: With less than sixmonths left before nationwide
parliamentary polls, Erdoğan has
struck an overtly, indeed aggres-sively conservative stance. Theprime minister’s election strategyclearly targets the 58 percent of the electorate that said “yes” to the constitutional changes thatwere put to a referendum onSeptember 12. The 42 percentwho said “no” feels unnerved by
Erdoğan’s lurch not only towards
religious conservatism but towards nationalism as well. The
trouble for Erdoğan’s detractors,
as ever, is that the oppositionremains weak and divided. What
will Erdoğan do with a third term?
Will his slide towards conserva-
tism persist? Or will his prag
matic side prevail? Is his lurch towards Islam mere politicking or
does it convey a deeply ingrained
ideology? The answer is, both.
The question of just where Turkey
is heading under Erdoğan will be
best answered by the new consti- tution he has vowed to deliver.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Lurch towardsIslam: An Electioneering Tactic or His True Face Revealed?
by Amberin Zaman
January 27, 2011
(In theName o Allah the All Compas-sionate and the Merciul).” With thesewords urkey’s Prime Minister Recepayyip Erdoğan launched into anelectriying speech during a recentceremony in Kuwait to present himwith the “Outstanding Personality in the Muslim World” award. Teaudience o mainly Muslim scholarsclapped hard as he railed against Israeland its treatment o the Palestinians.Among them sat Bulent Yildirim,the chairman o the urkish aidcharity that had led the ill-ated MaviMarmara otilla. “In strawberry elds,in schools, in playgrounds in hospitals,be they children, women, the elderly,you [Israel] brutally kill people and weare meant not to see not to hear this.Really?” Erdoğan asked. “Everyonemay approve by remaining silent. Butwe will not remain silent…o this youcan be sure,” he cried to a resh burst o applause.Erdoğan capped the ceremony by donning an Arab gown and bran-dishing a silver dagger as he stoodalongside women in black chadors.Te aair oered resh evidence o Erdoğan’s growing stature amongmillions o Muslims disaected withtheir largely corrupt and authoritarianleaders. It also provided ammuni-tion or those who claim that underErdoğan’s ruling Justice and Devel-opment (AKP) party, urkey ismoving away rom the west. At home,Erdoğan’s embrace o Muslim soli-darity — he recently claimed that “We[Muslims] can be sel sucient”— hasraised new questions about where hewants to lead urkey.I was among a clutch o journaliststravelling with Erdoğan to Kuwait,and I asked him whether he was “thenew leader o the Muslim world?” Hesmiled and replied, “I have no suchpretensions.” Until recently, my ques-tion would have spurred an angry rebuttal. oday, with the once omnipo-tent urkish army in retreat, Erdoğanappears to have struck a comortablebalance between his Muslim identity and urkey’s strategic alliance with thewest. He can, he believes, have the besto both worlds.Tus, while agreeing to NAO plans toerect a nuclear deense missile shieldover Europe that takes aim at Iran, heits through the Middle East orging