Turkey: Islamic tourism and the battle for secularism
A non-practising Muslim, Ulukent has had his share of fanatics. He remembers one guest angered by music coming from the women’s bathing area. “He said it was a sin,” Ulukent says. “The tape turned out to be his wife’s. We told him to calm down – this is a hotel, not a morgue.”
(…)In the past there were women- only beaches in Turkey, used both by headscarf-wearing women who considered stripping off on shared beaches against their religion, and by uncovered women keen to avoid unwanted male attention.
They were closed down during an army-led crackdown on political Islam in 1997 on the grounds that the coast is a “public space”. Feminine modesty, Islamic or otherwise, now “constitutes an ‘anti-secular’ act in our country”, says Nihal Bengisu Karaca, a well-known columnist.
Ali Ercan’s world swarms with enemies. The gray-haired professor of nuclear physics and deputy chairman of the Kemalist Thought Association (ADD) has to worry about reactionary Islamists, separatist Kurds, suspicious Armenians and Greeks, capitalist Americans and of course the European Union, with its constant pressures to reform. A bodyguard stands in front of Ercan’s small office on Gazi Mustafa Kemal Boulevard, round the clock.
Inside, a brass plaque greets visitors: “Turkey will never belong to Europe! She will never give up her sacred sovereignty!” Ercan, 55, came up with the slogan himself. Now he wants the words etched on his gravestone, he says. The Europeans come in for particular blame in this “dark and dangerous time which our country is living through.” Who else have encouraged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Islamicize Turkey through “reactionary religious forces,” he says. Who else have pushed Erdogan to sell off Turkey economically and erode its national sovereignty?
The problem here is that the European Union prides itself of being secular, while here is supporting clearly the pro-Islamic AKP.