European politicians have started to raise doubts in public about Turkey’s entry with the EU. Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said that Turkish membership “would make excessive demands of Europe.” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos acknowledged two weeks ago, after the French and Dutch referendums, that “without a doubt” the two rejections were “going to affect” further expansion plans. Polls in France and the Netherlands showed that opposition to Turkey’s membership was one of the key reasons voters gave for opposing the EU constitution.
The latest developments pour cold water on Abdullah Gul’s claim last December that the European Union’s decision to extend membership talks with Turkey contributes to the Muslim country’s stability and gives it a new position in Europe and the Islamic world.
Thus European Union’s relationship with Turkey no longer rests on Turkey undergoing extensive political and economic reforms. Rather future relations between the two will be decided by two major factors.
The first is the ‘clash of civilisations’ and is pretty obvious to politicians as well as the peoples of both Europe and Turkey that this clash is inevitable and ongoing. Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president once said that the entry of Turkey, as an Islamic and mostly Asian power, would spell "the end of Europe". Today Giscard’s remarks are not only echoed by fellow European politicians, but are widely shared amongst the populations of Britain, France, Germany and several other countries.
There is a deep sense of Islamaphobia, which has swept the region and rekindled past memories of the Ottoman Caliphate dominating the affairs of Europe. Equally, the Muslims of Turkey are opposed to joining the EU. They fear that they will be stripped of their Islamic identity and forced to adopt western values.
For example EU’s chastisement over Turkey’s plan to outlaw adultery was quickly reversed by Ankara. This angered many Turks and only heightened their anxiety that Europe was intentionally targeting Islamic values.
This in part is born out of the climate of fear produced by America’s war on Islam and in part is due to the centuries old conflict between Christendom and Islam. This polarization in attitudes is impossible to overcome, unless the ideological differences between the two cultures are debated and settled.
To proceed in the absence of such a dialogue will result in failure, no matter what progress is made towards achieving the political and economic goals set out by the EU.
The second is that Europe has failed to accommodate its own Muslim populations, so what are the odds that it can successfully manage the inclusion of 70 million Turks.
Take the example of Britain. Muslims are the most socially deprived ethnic group. In October 2004 the Guardian newspaper reported: ‘Muslims had the highest rate of unemployment, the poorest health, the most disability and fewest educational qualifications. In most respects Muslim women fared worse than Muslim men did.’
Muslims in France and Germany fair much worse. The banning of the hijab, the random interrogation of young Muslims and the withholding of citizenship are at the forefront of discriminatory acts carried out against Muslims.
Add to this, the reluctance of the European powers to intervene and protect Muslims of Bosinia and Kosovo underscores Europe’s attitude towards Muslims living on its shores. In European minds, the above examples only reinforce the idea that Muslims and Islam are incompatible with secularism.
It is hard to believe that the current clash between Islam and the West and the injustices committed by Europeans towards their own Muslim populace has escaped the notice of Turkish leaders.
If Gul is serious about Turkey occupying a new position in the Muslim world then the very least he can do is to stand firm against Europe’s oppression of its Muslim populace.
This can be achieved by Turkey demanding a significant improvement in their circumstances as a precursor to any talks between Turkey and the EU. Such a bold gesture would dramatically increase Turkey’s standing in the Muslim world. Thereafter, Gul should dwell profoundly on Turkey’s past in order to discover how the present Turkey can occupy a new position in Europe. He would quickly conclude that only in Islam and under the shade of the Caliphate did Turkey occupy a pre-eminent position amongst the nations of the world. Back then, the oppressed Europeans used to yearn for the justice of the Caliphate State and longed to become a part of it. Did not the people of Constantinople implore sultan Mohammed to liberate them from the tyranny of Constantine?