The most secular Islamic country is Creationist

I've pointed out before that the most (reputedly) secular Muslim majority country, Turkey, is more friendly to Creationism and more religious than the United States. This is why I get really agitated by those who argue that Turkey should join the European Union, it isn't culturally appropriate. Europeans might be prejudiced against Turks because they're "oriental" (in the old sense) and Muslim, but that doesn't mean that Turks are just like any European in values. Liberal elites terrified of seeming prejudiced and Eurocentric don't want to acknowledge this generality of difference, but it is important to point out specific cultural shibboleths and markers which even they'll have a reflexive response to. For example, Meet Harun Yahya: The leading creationist in the Muslim world:

Creationist stories are now popping up in Turkish high-school science textbooks, and some government officials in the AKP, the ruling Islamic party, freely criticize evolution. In Ankara, the government's point man on religious issues, Mehmet Gormez, told me, "All the holy texts say human beings are created by God. I think evolutionary theory is not scientific, but ideological."

...

Why Islamic creationism has exploded in Turkey is a complicated story that may have as much to do with politics as religion. Unlike most Muslim countries, which simply ignore the science of life's origins, Turkey's high schools have taught evolution for decades--the legacy of Ataturk's campaign to secularize Turkey's public culture. Creationism has become a way for political Islamists to attack the secular elite that governed Turkey until the recent rise of the AKP. Oktar's own agenda isn't confined to evolution. He's calling for a "Turkish-Islamic Union," a Turkish super-state that would stretch from Kazakhstan to Indonesia and western Africa--a revamped Ottoman Empire for today's Muslims.

So how much influence does Harun Yahya actually have? I asked a number of well-connected journalists, academics, and businessmen--members of the secular elite. Some described his political impact as minimal, while others lamented his success at getting creationist materials into schools and at persuading the Turkish courts to ban Web sites that criticize him. Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul University and a prominent commentator on Turkish affairs, called Harun Yahya's organization "cultish" and said that it entraps young men and women and turns them against their families. He said one of his students was a Harun Yahya acolyte who'd became a virtual prisoner; when she took her exams, two men hovered nearby so she couldn't speak to anyone else.

This is democracy. Science might not be democratic, but culture is. I freely grant that the Muslim world needs to be graded on a curve. But allowing Turkey into the EU would be a form of social promotion (I'm moderately skeptical of the scalability of the European Union into Eastern Europe as it is, but at least those nations are smaller and culturally more similar, with many such as Slovenia and Estonia at a higher index of human development).

More like this

A new story highlighting the waxing of Creationism within modern Turkey. A depressing tidbit: Education Minister Huseyin Celik, an AKP member, said he has an open mind over the debate about evolution, but in 2005, the Ministry reportedly suspended five teachers for advocating evolution too…
Taner Edis, a physicist at Truman State University, came to KU a couple days ago to talk about his research into creationism in the Muslim world. That research most recently led to his book An Illusion of Harmony: Science And Religion in Islam. Dr. Edis grew up and went to college in Turkey,…
Another article on Creationism in Turkey: To John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, however, the news could hardly be more encouraging. "Why I'm so interested in seeing creationism succeed in Turkey is that evolution is an evil concept that has done such damage to…
Well, not really. He just wants to sell some books there. But don't tell that to the editors at The Times. None of Professor Dawkins' books, on evolution as well as religion, has ever been translated into Arabic, and his work has been heavily censored in Turkey. In an interview with The Times, he…

You think cultural difference is a reason to refuse entry to the EU? Wow. How incredibly short sighted.

Marginalizing a country is more likely to breed extremism than any other behaviour, the best way to influence a country is to invite them in. Not that I think we should necessarily be trying to change Turkey too much, having a variety of different cultures and view points can make the whole stronger - it's harder work because we have to try and see past our differences but ultimately the benefits can be worth it. Then, perhaps it would be good for the EU, in the eyes of the middle east, to have a majority Muslim state member?

"(I'm moderately skeptical of the scalability of the European Union into Eastern Europe as it is"

This is one of the reasons why opponents of a deeper European Union tend to support a wider EU that includes Eastern Europe and Turkey.

What next, suggesting Saudi Arabia join the EU?

By edqwrferfwe (not verified) on 22 Oct 2009 #permalink
    All

creationism is political. It is a mistake to think that creationism v. evolution is an argument about the science (that argument is done and dusted); it's a fight for the political influence of one group over another.

Debates about flaws in one theory or another are an irrelevant sideshow; it's all about the power of groups.

