Turkish Model Unrealistic for Islamic States, UAE Forum Hears

  • 27 August 2014

Arab writers have called Turkey’s path to modernisation and political change a possible future for Islamic countries, the secretary general of Jordan’s Arab Thought Forum says.

But this model has been described as unrealistic for some Arab countries, where politics and faith remain intertwined.

“There is a lot of talk in the Arab world about the Turkish experience, and some Arab writers look at it as a model,” Dr Elsadig Elfaqih said on Tuesday during a lecture on Turkey, in Abu Dhabi.

“None of the Arab countries have a constitution against religion, or Islam in particular, which was the case in Turkey.”

Dr Elfaqih said these writers described Turkish politicians as leading by example.

“They say that a lot of Arab countries admire the example and model of the Turkish experience,” he said.

“And they say that they know that most Arab countries are more conservative than Turkey, but there is a kind of desire in Turkey’s establishment of a democracy and the lack of clash between religion and politics.”

Dr Elfaqih said many parties in Islamic countries had tried to imitate the Turkish experience without success.

“In Egypt, there is a constitution which states that Islam is the religion of the country,” he said. “In the Turkish constitution, there is nothing similar to that.

“In my opinion, it is an emerging experience and a successful one. Regardless of whether we agree with it or not, they made a lot of achievements and they’re progressing.

“They relaxed relations between the state and religion and they progressed in terms of their economy.

“Modernisation is a relevant call in all countries.”

Dr Elfaqih said he hoped leaders at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research would play an important role in this field and contribute to the debate between Turks and Arabs.

Ahmet Gokhan Demirtas, the second secretary at the Turkish embassy in Abu Dhabi, said Turkey’s experience of modernisation and democracy had a long history and background.

Mr Demirtas said it had been a long and challenging process that did not necessarily apply to each Arab country.

“Turkey did not reach this level overnight,” he said.

“But we don’t have any ambitions to present the Turkish model to each and every Arab nation as the best one, because they each have their own peculiarities, characteristics, specific conditions, dynamics and history.”

Mr Demirtas said the future of relations between the Turkish and Arab countries was much brighter and more promising than some thought or might wish to see.

“We already enjoy excellent relations with most of the Arab countries but exceptions to the rule can always exist,” he said.

“Not each and every government can behave along the same lines.”