Many thanks to our Austrian correspondent ESW and the Vienna Akademikerbund for producing and translating the following paper about the implication of Turkey’s accession to the EU.
Update: The German-language original for this article may be found at Mission Europa.
The EU, Islam, And Turkey
by Harald Fiegl
translated by ESW and KSW
- Show and event?
- A sacrificium intellectum?
- EU — What is that? There is no EU!
What are the implications of Islam and a full EU membership for the European social model?
By its own definition, from the inside point of view, the EU is a community of values, an area of freedom, security and law, as well as a unique peace project which is responsible for prosperity. Christian Western values are not explicitly stressed, although the moral sensitivity undoubtedly stems from a Christian viewpoint.
From the outside point of view, the EU remains an attractive location for investment, trade relations and work opportunities. A coveted source of financing for development aid projects. A place where human rights gain more attention than in many parts of the rest of the world. But it has no political power, it is not a “global player” on the world stage. Furthermore, it is lacking in the Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP.
Economic success coupled with weakness in foreign policy makes the EU — in the eyes of the rest of the world — a huge NGO and an object of desire for other political forces. The Islamization of Europe is at the forefront, followed by the Turkish claim of dominating Europe. This country is paving its way forward. Negotiations in the sense of “giving and taking” do not take place. Turkey wants a Turkish Europe!
The EU finds itself in a similar situation to that of Byzantium before the Turkish conquest. Then as now, there is a resolute opponent vis-à-vis a discordant, almost self destructive entity. Islamization is pursued by the Islamic world in its totality. Turkey as a Muslim country reinforces this trend, adding its expansive nationalism.
How can these facts be recognized?
- By looking at the current political situation of the EU
- By looking at the current political situation of Turkey
- By looking at the hegemonic positions within the international community
1. The current political situation of the EU
Much is said at EU summits — held in a six-month rhythm to hand over the presidency — about common grounds and integration, from the reunification of Europe to the almost mandatory enlargement of the EU.
In fact, it is precisely the lack of common grounds that impedes a successful enlargement. This is particularly true for Turkey. The EU is looking for salvation in the enlargement, even if it is a disadvantage for the vast majority of the population. In general, the will of the majority of the European population is not reflected in the decision-making of the EU institutions. This is obviously the reason for a widely visible EU scepticism.
For the majority of Europe’s population, EU-enlargement, in addition to globalization, has increased pressure to perform, often in conjunction with lower incomes.
In other words, national interests are still dominant at the summit conferences. There is none of the so often apostrophized “European spirit”! Only this so very much desired European spirit would be able to give birth to a self-confident Europe playing a decisive role in the world.
Unfortunately, there are still very different perceptions:
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- The EU foreign policy mirrors national interests and is thus incapable of taking countermeasures against US hegemonic aspirations. On the contrary, US-NAT interests oftentimes prevail over EU foreign policy.
- After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the EU waived her options of developing new and independent relations with Russia and by doing so, she did not prevent Russia’s recalling her on geopolitical interests. EU enlargement is perceived as part of the US policy of isolation, with Ukraine and Georgia serving a particularly blatant examples.
- French President Sarkozy’s independent policy-making is a case in point for national interests: He thinks as a French, not as a European, when he speaks of the Mediterranean Union, when he pursues French military pacts and agreements on nuclear cooperation with Mediterranean countries.
- The new EU member states, former Eastern European nations, clearly direct their foreign policies according to US interests.
- Britain is in the Kiel waters of the U.S.
- US-NATO interests and the divided set of political interests in the side of the member states led to the promise of EU membership to Turkey during a European Council meeting in 1999. This was done intra camera and without informing the public. In December 2004, 407 member of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favor of the negotiations, with only 262 abstentions.
In doing so, the EU is overlooking, for example:
- That Turkey has large deficits in human rights and therefore basic conditions for opening negotiations have not been met. The EU arbitrarily defined that basic requirements were “sufficiently” met and started negotiations on 03 10 2005, which have since continued against better judgment and without regard to public opinion. Asylum status granted to Turkish citizens in European countries is not seen as a contradiction.
- That the special role of the army and the religious authority is deeply rooted in the constitution of national-religious centralized Turkish state. This is contrary to EU principles. Turkey is not a democracy in any Western sense.
