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Something momentous is happening in Turkey right now.

Most Americans, preoccupied
with Iraq, may not be aware of it – or even care. Well, they should.

First, a brief précis for the uninitiated. During the past week, hundreds of
thousands of secular Turks have been demonstrating in different parts of the
country. They are protesting against the nomination of Foreign Minister Abdullah
Gul as a candidate in the country’s upcoming Presidential election. Gul was
nominated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Erdogan's
supporters have spoken against restrictions on wearing Islamic-style head scarves
in government offices and schools; and they support religious schools. His
government also tried to criminalize adultery, before being forced to back down
under intense European Union pressure; and some party-run municipalities have
taken steps to ban alcohol. Secularists fear that if Gul becomes president, he
could challenge the country's secular system. Gul is a pious Muslim, who made his
career in the country's Islamist political movement.

So why is what’s happening in Turkey important to the US? Think about it. For a
long time now, the Islamic fundamentalists – which include the militants currently
fermenting a civil war in Iraq – have portrayed their jihad as a straight battle
with the West. Islam versus Christianity; conservative moral values versus the
cultural decadence of America and Europe. America and Europe are out to
annihilate Islam. It is the sacred, moral obligation of the fundamentalists to
take up arms, rid the world of the rampaging Crusader scourge and usher in a
virtuous Islamic society – as decreed by Allah.

Now here comes Turkey, a hundred percent Muslim nation, protesting vehemently
against the fundamentalists. The Turks are no Crusaders; they are devout followers
of Islam. And they have experienced both versions of it, the traditional version –
with sharia law and all its accoutrements – under the Ottomans: and the modern,
secular variety – ushered in by Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk’s Turkey values civil
liberties; it has taken the best of Western and Arabic traditions and melded them
into a homogenous blend: one, for example, where simple enjoyments such as music
and dancing are not regarded as an affront to Allah; and where a woman does not
need to cover herself in a formless hejab to be considered a pious Muslim.

Yes, the Turks have sampled both forms of Islam; and the majority of them have
consciously chosen the more progressive one. They are a direct slap in the face to
the fundamentalists’ claim that Islam – or their version of it – is the only true
religion; that they are doing the work of Allah.

Now the secular Turks are under siege – from an enemy America has become all too
familiar with after 9/11 and Iraq. They need America’s support. Do not fail them.
If the fundamentalists are allowed to win this battle, the dangers for the West
will increase a hundredfold. This is the 21st Century Alamo – or it could be. If
freedom is to continue to ring in Turkey, we need to take a stand.