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Turkey: A Nation That Possesses Both Western And Islamic Features

3908 words - 16 pages

The nation of Turkey is a paradox in the eyes of many who seek a clean break between the West and its associated values and culture and those of the rest of the world. Often considered an example held to demonstrate that Islam and Western Values are not incompatible, Turkey seems to straddle a fine line between being distinctly westernized while remaining rooted thoroughly in the culture and values of the Middle East. Turkey is one of two nations designated by as electoral democracies in the Middle East by Freedom House, along with Israel, yet the majority of the population is Muslim. For many, the current state of Turkish democracy, it’s longstanding membership in NATO, close ties with the West, and the relative cosmopolitanism of cities like Ankara and Istanbul seem to point to a Turkey which is clearly linked to the Western World, or indeed, simply a majority-Muslim portion of it. It would seem a natural outgrowth of such a view as to suggest that Turkish membership in the EU as fitting, given a Turkey being, in this view, a nation linked culturally and historically to Europe and the West. This attitude, however, belies not insubstantial criticism of this idea of a westernized Turkey. While Turkey is considered an electoral democracy that does have regular free and fair elections, it has seen a tumultuous history of military coups, holds laws incompatible with EU standards of human rights, and acts in defiance of international law with the continued occupation of Cyprus. Is Turkey a part of the West, and thus a natural EU member, or something entirely different. It can be effectively concluded that while Turkey is decidedly different from the Middle East as a whole due to its democratic institutions and a relatively westernized culture in some respects, that it is not a Western country and lacks certain fundamental characteristics necessary to call it such. Turkey might be considered a nation which has both elements of Western and Islamic culture, but cannot be called either one with accuracy.
In defining culture or greater civilizations, one often must turn to the history of interaction between a state and the rest of a particular civilization. Civilizations, like western civilization as a whole, have a long historical trend of interdependence and interaction. Countries which have shared this long history of interaction could be considered part of the civilization as a whole. In the case of Turkey, one finds the history of a country which has long looked towards the West. From the time of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish foreign policy has been fundamentally centered on its interactions with Europe. While it has also played a role in the Middle East’s history as a whole, the fundamental center of Ottoman, and later Turkish interests has been in Europe and the West rather than with the rest of the Muslim world. Various points in the history of the Ottoman Empire, and its successor, the Republic of Turkey, add further credence to this idea.
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