Between Islam And The West

Dar Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia
March 24 2004

Between Islam And The West
Mustafa Al Faqi

The study of the Turkish phenomenon needs historical awareness and an
understanding of the Turkish character and the various factors that
form its identity and determine its policies that oscillate between
the historical Ottoman Turkey and the geographical European Turkey.
The Turkish State is not disturbed by being in Europe’s backside
instead of being in the Islamic world’s front. There are many aspects
to consider within the Turkish phenomenon: First of all, Turkey’s
location as a link between Asia and Europe and its control of the
straits gave it historical powers whose remnants remain to this day.
Secondly, the European dream that tickles Turkish feelings and
dominates its policies has led it to seek the appeasement of the
European Union and subsequently the United States and Israel. There
is no doubt that Ataturk’s ideology contributed substantially to
Turkey’s turn of perspective from the east to the west, despite all
the difficult conditions and concessions it had to face.
Nevertheless, the former French President, Valerie Giscard D’Estaing
has deemed that Turkey’s membership in the EU is almost impossible
and that perhaps a country like Morocco, in his point of view, has a
priority over it.

Ataturk’s secularism distanced Turkey from the Arab East, for the
eradication of the traditional headwear is not just symbolic but an
indication of the end of the Ottoman era and the beginning of
adopting Latin letters and turning Islam to a unique “Ataturkian”
model that is guarded by the army. We should also not forget that
Turkey is an important member of the NATO alliance and has played an
essential role in protecting Western and American interests and so it
is a key member of the Western defense system, which stood by its
side during its security troubles whether pertaining to the Cypriot
or Kurdish issues. Furthermore, the expansion of the Islamic tide in
modern Turkey represents an exceptional phenomenon, for new
generations express enthusiasm about returning to Turkey’s Islamic

Hence, Turkey is a distinctive country and has played a significant
historical role in the entire region. Arabs have not properly used
the Turkish “card” in all their issues particularly in the
Arab-Israeli struggle. It is about time that Arabs deal with Turkey,
perhaps through the Arab League or bilateral ties, in a new
perspective because the diversity of its role makes it in a position
that can exert pressure on major world powers. The Turks are probably
enthusiastic about such a role but we Arabs have failed in taking
advantage of that role. Arab-Turkish relations definitely vary from
one Arab country to another as well as from one period to another
depending on international circumstances. We will not forget the
confrontation in 1998 with Syria that was avoided by the wisdom of
late President Assad and the efforts of the current Egyptian
President Mubarak.

Arab-Turkish relations have a lot of potential and should focus on
the following points: Overcoming the past’s negative aspects and
concentrating on the partnership that lasted for many centuries in
order to boost relations and give Turks the incentive to reconsider
their total secularism and change of identity without hurting Turkish
pride or the image of their legendary conqueror, Mustafa Kemal. The
Israeli-Turkish relations should not be an obstacle but a quality in
this course for Turkey could exert pressure in favor of peace. That
is why it should be given the status of observer in the Arab League
since it and Iran constitute the Arabs’ northern and eastern
neighbors. Moreover, the Turkish model of Islam should be considered
a fact. The recent visit by the current Syrian President to Turkey
has created a better atmosphere and has strengthened Arab-Turkish
relations and possibly gave way to a mediation role with Israel on
the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. The situation in Iraq might also be a
factor in bolstering these relations especially that Northern Iraq
has an ethnic Turkish minority.

This is our point of view concerning that country, at the center of
the world and that carries a part of human heritage and occupies a
strategic and unique position, which we share with a long history
including points of strength and weakness, particularly at the time
when the Turkish army perpetrated historic misfortunes that were
embodied in “Damascus’s hangings” in addition to the “Armenian
massacre.” Yet, history exonerates and peoples forgive and at the end
it is the long-term perspective of the relations between Arabs and
the country, oscillating between east and west that persist.