Opinion: Turkey's Moderate Islam Makes it Crucial Bridge Between West and Middle East

January 13, 2004

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer


On January 13, 2004 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a syndicated column by Thomas L. Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, in which he argued that the acceptance of Turkey into the European Union is a cruicial step in "building bridges" between Islam and the West. Friedman cited Turkey's more moderate Islam, flourishing within a free-market democracy, as a key reason why it deserved Western support: "Turkish politicians are not intimidated by religious fundamentalists, because -- unlike too many Arab politicians -- they have their own legitimacy that comes from being democratically elected. At the same time, the Turkish parents of suicide bombers don't all celebrate their children's suicides. They are not afraid to denounce this barbarism, because they live in a free society where such things are considered shameful and alien to the moderate Turkish brand of Islam -- which has always embraced religious pluralism and which most Turks feel is the real' Islam. For all these reasons, if we want to help moderates win the war of ideas within the Muslim world, we must help strengthen Turkey as a model of democracy, modernism, moderation and Islam all working together. Nothing would do that more than having Turkey be made a member of the European Union."