Turkey’s (not so) creeping Islamization

Turkey’s (not so) creeping Islamization

Turkey is a wonderland, according to the official narrative. It is not so much of a wonderland, according to facts and figures. 

Turkey’s per capita income is less than half of Greece’s – the country which, over the past few years, has gone through one of the worst financial crises in modern history. 

Turkey is where there were four murders occurred on average every day in 2015. In addition to a poorly educated population of nearly 80 million, Turkey is home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees. 

The Turkish-Kurdish dispute has taken the lives of over 400 security officials and nearly 6,000 militants since last July. In addition, nearly 200 people, including over a dozen tourists, have been killed in suicide bomb attacks since October 2015. This week, once again, the United States warned its citizens in Turkey about “credible” terrorist threats to tourist areas in the country. Foreign carriers are either mulling pulling out or are pulling out. 

Turkey is fertile ground for child rapists and abusers. In 2009, a total of 12,635 cases on charges of child sex abuse were opened, according to the Justice Ministry’s judicial records and statistics office. That number rose by 43 percent to 18,104 in 2014. The increase between 2004 and 2014 was nearly 350 percent.

In Turkey, children die much more easily than their peers who live in more decent places. A Turkish children’s rights organization found that at least 875 children from across Turkey were killed in preventable incidents over the past year. Had they been lucky enough to grow a little bit older, they would have been happy brides and grooms. 

The Family and Social Planning Ministry has revealed that the number of girls who were wed before the age of 18 since 2010 is at least 232,313. But that figure includes official marriages only, and it is anyone’s guess, empirically, how much higher the actual number would be when unofficial marriages, more common in rural Anatolia, are included. 

Turkey sports a backward democratic culture. And its president holds two important global titles: Possibly the world’s “most-insulted” president and the president for whom a blasphemy competition abroad has been launched. 

Turkey declined by over six points on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders due to “systematic censoring of the media in addition to a sharp rise in charges of ‘insulting the president’ and loosely defined ‘terrorism.’” It lagged behind Russia, Cambodia and Qatar in the index’s “bad” section. 

And, according to Freedom House’s 2016 report, Turkey continues to be defined as “not free,” with its score going up six points and thus signifying a “deteriorating” trend. Turkey is among the countries that “suffered the largest declines” over 2015, along with Bangladesh, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt, Macedonia and Zimbabwe.

After Germany issued a travel advisory that its citizens visiting Turkey should not make public statements against the Turkish state, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders warned that the Netherlands cannot guarantee the safety of citizens travelling to Turkey “if they have been critical of Turkish leaders.”

And divided the Turks stand. According to a recent German Marshall Fund study, Turkey is where 76 percent of people do not wish to be neighbors with someone who would be supporting a political party other than the one they support and where 83 percent would oppose their daughters marrying someone supporting a party “distant” to their ideology.

Against such backdrop, Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman suggests that (for a better Turkey), the new constitution should not feature secularism but feature a (Sunni Muslim) “devout” ethos. A Qur’an-based constitution would no doubt make the wonderland a far better – and more amusing – wonderland. 

Turkey’s president, prime minister and other prominent ruling party officials quickly rebuffed the idea. The new constitution should feature secularism, they say. But what they intend by secularism will be worth revisiting in next week’s column. 

Turkey’s creeping Islamization? The word “creeping” looks so funny in that depiction.