Today, almost every Muslim country in the world is facing some kind of trouble. Turkey is naturally a part of Europe and is the one Muslim country closest to it in terms of culture. For that reason it has the duty of contributing to a resolution of the problems facing both the Muslim world and Europe. This responsibility should be taken into consideration in talks on Turkish accession to the European Union.
In December, Turkey and the EU began negotiations on the chapter involving economic and monetary policies. This step marked the first signs of progress in Turkey’s bid to join the EU after a two-year hiatus. However, the full-accession negotiations that began in 2005 have revealed many Turkish shortcomings, whether in education, culture, the judiciary, science and research, business and industry, and the environment.
Criticism of Turkey, though healthy, focused on its not paying enough attention to democracy and freedoms and encouraged the country to progress in the arts and sciences. Democracy and freedoms as well as developing arts and sciences are crucial concepts that help propel a country forward. More importantly, they have to be fostered and promoted not in response to a request from Europe, but for their own sake, to enhance prosperity and welfare.
Muslim countries in particular need such values more than others. Indeed, looking at the Muslim world in general, it is evident that these problems only seem to be increasing. This and other similar issues create a cultural gap between Muslim societies and the European Union.
The main reason behind this gap can be attributed largely to the fact that many Muslims adhere to superstitions and traditions. A radical understanding of Islam, the source of those superstitions and traditions, also provides the circumstances for the rise of radical groups. Radical, misogynistic societies deprived of scientific and cultural values inevitably become obstacles to rapprochement between the Muslim world and Europe.
This disparity between the Muslim world and the European countries will only make it more difficult to explain true Islam to Europeans. The negative image created by non-Islamic acts, supposedly carried out in the name of Islam, will drive Europe further apart from Muslims.
The largest population of Muslims in the European Union originated in Turkey. For this reason, Turkish membership cannot be considered only on the basis of technical requirements. It should be considered also with regard to the Muslim population present in Europe and the representation of Islam on the continent. When Turkey becomes an EU member, the free movement and increased trade, not to mention social relations and interaction between religions, will become normal. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that Turkey, as a country representing Islam, lives by and champions the true Islam, the epitome of a democratic, free, moderate and loving life. If practices that have no place in Islam become commonplace in Turkey, Europe will naturally grow concerned.
Turkey, therefore, has the great responsibility of introducing Islam to Europe in the most accurate way. It should be more modern, become a cradle of civilization, champion women’s rights through positive discrimination, and fiercely promote science and art. Turkey will be able to show the warmth and loving nature of Islam to Europe only when it is as modern and as forward-looking as Europe is. In that way the bonds of love between societies will become stronger and groundless concerns will be eliminated. Furthermore, political negotiations will become only symbolic and progress very quickly once this union of love is achieved.
When these conditions are respected, the presence of Turkey in the EU will help both Turkey and Europe. The citizens of the EU can work toward a common goal based on peace and love, instead of a symbolic one based on political or economic imperatives. The EU will help push forward Turkey’s cultural and scientific advancement, while Turkey’s exemplary Islamic character will help stem Islamophobia, a direct result of radicalism.
Turkey’s approach to Europe during these negotiations is also crucial. The negotiations should be carried out within a loving, sincere approach. Talking about love but living a loveless life and speaking about culture while paying no real attention to culture will not help change Europe’s approach to Turkey.
Such developments will also be an important step toward ensuring peace in the Muslim world. The hatred and fear toward the Muslim world by some countries no doubt derives from terror attacks supposedly carried out in the name of Islam. When Turkey comes to represent the true Islamic model and joins with the EU, it will be a great example to the rest of the Muslim world. Turkey should prove to the entire Muslim world that progress can be achieved only through love and education.
In order for accession talks with the EU to be concluded swiftly, it is important that Turkey become a role model and that a union between the citizens of Turkey and the EU be built. A natural union of love will immediately be built between people with similar values and that attach importance to high morality and champion culture. When such a union of love is achieved, a political union will be only a matter of time. For these reasons, it is vital that Turkey attach the utmost importance to culture, quality and modernity in its education policy.
Harun Yahya is an influential Turkish spiritual leader, author and opinion shaper. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.