Islam: Secularists Raise Tension as Turkish Court Prepares Landmark Judgment on Ruling AKP

July 28, 2008

Author: Robert Tait

Source: The Guardian

A senior Turkish prosecutor has raised tensions on the eve of a landmark court case that could leave Turkey without a government and deeply divided by warning that it is in danger of an "intolerant" Islamic takeover.

In an interview with the Guardian, Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu, chairman of the association of judges and prosecutors (Yarsav) and deputy to Turkey's chief prosecutor, said the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) was seeking a system of sharia law that would destroy the country's secular system and transform it into an Islamic state.

He claimed the government had exposed its true agenda in a series of measures, including attempts to establish halal standards in food production, signing bilateral agreements underwritten by "Islamic laws" with fellow Muslim countries, increasing religious education at state schools and trying to allow female students to wear headscarves at university.

The moves were aimed at reviving an Islamic consciousness dormant since the end of the Ottoman Empire, Eminagaoglu warned, leading to a religious society where secular lifestyles were discouraged and women denied equal status.

"The basis of the case against the AKP is intolerance," he said. "A sharia system is, by its nature, intolerant of other thoughts, beliefs and practices. Just like fascism in Italy or nazism in Germany, sharia is a sensitive issue in Turkey. With a small spark it can turn into a social movement. We had a sharia-based system during Ottoman times and our society still has traces of it. We don't want to go back to that."

The comments came as the constitutional court prepares to open hearings today that could result in the AKP's dissolution. The court's 11 judges will consider an application by the chief prosecutor, Aburrahman Yalcinkaya - Eminagaoglu's immediate boss at the supreme court of appeals - to close the party and ban 71 senior members, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the president Abdullah Gul, from party politics for anti-secularism.