News / Middle East

Would the Turkish Model Work in Arab Spring Countries?

Youth are seen in Ankara holding Turkey's national flag and wearing T-shirts adorned with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, secular Turkey's founder (file photo).Youth are seen in Ankara holding Turkey's national flag and wearing T-shirts adorned with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, secular Turkey's founder (file photo).
x
Youth are seen in Ankara holding Turkey's national flag and wearing T-shirts adorned with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, secular Turkey's founder (file photo).
Youth are seen in Ankara holding Turkey's national flag and wearing T-shirts adorned with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, secular Turkey's founder (file photo).
Mohamed Elshinnawi
The leader of one of the most popular political parties in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, says his model for the development of democracy in the Muslim world is Turkey. And Hillary Clinton, when she was the U.S. secretary of state, also cited Turkey as an example of how Arab Spring nations could embrace democracy.
 
“Turkey is a model country for us in terms of democracy,” Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's Ennahda Party said in October of 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the Middle East and North Africa.
 
That same year, Clinton was even more effusive in describing Turkey as a shining example for democratic development in the region.
 
“People from the Middle East and North Africa,” she said, “are seeking to draw lessons from Turkey's experience. It is vital that they learn the lessons that Turkey has learned and is putting into practice every single day.”
 
A new study by the Brookings Institution, a research center in Washington, D.C., draws the same conclusion.
 
The analysis comes with a long name - “Muslim Politics Without an ‘Islamic’ State: Can Turkey’s Justice and Development Party be a Model for Arab Islamists?” – but its essence can be summed up with just a few words: Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be a democratic model for nations emerging from the Arab Spring uprisings.
 
The idea is that the “AKP model” would promote democracy thereby allaying fears, both in the Middle East and the West, that Islamists would turn their Arab nations into Sunni versions of Iran’s authoritarian and anti-Western system.
 
But while promoting the AKP model, the Brookings study also acknowledges there are many critics who dismiss the idea, arguing that the AKP’s defense of secularism in Turkey makes it an improbable source of inspiration elsewhere in the region.
 
The secular character of Ankara’s governing structure was put in place by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern Turkish state in the 1920s on the ruins of the collapsed Ottoman Empire. Since then, Turkish politics have been dominated by the interaction between secular Islamists and secular liberals, with the military as the guarantor of the secular nature of the state.
 
The Turkish constitution does not allow any religious institution to supersede the government, nor does it specify Islam as an official state religion.
 
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi are seen at a joint news conference in Ankara September 30, 2012.Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi are seen at a joint news conference in Ankara September 30, 2012.
x
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi are seen at a joint news conference in Ankara September 30, 2012.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi are seen at a joint news conference in Ankara September 30, 2012.
According to Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist and author of “Islam Without Extremes,” this experience also altered the nature of Turkey’s Islamist political parties, allowing the late Necmettin Erbakan’s Islamist Welfare Party to win national elections in 1995 and form a government.
 
“In the 2000s, some of Erbakan’s more reformist students, like current Prime Minister [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan, moved away from ideological Islamism and focused on economic growth and accepted the secular-democratic framework of the Turkish state, and eventually curtailed the power of the military,” Akyol said.
 
“Once in power,” he continued, “the party delivered phenomenal economic growth and average Turkish incomes have tripled.”
 
Turkish model between Egypt and Tunisia
 
But Samer Shehata, assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, says this model won’t necessarily work in Arab Spring countries, especially in places like Egypt, where many in the predominantly Muslim populations see secularism as anti-religion. Additionally, he notes, Egypt’s constitution has just been rewritten under the guidance of an Islamist dominated parliament and a Muslim Brotherhood presidency.
 
“While the Turkish constitution kept the religion away from politics, the newly-drafted constitution of Egypt comprises further introduction of elements having to do with religion.” Shehata said. “Al Azhar, the oldest Islamic institution, would somehow have some say over what constitutes legislation that is in alignment with the Islamic law.”
 
