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The European Union, Turkey and Islam

The European Union, Turkey and Islam

Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy
E.J. Zürcher
H. van der Linden
Series: WRR Rapporten
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The European Union, Turkey and Islam
    Book Description:

    Does the fact that the majority of Turkey's population is Muslim form a hindrance to its EU membership? According to a recent policy advice by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), the answer is an adamant 'no'. Why is this issue of Turkish Islam relevant? After all, Turkey should not be judged by standards other than the Copenhagen criteria. The answer is that the public debate outside 'Brussels' will not be limited to these official criteria. Many people in Europe are worried about Turkey's 'Islam factor'. They believe that Muslims are (potentially violent) fundamentalists who want to establish a theocracy. By explicitly examining the role of Turkish Islam and Muslims in Turkey, the WRR wants to contribute to a well-informed European public debate on Turkey's accession. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0537-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-4)
  3. The European Union, Turkey and Islam

      (pp. 5-10)
      (pp. 13-14)
      (pp. 15-24)

      During the Dutch Presidency of the European Union (EU) in the final six months of 2004, the EU will have to decide on whether to open membership negotiations with candidate member state Turkey. Officially, that decision depends on whether the country enjoys a stable constitutional democracy that guarantees the rule of law, human rights and minority rights – the so-called political Copenhagen criterion.¹ In the public debate, however, other considerations have also played a role. Besides the many practical objections to Turkish membership (the country’s size, poverty, rural nature or its many unstable neighbours), objections of a cultural-religious nature are increasingly...

      (pp. 25-44)

      This chapter explores the main characteristics of the EU and examines how the Union and its member states deal with religion. It observes that the EU has evolved into a union of values and objectives that rests on the institutionally anchored political and civic values of the democratic constitutional state, that guarantee the autonomy of church and state and religious freedoms and rights (section 2.2). After this, the chapter contains a brief survey of the different ways in which the member states, both pro forma and de facto, realise these basic values (section 2.3).

      According to the Treaty of the...

      (pp. 45-66)

      Many arguments against Turkish EU membership assume that ‘Islam’ and ‘Europe’ are two different entities that are historically only distantly related. Such arguments usually see Muslims as a new group of postwar immigrants and their immediate descendants, who have increasingly appeared as adherents of Islamic fundamentalism. Such views embrace crude generalisations, in which the West and Islam are synonymous for separate civilisations that are basically incompatible. According to Samuel Huntington (1993, 1996), it is exactly between these two ‘civilisation blocs’ that armed conflicts will increasingly occur. His hypothesis confirms the characterisation of Muslims as a single group of traditional and...

      (pp. 67-72)

      The EU has committed itself to assessing Turkey’s membership using the same procedures it applies, and has applied, to other candidate member states. Although the religion-factor plays only a limited role in this assessment, it is precisely this factor that has generated so much disquiet. This is why, through this report and the supplementary survey, the WRR has attempted to contribute to a greater insight into the characteristics of Turkish Islam and the historical background of its relationship with the Turkish state.

      The central question posed in this report is whether the fact that the majority of its population is...

      (pp. 73-76)

      The WRR does not consider that the characteristics of Turkish Islam as such constitute any obstacle to EU accession. Yet, if the Turkish accession becomes reality, will it not also be important for the relationship between the West and the Muslim world? This relationship has become increasingly problematic, for example through spiralling Islamic terror and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Could Turkish accession temper the fear of an unavoidable ‘clash of civilisations’?

      It is obvious that this should not be the main reason for allowing Turkey to join the EU. Accession should be judged on its own merits, on the...

      (pp. 77-82)
  4. Searching for the Fault-Line: A survey of the role of Turkish Islam in the accession of Turkey to the European Union in the light of the ‘clash of civilisations’

      (pp. 83-86)
      (pp. 87-92)

      Since the mid-1990s, the discussion on Turkey’s potential accession to the European Union (EU) has not merely been conducted on the basis of criteria determining the state of democracy and human rights, security and the economy. The EU’s dramatic eastward expansion has also prompted European writers and politicians in particular to reflect more generally on ‘Europe’s’ fundamental characteristics and borders. It almost goes without saying that these discussions have become focused on the case of Turkey. After all, this is not merely the only country officially enjoying the prospect of full membership of the EEC/EC/EU for over forty years, but...

      (pp. 93-146)

      This chapter describes the most important aspects of contemporary Turkish Islam. Since this contemporary landscape is the outcome of several radical transformations in the past, we will regularly refer back to crucial historical backgrounds that decisively shaped these important contemporary developments.

      On 28 June 1996, the Turkish Republic witnessed an event unprecedented in its history since its creation in 1923: a politician who explicitly allowed himself to be inspired, both politically and personally, by Islamic standards and values, was sworn in as prime minister. Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare Party, owed this post to his election victory in...

      (pp. 147-168)

      In the previous part of this survey, we have made acquaintance with several important characteristics of Turkish Islam, and also with the large variety of Turkey’s religious landscape. In this chapter, we wish to answer the question to what extent the fact that Turkey is an Islamic country will turn out to be an insurmountable impediment to its membership of the EU. In other words: does Islam block Turkey’s accession to the EU? The discussion takes place against the wider backdrop of yet another debate, i.e. on the place in this landscape of Samuel Huntington’s notion of the ‘clash of...

      (pp. 169-170)

      The reader who has read the above chapters of this survey, will not be surprised by the conclusions that are drawn below.

      We first showed in chapter 2 that Turkish Islam has a long tradition of symbiosis with the state, and that this tradition has given ‘official’ Islam in Turkey a strongly pragmatic and flexible character. Another important characteristic of Islam in Turkey is its wide range of expressions. We have examined this extensively, and have indicated the importance of Turkey’s large Alevi minority, with its adherence to secular and humanist values. We have seen how the large Islamic movements...

      (pp. 171-173)
      (pp. 174-174)