Turkey’s AKP: Toward Liberal Reform or Islamization?

Turkey’s AKP: Toward Liberal Reform or Islamization?

The initiative of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to repeal the country's headscarf ban has received a great deal of attention in both the Turkish and international media over the past month. Analysis has been divided on whether this signals a creeping Islamization of the country or rather, quite to the contrary, it is a signal of growing civil liberties -- a maturing liberal democracy moving towards Western ideas of decency and freedom.

It is unusual that a singular political initiative can be viewed in two such diametrically opposed ways. It's a perfect illustration of the difficulty of comprehending Turkey today: Is a reformed Islamist party leading its country towards the European Union and European principles? Or is an Islamist party disguised as a reform party leading its country towards a fulsome embrace of political Islam?

Some Turkish secularists are not waiting for the answer. Two weeks ago, the country's chief prosecutor filed a case with the Constitutional Court seeking dissolution of the AKP on grounds that it is "anti-secular" and, therefore, anti-Turkish. The Court this week announced it will hear the case. In response, the AKP is floating the idea of amending the Turkish constitution to rein in the independence of the prosecutor's office, and the ease by which political parties can be disbanded.

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