- That public life in Turkey is determined by Islam. With its ideology Islam is in total contrast to secular Western individualism. Full membership of Turkey means accession without meeting the conditions all other EU member states are subject to. This would be simply mean the end of a “WE” feeling and the end to European integration.
- That Turkey’s accession to the EU would entail an enormous financial burden, and as a result the EU would end up funding Turkish national ambitions running against EU goals, including those of a military nature.
- That due to the lack of its own common foreign policy, the EU, having to follow Turkish interests, would helplessly be drawn into Turkey’s neighborhood conflicts.
Like the UN Security Council, the EU has, as a result of lack of common ground in foreign policy, only limited opportunities in realizing alternatives and must finally recognize that despite many criticisms of the United States, the US is the only player in the western world. European navel-gazing cannot be considered world politics!
Although the deficiencies of the EU are becoming more visible after every summit, and despite negative public opinion surveys and the continuously admonishing voices of highly regarded personalities, EU institutions are praising the achievements of this integration project in countless events and brochures. The last Austrian EU presidency blared: “The EU should be fun!”
However, the message of these events consists of hollow Valium-like words. There is simply no credibility. Concerning Islam or Turkey, for example, the following deliberately misleading vocabulary is used:
- Abrahamic religions: there is a common ancestor, Abraham, that unites all monotheistic religions. Why are the visible differences in religious practice not raised? Reference to a “common ancestor” does not help us today in solving our problems in peaceful coexistence.
- Islam is a religion of peace; there must be a distinction between Islam and Islamism; there is no justification in general suspicion; there is no uniform Islam; the headscarf is just an ordinary piece of clothing; there are prejudices against Islam leading to Islamophobia.
- Turkey is a functioning democracy; Turkey is a secular state; Erdogan and his party are “moderate Islamist”, which is already linguistically a contradiction in itself.
- negotiations without pre-set achievements and goals, referendum after conclusion of treaty.
After careful scrutiny, however, the critical citizen comes to the following converse conclusion:
- Islam is not a private religion. It is rather a union with the state. The collective is in the foreground, individualism is seen as selfishness. Only what was revealed to Mohammed in the seventh century and announced as divine law is relevant to the Muslim. A law having been passed by democratic decision-building must not be accepted by a Muslim when it is contrary to Islamic ideas. In consequence, Islam excludes tolerance and compromise.
- Islam is in direct contrast to western ideas, and raises the question of whether the principle of religious freedom is applicable. Islam ultimately considers itself a (totalitarian) ideology of salvation for all humankind. With this follows peer pressure to self-imposed segregation from society and the peer pressure to demonstrate religious symbols on the individual level (headscarf).
- Arabic is the language of God; the Koran can neither be read nor understood in any other language.
- The Islamic world suffers due to the idea that it has lost civilizational superiority to the West and thus feels excluded. Muslims speak of Islam having been offended by the West.
- The questioning of Islam or even criticism is considered Islamophobia. Dialogue from the perspective of Muslims means preaching of the Koran followed by conversion. The motto “integration through participation” aims to enshrine rights and does not mean integration into the Western model of life. The visible outcome can be seen in the establishment of parallel societies.
- As long as the Muslims are in the minority, they deny any intent to proselytize. This deception is called Taqiyya. In an Islamic environment non-Muslims can expect neither an understanding of their way of life, nor can they expect any tolerance. For instance, the concept of equal treatment (reciprocity) is rejected as unreasonable by the president of the Islamic Community in Austria.
- Islamic religious teachers in Austrian schools announce “ that men and women may not sit or work together; that it is forbidden in Islam for a schoolgirl to go on field trips or go swimming together with boys; that suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine are sacrificing themselves for God and that it is sinful to do military service in countries not ruled by Islam.”
In everyday life, the Islamic point of view creates clear obstacles to the western way of life with respect to eating, drinking, and in the mixing of the sexes. Products for Muslims almost require a clearance certificate. Even the economy is ruled by Islamic banking. Banks may not charge interest and may not deal in any areas contrary to Islamic rules.
Either in anticipatory obedience or at the request of Muslims, the majority society caters to the following special particularities:
- Pork-free meals and ban of alcohol.
- Sexual segregation in schools and the public. State of the art psychoanalysis, such as the ideas of Sigmund Freud, is dismissed.
- Women may appear in public only when accompanied by their husbands and wearing a veil.
