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Turkey: Can Ankara Help Democratize Middle East while Democracy Faces Threats at Home?

Turkey’s growing role as a regional leader is being seen by some as “inspiring.” (Photo: Jonathan Lewis)

It has been a whirlwind 18 months for Turkey's international reputation. Just a year ago, as Turkish-Israeli relations cooled and Turkish-Iranian relations warmed, Western media portrayed Turkey as a country shifting on its axis toward the Muslim Middle East. Today, amid Western concerns that the fall of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year regime in Egypt could usher in Iranian-style Islamism, Turkey's former Islamist governing party is once again the flavor of the month.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune on February 8, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Islamist group whose influence worries many in Western capitals, insisted that younger members of the movement "are anxious to bring about internal reform and [are] fascinated by the Turkish example."

"It is only democratic debate and vigorous exchange of ideas that have had an impact on the development of ... Islamist theses," Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, went on. "Turkey's example should be an inspiration to us."

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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.

Turkey: Can Ankara Help Democratize Middle East while Democracy Faces Threats at Home?

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