May 14, 2005
Misplaced blame

Today's Times Online carries an article entitled'No' Campaign widens gap in EU referendum, which discusses the EU constitution vote in the Netherlands, which is scheduled to take place on June 1st. What caught my attention was the mention of opposition to Turkish accession to the European Union as being a factor in he "no" vote. I wonder if this is a case of misplaced blame.

The Netherlands, in particular, have reason to be concerned about Islamic extremists; after all, fiilmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by Islamic fundamentalists, and two of the nation's lawmakers are in hiding due to threats against their lives by extremist Islamists. There are about 900,000 Muslims living in the Netherlands, and while only about 20% are active in their faith, a quarter of those are fundamentalists who are bent on changing Dutch culture to their own. Additonally, as is true throughout Europe, Muslims commit crimes at a rate significantly higher than the population as a whole, creating a resentment towards them.

What does not follow is how this extends to Turkey. While Turkey is an Islamic country, it is A) not Arabic, and b) predominantly secular. Unlike the theocracies or quasi-theocracies that run much of the Middle East, Turkey has a democratically elected, multiparty system that explicitly limits the ability of religion to play a part in the day-to-day affairs of Turkish citizens. After the Ottoman Empire disintegrated after its defeat in World War I, Kemal Ataturk came to power in Turkey, and made a conscious decision to orient his country towards the west, rather than throwing his lot in with the petty dictators and tin-plated despots to the south and East. The effects have been profound, as a look at Turkey's society and economy compared with its Arabic neighbors will quickly confirm. Turkey is not like the rest of its Islamic neighbors.

That bears out in another way as well. Turks play a minimal role in terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, and seldom involve themselves in the militant fundamentalist movements that are the source of many of the problems in Europe. The ones who do are far more likely to have been born in Europe (especially Germany) than in Turkey, which says more about Europe than it does about Turkey.

I personally favor Turkish admission to the EU, but as I am neither a Turk nor European, my views are irrelevant to the discussion. I will, however, submit that when addressing the issues of Islamic extremism and crime, instead of lumping the immigrants of all nationalities together, to separate them by their ethnic background. I suspect that the results might surprise some of the Turk bashers in Europe.

posted on May 14, 2005 02:58 PM


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