hinders the pluralistic democracy to function in Turkey;
3. This idoelogy provokes Turkish nationalism (presumably as understood and once experienced by Europe);
4. Laicism is wrongly applied in Turkey, and Turkey should free itself from fear of fundamentalism. It is also reported that a constitutional change in Turkey is recommended for it to conform with the European concept of laicism.
The reality and rationality oblige me to bring to your attention the following as they relate to the respective points listed above:
1. There is no ideology called Kemalism. Since Kemal Ataturk did not create one, and in fact emphatically and personally opposed to the formulation of one as the world leaders of the time were doing, no ideology can be attributed to him. He in fact practiced and advised always a pragmatic approach dictated by prevailing circumstances. The term Kemalism and an ideology under that name were unscrupoulusly coined and used by writers for the sake of brevity of reference to his socio-political reforms. It has no scientific basis.
2. If the Report’s reference is to the Turkish military interventions of later years in domestic political tug of wars detrimental to national prosperity and stability, European parlimanterians must remember that those interventions were made precisely to protect the”pluralistic democracy” whenever there was a clear and present danger from the extreme left or right to highjack the that country’s governance. To be fair to history, that military promptly turned over the power to civilians once the public order was re-established. The continued democratic process in Turkey demonstrates this fact. To claim the contrary by the European Parliamentarians would not prove only ignorance of these facts but also bias and ill intended distortion of these facts.
3. While the term “nationalism” was and still is used in Turkey any attribution to it as a discriminatory concept based on race or religion as understood in the Western political science has no support in fact. There are many scholarly publications in the West that accurately show that there has never been a national bias against any race or religion in the Turkish social and political fabric. Turkish nationalism seems to endeavour to maintain national identity and unity based on commonality of history and culture without regard to race or religion.
4. Perhaps the most ominous suggestion made in the Report is for Turkey to relax its policy of laicism and policy against fundamentalism. Unless the Report has been prepared as a suicidal recipe not only for Turkey but also for the entire Europe, such ideas only serve to strengthen the hand of religious fanatics, radicals and militants, although they may ultimately not carry any credibility in the fora they are discussed. “The sick man of Europe”‘s illness was precisely the Islamic fanaticism. To prescribe this illness to Turkey this time around (presumably with the objective of forcing it to submit to the European rule) is to say the least a suicidal recipe for Europe itself. Because fundamentalism is not localized or regional, nor is it specific to one religion alone. Since the demise of the last ideology, the communism, it has been in the making internationally. After Islamic militants’ 9/11 attack in the US it took the form of an international war. Vigilance against dogma, ideology and radicalism, including religious ones, must be a priority of the politicians whose duty to the public is to ensure the supremacy of public’s sovereignty, their freedom, security and prosperity. Europe’s concept of laicism is based on the so-called centuries old “Victorian compromise” between the civilian and religious authorities, which may have worked well in relatively educated and advanced Christian societies. Ataturk’s concept of laicism has been prescribed for less educated societies, in particular for Muslim societies. In short, there is no nationalistic and military ideologies in Turkey. But there is in Turkey as in the whole world an ascent of militant Islamic ideology. If guided by unscrupulous reports and recommendations lacking the basic knowledge of these facts and debased of any scientific objectivity, politicians will lead Turkey as well as other countries to disasters of the future.
In the hope that you will consider this writing with due seriousness these issues deserve,
President of The Ataturk Society of America