Laura Clarke is an International Relations graduate living in London. She enjoys writing, talking and, thankfully, quite likes rain too.
Slide from Secularism
Human Rights – Protests and conflict have marked the passing of a controversial education bill in Turkey. The new law overturns provisions made by the military in 1997 by allowing for middle-school education in religious institutions.
Turkey is built on secular foundations, despite being populated by a strong Muslim majority. The new bill has met with heated opposition from secularists who claim that it affords too much influence to Islamic schools and detracts from the country’s secular stance. Opponents claim that Islamic schools serve as a breeding ground for militant Islamism and remove the opportunity for middle-school students to receive broad-based education.
The government has stated that the bill responds to popular demand, with Prime Minister Erdogan, himself a graduate of an Islamic institution, calling this a victory for democracy. He has also expressed the government’s desire to raise a “pious generation.” Not all in government share this view, however, and fights between legislators have inflamed the debate.
To frame this as a fight over militant Islamism is to misunderstand the conflict. Rather, it is a question of the steady erosion of secularism in Turkey. The country has long been a beacon of the secular tradition, demonstrating how a country with a dominant religious majority can effectively conduct its politics without deference to religious principles. The conflict over the new education bill symbolises the broader concern that Turkey is on a slide from secularism, throwing its very foundations into question.
With its campaign to join the EU plagued by European concerns over Turkey’s Muslim identity, these new debates will weigh heavily on its prospects for membership. More fundamentally, this newest conflict may have placed Turkey on a slippery slope to a fully-fledged identity crisis.
Read more at the Associated Press.