posted Mar 10, 2010, 11:48 AM by Ahmed Souaiaia
By: Angel Rabasa, F. Stephen Larrabee
As a Muslim-majority country that is also a secular democratic state, a member of NATO, a candidate for membership in the European Union, a long-standing U.S. ally, and the host of Incirlik Air Base (a key hub for logistical support missions in Afghanistan and Iraq), Turkey is pivotal to U.S. and Western security interests in a critical area of the world. It also provides an example of the coexistence of Islam with secular democracy, globalization, and modernity. However, having a ruling party with Islamic roots — the Justice and Development Party (AKP) — within a framework of strict secularism has generated controversy over the boundaries between secularity and religion in the public sphere. This monograph describes the politico-religious landscape in Turkey and the relationship between the state and religion, and it evaluates how the balance between secular and religious forces — and between the Kemalist elites and new emerging social groups — has changed over the past decade. The study also assesses the new challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in the changed Turkish political environment and identifies specific actions the United States may take to advance the U.S. interest in a stable, democratic, and friendly Turkey and, more broadly, in the worldwide dissemination of liberal and pluralistic interpretations of Islam.