Marginalizing a country is more likely to breed extremism than any other behaviour, the best way to influence a country is to invite them in. Not that I think we should necessarily be trying to change Turkey too much, having a variety of different cultures and view points can make the whole stronger - it's harder work because we have to try and see past our differences but ultimately the benefits can be worth it.

many of your assertions are totally unfounded and without empirical support. it is a mantra to say that exclusion breeds extremism and that familiarity allows for tolerance, not a factual assessment of the evidence. i believe in allowing primitive societies to evolve at their own pace, so i agree with you there about a hands off policy, but as someone born in a primitive society i'm not too inclined to end up dying in a primitive society. i'm not inclined for example to see past differences in terms of many fundamental values in the muslim world which resemble the status quo of europe in 1800. if you want to meet barbarism in the middle that's your choice, but it shouldn't be beyond the ken for others to object (just as many muslims consider the west lascivious and decadent, that is entirely a reasonable judgement in light of the state of their societies).

Then, perhaps it would be good for the EU, in the eyes of the middle east, to have a majority Muslim state member?

perhaps. but

1) who cares what people in the middle east have to think about the EU?

2) do muslims view neocons positively for encouraging american intervention on the side of muslims in the 1990s in kosovo, bosnia and chechnya? i doubt it.

you're welcome to this natural experiment, but the consequences may be irreversible.

in any case, everyone has their limits. even the most multiculturally oriented americans would be a bit averse to a union between the united states and pakistan. pakistanis are probably an order of magnitude more nuts than turks, and they're about twice as numerous. your mileage may vary, but everyone has their lines.

"Marginalizing a country is more likely to breed extremism than any other behaviour, the best way to influence a country is to invite them in."

1. Isn't there already a problem in a number of EU countries with a lack of assimilation and clash of cultures (ie. ranging from anti-semitism & attacks on gays - note that Mein Kampf was a best seller in Turkey in 2005 - to demands for sharia law?).

2. Increasing the numbers will make those already there less likely to assimilate? They will just increase their ethnic enclaves, separate schools, media, justice systems etc?

"good for the EU, in the eyes of the middle east, to have a majority Muslim state member?"

It wouldn't be good if it destroys the EU.

I honestly don't understand why Turkey is even being considered, except that it IS Muslim. It's not in Europe. Only a sliver of it lies in Europe and that's due to an accident of how things worked out in the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

I repeat, Turkey is NOT European. Why should it be in the EU?

turkey is nearly as populous as germany, and more populous than france or the united kingdom. if multicults want a token muslim member of the EU, bosnia and/or albania are much better candidates.

1) they're indisputably european

2) they're more secular

3) they're more culturally pluralistic than turkey

4) adding these nations will do very little to change the numbers of muslims already in the EU (in fact, arguably albanians and bonsians are MUCH MORE secular and a better fit for european society than british muslims who wish to turn london into lahore).

additionally, the secular turks also have a nasty nationalistic streak which isn't fashionable in most of europe today (though it is analogous to what you see in central & eastern europe). that's one reason the moderate islamists in turkey don't seem so bad, like shas in israel they're in some ways less "hawkish" than secular nationalists.

"bosnia and/or albania are much better candidates."

I was thinking the same thing. Esp. Albania, which is a real country and not something sort of made up like Bosnia. A nice compromise. There's tons of Albanians in Italy already anyway, both ancient and assimilated & recent. Take Albania and forget Turkey. What a ridiculous idea.

I don't think there is a serious movement to accept Turkey as an EU member state in the near future. My impression is that the possibility of future membership is held up as a carrot to entice reform and modernization and the POSSIBILITY of future membership. The principle reasons they wont be accepted at the moment are financial - the EU supports infrastructure in its member states and Turkey would just cost too much to bring up to EU standards.

sigmund, you are correct. all the political elites are playing games on multiple layers (i.e., if we know of the outline of these games, of course the turkish political class does too). the only caution i would suggest is that sometimes in social decisions which emerge out of collective action the outcome might be suboptimal for all involved without any intent. so it isn't impossible even though if you were reductionistic you'd bet against it.

(consider for example the weird way czechoslovakia was divided as a somewhat unintended byproduct of slovak gamesmenship).

[i]Marginalizing a country is more likely to breed extremism than any other behaviour, the best way to influence a country is to invite them in.[/i]

Leaving Turkey out of Eu is not marginalizing it. Even without membership, there is movement of trade and people, tourism and connected infrastructure between EU and Turkey.

Turkey and EU have many common interests and beneficial partnership and barring Turkey from membership is hardly marginalizing it. And if this breeds extremism despite all the trade and other contacts it's just further proof that Turkey would not be a good candidate to EU.

