Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Turkey, since 1923, has proven to be a valuable case study in ideological and religious tensions and national identity crisis; however, with a newly elected government, Turkey appears ready to write a new chapter in its history. The complexity of the issues that exist within a modern state along with the diversity of traditional cultures and rich history of Turkey do not allow for a singular civilizational inclusion as Huntington advocates, nor a single ideological path to follow. The Kemalist heritage of this young country has presupposed the necessity for adopting modernity as defined by the West. but the tension that grips the country forces us to reexamine Turkey and its underlying principles.
This discussion of Turkey's polarized political environment demonstrates the operative of dichotomies between Kemalism and Islamism. However, the outwardly visible barriers between the two sides are surmountable, especially as Turkey seeks to find its own path, as opposed to blindly following the example of the West in the name of modernity. No political system is perfect, and as has been demonstrated. it is inadequate and an oversimplification to advocate a "Western" approach when dealing with a country as complex as Turkey. Turkey must find its own political system that suits its national needs best and that accounts for the protection and voicing of all citizens. Therefore, rather than being threatened by the existence of other potential alternatives to modernity, leaders, citizens, and scholars in the West should welcome this variety and learn from these other models to improve their own systems.
The paradox that emerges from this study is that Turkey is a nation bent on being accepted into Western civilization but afraid of allowing full democracy. To lift the restrictive rules enforced by the military in Turkey continues to be a heated topic. something the Turkish elites fear deeply. Western nations, and members of the European Union in particular, have been quick to criticize restrictions within Turkey; popular opinion in the nation, however, shows a justifiable basis for its insecurity. Within Turkey's sphere of influence, Yugoslavia, Syria, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and other nations have been tom apart by civil war that Turkey sees as an inevitable part of allowing a fully pluralistic and democratic political system to emerge. As the world becomes more global, it is ironic to think that it is only through the differences of tradition, locality, and authenticity that Turkey can market itself more effectively and compete on a worldwide scale. Ultimately. it is through listening to the people of Turkey that a more pluralistic and multi-cultural life can come into existence. The ultimate challenge for Turkey's political leaders is to find a way for peaceful coexistence, rather than clashes, to determine the interactions between secularist and Islamically minded citizens in Turkey. It is only through embracing, rather than denying, its ethnic and ideological diversity that Turkey's leaders can demonstrate what benefits can be garnered from such a richly diverse population. The clashing ideas and civilizations that Samuel Huntington alludes to in hi.s essay must be offered a meeting point so that they do not come into bloody conflict. Turkey, as the crossroads of the world, must become a pluralistic example of civilizational interaction, or else risk a calamitous confrontation between the Kemalists and Islamists.
Turkey does not need to become fully part of either the West or Islamic civilization; rather, it needs to embrace both while not surrendering its unique identity. Though Turkey has changed in many ways since Ataturk, the restrictive orders of secularization and Kemalism continue to limit the potential progress of this nation. Co-existence and public discourse among many viewpoints offer Turkey the most successful formula to embracing pluralism and a unifying national identity. If Turkey and its leaders can find this right formula, it will undoubtedly astonish the world. With thoughtful and sustained leadership, Turkey could become one of the world's most successful nations at embracing its differences in the twenty-first century.
Walker, Joshua, "Leading a 'torn country' : Turkey's ideological and civilized divide" (2003). Honors Theses. 1165.