To: New York Times Editor

Dear New York Times Editor:

The Op-ed article regarding Turkey in NYTimes’ today’s (June 6) edition finds the staunchly secular and democratic Turkish President’s veto on proposed amendment to the higher education statute undemocratic, and praises the Islamist Prime Minister’s initiative to promote religious education in the country.

Following the Turkish media reports we found that not only the Turkish President but also a good portion of the public, educators, and professional organizations were openly against the amendment. In the true American understanding this is democracy at its best. Furthermore, are not we all taught that democracy flourishes where there is secularism? Are the standards and principles of democracy of your editorial team different?

The editorial also states that the majority of Turks do not believe in the separation of mosque and state. They better believe in it, because ignorance of law does not absolve them. The Turkish Constitution, unlike a great majority of constitutions in the world, except those of France and partially India, provides that the Republic is “laic”. We need to know the distinction between laicism and secularism. The fact that secularism, i.e. dualism, brought about freedom and democracy in the Christian society does not necessarily mean that it would also do the same in an Islamic setting.

If we encourage religious education and western style secularism in Turkey, Turkey may eventually become an international liability, like the rest of the Middle East. We should not put all our bets on T. Erdogan. No politician stays the course for long.

By supporting the Western style secularism and by showcasing Turkey as a model of modern Islamic country, the West is encouraging the influence of religion in politics without knowing its possible consequences in an Islamic society. Facing militant Islam’s terrorism are we out to promote modernity or religiosity in the world? We must have learned our lesson from the Green Crescent Project of 1970s designed to curb the spread of communism in the countries flanking the southern border of Russia. We need to wake up to the reality that the wars we are waging today are the consequences of that infamous misconceived project. Having assumed the responsibility of leadership in the world, we have to tread the waters very responsibly, thus with the knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the people of the regions concerned. It does disservice to the US interests and foreign countries concerned to express unwise and misguided opinions in prestigious quarters like the NYTimes, without a profound knowledge of politics and culture of the countries concerned.

President M. Camcigil