From the left European perspective the main question is whether you believe that making Turkey part of the EU is a good way to export European values into Turkey.

The whole idea of the EU is that integrating others is a good way to reduce differences.

If they are part of the EU they are also subject to EU laws and you can probably create laws to banish creationism from schools.

The tool of having our negotiations with turkey helps us to combat censorship of critics of someone like Harun Yahya.
And if the don't agree to cease censorship of that kind, they won't get membership.

By ChristianK (not verified) on 22 Oct 2009 #permalink

It's totally culturally inappropriate for the Confederate States to be incorporated into the Union, time to secede!

As Ross notes, one reason to favour Turkish accession is to make the EU more about economic union and less about political union. Which is why Sarkozy hates the idea.

Doesn't your blog and the comments miss the point? Europe has a rapidly growing Muslim population even without Turkey, and the young Muslims in Europe are generally becoming more fundamentalist, regardless of their parents beliefs.

Considering the refusal of native Europeans to have children, Europe may be undergoing a population replacement. The new Europe will likely be majority religious (much of that Islamic, most orthodox Christian), fundatmentalist, creationist, intolerant of secularists, sexist and homophobic.

The European secular humanist period is over.

By Bob Sykes (not verified) on 23 Oct 2009 #permalink

I don't have an opinion about Turkey joining the EU, but if we're going to make secularism a litmus test for political and economic participation in the developed world, the GOP is screwed.

bob, you're wrong. i've looked at the numbers (as i am wont to do). you're repeating things without knowing facts. your vision *may* be right, there many possible projections. you look look at numbers, they're good for you, and would make you more well informed.

I don't have an opinion about Turkey joining the EU, but if we're going to make secularism a litmus test for political and economic participation in the developed world, the GOP is screwed.

the AKP is far more religious than the GOP (the AKP started out as a fundamentalist religious party, the GOP is shifting in that direction) and turkey is far more religious than the united states (according to the world values survey). which is kind of my point, left-liberals totally exercised by the GOP and american evangelicalism are often in favor of turkey joining the EU...why?

i can understand people getting annoyed by religious fundamentalists in their own nation, but indulging them in less developed nations. but when you *invite them to your own nation* then some consistency is expected.

left-liberals totally exercised by the GOP and american evangelicalism are often in favor of turkey joining the EU...why?
Because they are all closet racists who have different rules for different races. Secular values are for first world nations. Everyone else gets to keep their quaint and wonderful "alternative worldview". btw, I am all in favor of that. I just think they need to be more explicit about their underlying assumptions.
Or, because they are just totally clueless about the variety of opinions and cultures in the world and see everything in terms of their neighborhood in San Francisco.
Or, Because they went to College post-Edward Said and are really screwed when it comes to the humanities (almost everyone is screwed when it comes to serious science).
Or, because they love to say things like "breeds extremism" without the faintest notion of what the hell they are talking about.

IMHO the European-sited part, should it be sliced off, could probably assimilate into the EU if it had to - it's just that Turkey's a big country and it's not feasible to slice Istanbul in half.

I can't imagine the EU would be thrilled to share a border with Iraq either. It's trading a small, reasonably stable though often argued over border with a large Asian border verging on very unstable states.

There are a host of good strategic reasons to integrate Turkey into the EU that are never cited, but most of the other reasons used today are incredibly flawed. Taken as a whole, integrating Turkey into the EU is a bad idea. Bringing Albania, along with a few other Balkan and Eastern European nations, into the EU is a much, much better idea.

As for this:
left-liberals totally exercised by the GOP and american evangelicalism are often in favor of turkey joining the EU...why?
I think Omar hit the nail square on the head with this one. These are generally people who despise European civilization and view non-European cultures as automatically superior. Many of these folks are rather self-loathing and are so indoctrinated that they don't realize what they're truly advocating.

@13 Exporting European values into Turkey?

Do Euro-leftists approve of this so that the poor wretches - who don't seem to be able to import (or hold on to) those enlightened values on their - and who are in the process of reversing Kemal Ataturk's bitterly opposed but finally successful secularization of Turkey's society along those lines - can have Western enlightenment force fed them for their own good?

Do you not see just a bit of racism in this view?

Those enlightened values have been available in Turkey for a long time. The political tides have turned and they are now rejecting those in favor of fundamentalist Muslim values which seem to carry a strong attraction for significant numbers of Turks.

