Turkish Imams Look Forward to Greater Religious Freedom if Country Joins EU

December 19, 2004

Source: The Telegraph


On December 19, 2004 The Telegraph reported, "On Friday, as Imam Gecgel digested the news that Turkey was finally on track to join the European Union, he was too excited by his vision of the future to dwell on the past. Paradoxically, like most Turkish religious leaders he is robustly pro-European – not because he approves of Western mores, but because he believes that accession will extend his powers. 'Turkish people in my position want to be in Europe because it will mean greater liberty for us,'' he said. Although modern Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim, it is in some respects a more fiercely secular state than most of the EU. The powerful army, upholder of the Ataturk legacy of a modern country, refuses to let the government introduce stricter religious observance even though the ruling party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, is strongly Islamist. The army has ousted governments that attempted to defy it...Yet this tight grip on religion jars with Western, and EU, concepts of religious freedom. As a result, Turkey's Islamists believe that membership will allow them greater freedom to worship as they like."