The establishment of a modern secular Turkey nearly a hundred years ago marked an important turning point in the history of Middle Eastern Islamic practices. The Turkish constitution made clear that no party which endeavored to establish religious doctrine as the basis of Turkish law was to be allowed to exist. Turkey’s Constitutional Court is presently hearing charges levied by the Public Prosecutor to close down the Justice and Development Party(AKK) on grounds it has violated the constitution by its pro-religious efforts. Yush Kanli, writing in the Turkish Daily News who regards himself as a believer in secularism expressed his opposition to the effort to close down the AKP. “Some have gone to the extent of accusing me of ‘betraying the secular democratic Republic.”
He writes with passion, “Self-catering democrats, self-catering secularists, self-caterng supporters of individual rights and liberties may not of course comprehend the need to demand justice for all, equality of all in the need to demand justice for all, equality of all in front of justice, to oppose all anti-democratic moves without discrimination and e ven to be able to say, ‘if in principle I am against closure of political parties by a military junta or by by the Constitutional Court, I am against–in principles- the closure of the AKP as well through like many people I have very strong doubts that the ruling party has an agenda incompatible with the secular democratic Republic.”
Kanli raises the important issue of respecting the right of free speech of those you believe may well seek to destroy free speech. He believes the AKP is aware of past history in which other Islamist parties were closed down and will be careful to avoid angering secularist institutions such as the Army and the Constitutional Court. We hope he is correct and agree with his views on democracy for all viewpoints.
The Turkish Constitutional Court is moving toward a decision within the coming weeks that will most probably result in closing down the leading political party in the country on grounds it has violated the secular nature of the nation. The Chief Prosecutor is presenting his arguments and then the Justice and Development Party(AKP) will offer a rebuttal. After both sides have been heard, a court appointed rappoteur will present a non-binding opinion on the case. Members of the court will meet in a closed session to discuss the case and reach their conclusions.
The AKP is seeking a quick verdict which they expect will go against them. Prime Minister Erdogan and, most probably, about 70 other members of Parliament will be banned from running for office for several years. The AKP will be dissolved and its members forced to organize a new political party.
The Justice and Development Party is an important one for the Muslim world. As of this date, it has respected secular institutions except for the case of allowing women to wear a headscarf while attending college. Turkey has some flaws in its democracy, but it does stand out in the Muslim world as a nation that wants to move in the direction of modernity.