The Turks are a nation, a state and a polity. It's best when people are responsible for their own decisions - otherwise the bad results can always be blamed on someone else. Lessons will not be learned and opportunities for change will be resisted as unpatriotic.

And we are better off recognizing them as ideological enemies rather than pretending that they are our friends in those areas where they are not.

By Ray in Seattle (not verified) on 25 Oct 2009 #permalink

Forget Kemal Mustapha. He's a dead issue literally and figuratively. Turkey has arrangements with the EU already, as anyone who has travelled from Turkey to Greece would know. Turkey is in effect being brided to keep its hordes (a Turkic word) out of Europe and to act as a barrier to illegal immigration. It is also a cheap place to make things. Turkey has lots of uses for Europe.

All I can say is that Turkey's entry to EU membership would be a big mistake. It will lead to the fragmentation of Europe, and open the way for all sorts of alien customs to enter Europe. Turkey is in all ways European except in culture, attidues to children and women, religion and progressive attitudes. Shorthand, they are Orientals not Occidentals no matter what they look like or how many reforms Kemal Mustapha put into place before he croaked. I as a European born person feel uncomfortable with the present level of foreign immigration from North African and Middle East/Arabia to Europe. Personally I would choose East Asians and non muslim African Blacks to those people any day.

"which is kind of my point, left-liberals totally exercised by the GOP and american evangelicalism are often in favor of turkey joining the EU...why?"

What is "often"? I'm not being snarky, I was unaware that Turkey joining the EU is a "liberal" issue, or even a serious one at all. Also, although most liberals may find both evangelicals and the GOP annoying, most I know think the GOP's self-destructive pact with these lunatics is hilarious. The Democrats court a lot of weirdos, but they don't put them in charge.

One could argue that the only thing that keeps the GOP and certain states from going completely off the rails with the religious nuts is that they are embedded within a broader liberal democratic structure, the United States, with rule of law. The EU *could* play that role for Turkey. Before Omar wipes the spittle off his chin and accuses me of living in Northern California, I should say that I don't think there is any particularly compelling reason that Turkey should join the EU.

Also, although most liberals may find both evangelicals and the GOP annoying, most I know think the GOP's self-destructive pact with these lunatics is hilarious.

the liberals you know must be a jovial crowd. the ones i know were far less sanguine during the 8 years of george w. bush.

One could argue that the only thing that keeps the GOP and certain states from going completely off the rails with the religious nuts is that they are embedded within a broader liberal democratic structure, the United States, with rule of law. The EU *could* play that role for Turkey.

numbers are of the essence.

consider, according to the world values survey on the order of 70% of people in the USA disagree that when jobs are scare men should receive preference to women. about 80% disagree on the left side of the political scale, 60% on the right.

in turkey the number who disagree are 30%. on the right side of the political scale in turkey 20%, on the left 40% (self position isn't symmetrical numerically).

as you can see, on women's issues the left-of-center turk is less gender egalitarian then the right-of-center american. in terms of europe, some small eastern european countries are like turkey. but they are small. there are 80 million turks.

the cultural distance is very great. and the numbers are not trivial.

Your second point is well taken, again I admit I don't have an informed opinion about this and probably agree with you.

As to the first, I should have qualified--Bush isn't himself funny. But overall watching the seeds of destruction flower has a kind of schadenfreude appeal that I'm almost ashamed of. I mean, a whole political party has reorganized itself to suit its stupidest and weirdest constituency. It's as if the Democrats let the anti-vaccine people or homeopaths define their platform. I would feel more empathy for moderate Republican politicians if they weren't so cowed and spineless against these people. Hagel just quit in disgust, which is a shame but at least dignified.

As to the first, I should have qualified--Bush isn't himself funny. But overall watching the seeds of destruction flower has a kind of schadenfreude appeal that I'm almost ashamed of. I mean, a whole political party has reorganized itself to suit its stupidest and weirdest constituency. It's as if the Democrats let the anti-vaccine people or homeopaths define their platform. I would feel more empathy for moderate Republican politicians if they weren't so cowed and spineless against these people. Hagel just quit in disgust, which is a shame but at least dignified

positive feedback loops. i recall in 1972 that the oregon democratic party actually had a plank in its platform inveighing against private property. when parties shrink the extremes take over.

A fact some may not be aware of. In 1987 Morocco applied to join and was basically told that it was not European and the application was rejected out of hand.

Aside from cultural compatibility issue the stability of the Turkish political system is also something that could be called into question. For example look at this article in today's news.
http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-191276-100-bagis-plot-unimaginab…

Turkey has an almost South American penchant for military coups.