Tawfik Hamid, a scholar at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., also has his doubts about Turkey’s governing model being suitable for Egypt.
 
“The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not open to moderate its positions and shift its priorities from Islamization to economic growth,” Hamid says. “And the constitution contains inadequate protection for women and non-Muslims, and leaves the door open for potential oversight of legislation by Islamic scholars.”
 
Hamid argues that while the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party won a plurality in a free election, its main competitors were not secularists or liberals, but extreme Salafi parties and movements. He also recalls that Muslim Brotherhood leaders warmly welcomed Turkey’s Erdogan when he visited Egypt, but then harshly criticized him when he suggested a secular state.
 
Tunisia, according to Shehata, is much better equipped to emulate the Turkish model. The Tunisian constitution, he says, “makes no mention of the Islamic law, and because of the past secular policies of Tunisia’s first president, [Habib] Bourguiba, between 1957 and 1987, Tunisia is much closer to what happened in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century.”
 
Shehata adds that Tunisia now is further along at putting together a state that provides equal citizenship, equal rights for everyone and civil liberties.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ali baba from: new york
March 05, 2013 4:22 PM
Turkey is not good example to be followed .Egypt has to follow a western country political system . French law which is the source of Egyptian law is a good law ,no need to replace with barbaric law called sharia law.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 05, 2013 4:06 PM
The Turkish model? many other commentators, to this article, have already indicated that it is not a democracy.... For most of the countries coming out of the Arab Spring, the issues are more fundamental; to have peace you need development, security, and equal human rights across the board. You can't have peace, if people have no work; you can't have peace if people have no security; you can't have peace, unless all the people in the society have equal human rights, this is especially essential to protect minorities from the dictatorship of the majorities. Turkey is progessing reasonably, thanks to the years of secularism, that has planted the seeds to development, in which women can contribute to the society; unfortunately, Erdogan is starting to erode the ability for women to fully contribute to Turkish development.
Given the population numbers, in most countries, trying to sustain economic development, with out the emancipation of women is no longer possible as it was 200 yrs ago. This emancipation of women is fundamental to development, unless a country can be parasitic to enourmous exploitable natural resources. All the development must be free of corruption, and it is something no country in the world can claim to be free from; corruption does hurt development, and it has a far greater negative impact in poor countries. Each country needs a tailored development model for itself.
The current "GLOBALIZATION" economic model will not work well for under-developed countries; it does not even work well for developed countries, other than the global producers.
Development + security + equal rights - corruption = ~PEACE

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
March 05, 2013 9:56 AM
Turkey is not an example of democracy for the Arab Spring countries. Tukey is not considered as a democratic country because (1) freedom of speech is strangled by the arrest of hundreds of journalists (2) intolerence of minorities such as the Kurds and Armenians, and (3) flouting the constitutional requirements of secularism. Erdogan is an elected dictator of a religious party and Turkey is not an example of democracy for the Arab Spring countries. May be the Moslem countries of Malaysia and Indonesia are better models of democracy for the Arab Spring countries than Turkey.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
March 05, 2013 9:42 AM
The Turkish model of democracy can work in the Arab spring countries only if tribalism is exterminated and the countries adopt secularism, freedom of speech and freedom for women as principles of democracy. It is very hard for the Arab countries to come out of the cocoon of seventh century religious fanaticism, tribalism, dictatorships, sheikdoms and intolerence of other religions and political views, and to breath freedom and democracy in the near future. Education, especially of women, is the only hope for democracy in the Arab Spring countries.

by: Tevfik from: Arguden
March 04, 2013 4:50 PM
The Brookings study is full of errors, misrepresentations and lies. It states for example that ".....the AKP’s defense of secularism in Turkey....." AKP and Mr Erdogan repeatedly stated that one cannot \believe in God and also be secular. AKP has systematically converted secular schools into religious ones, and shifted Turkey diplomatically away from Europe and US toward the Islamic Middle East. Don't forget the 1,000s of jailed journalist, university professors and opposition members during the AKP administration who simply defended secularism in Turkey.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More