- Removal of crucifixes from schools and hotel rooms.
- Acceptance of the refusal of the salute to the flag in the armed services as well as extensive special treatment of Muslim conscripts.
- Accepting reduced personal performance as a consequence of the fasting month of Ramadan.
- Respecting the Islamic ban on interest (Islamic Banking) and other prohibitions.
Christianity is equated with the West in every dialogue with the Muslims, the secular individualist society is totally blanked out. Those who choose not to follow a religion (syncretics, agnostics, atheists, and others) raise the legitimate question of “Who represents me in all the interfaith dialogues? Why is my philosophy of life and the concept of separation of religion and state worth less than religious belief, especially Islam “?
This applies, among others, to the Austrian president who describes himself as agnostic. People like police officers, ambulance drivers, hospital and school staff who in their daily lives are in direct contact with Muslims and experience the difficulties of integration are discouraged from reporting their often negative experiences.
Muslim expectations are fully complied with in everyday life. These range from the provision of Muslim working clothes by the Vienna local government to the declaration of sacredness of any and all Islamic values and ideas. The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, the theaters, and the churches do not ask questions but are content with “playful” “intercultural” events such as hiking or football games. The exchange is shallow and comparable to the exchange of cooking recipes and resembles wine-tasting.
Initiated by the Austrian government to aid migrants and asylum seekers, the so-called “Integration Platform” seems content with the part of funding, rather than the widely announced policy of “Demand and Fund”, thus solidly setting in stone the already present parallel society. The acquisition of basic German skills prior to immigration is the only demand in a series of recently proposed measures. The Austrian Islamic Community complains about this measure being excessive.
Islamophobia is widely discussed, but not Christophobia! The OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) is committed to establishing sharia as superior to human rights within the UN and has already been promised by the president of the UN Human Rights Council the elimination of criticism of religious laws and practices such as female genital mutilation.
The ideas presented by the Anglican bishop of Canterbury and the most senior judge of England can only be seen as self-abandonment and total subjugation to Islam: They would not object to the introduction of sharia to become part of British common law.
As a result, Muslims are not integrated and a Muslim parallel society — unwilling to integrate — is created and furthered. We must bear in mind that a society is acting in a “positive” racist way if it does not demand that immigrants adopt the host society’s values. Society is turning away, rather than helping!
What does all of the above mean for coexistence with Muslims?
Can the Western way of life (secular individualism with a voluntary practice of religion as well as individual identity as a societal cornerstone) at all hold up against an Islamic and oriental-patriarchal dominated way of life (group identity and nationalism)?
Islam seriously questions the principles of this Western way of life although these principles are the result of a long and sometimes painfully hard-fought opinion-forming process which are viewed by Western society as an achievement:
- Separation of church and state
- Freedom of religion, freedom of expression culminating in extreme formulations
- Religion and sexuality are a private matter
- Art is free to do anything and everything
- Gender equality
The 1912 Austrian law on Islam recognized Islam as a religious belief. The pre-condition of this recognition — that Islam “is not in contradiction with the state law” — was never verified. Accordingly, the following facts remain unresolved:
- Islam recognizes our laws only when they are covered by Islamic law. This approach excludes tolerance and compromise and brings religion into politics. In daily politics Islamic values are not dealt with in the process of parliamentary discussion but demanded from “the outside”. Muslims demand concessions using the argument of religious sanctity. Rejection, criticism, and questioning of such demands are immediately denounced as Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia and intolerance. As a result, two different sets of laws are established and thus an irreversible split of society. This constitutes the end of democratic discourse.
- Islam sees non-Muslims as infidels, as second-class people, and acknowledges no gender equality.
- Islam considers peace as the state of the world after its full Islamization, after the elimination of the Western world. Any peaceful coexistence within our society is only an interim phase on the way.
Islam as a belief and value system cannot be integrated into the European society, yet the individual Muslim can very well be integrated. He can easily preserve his faith in Western society. European tolerance considers members of all religions and those thinking differently as equal, refers faith to the private sphere, and considers the public space as secular.
Our future will be decided not only based on the achievements of the past, but by a deliberate advocacy of Europeans for their values. These include in particular the values of family and of solidarity in the economy. The isolation of the individual and the increase of the precarious economic conditions could make a slogan such as “Islam is the solution” even more attractive. Individuality as such brings with it a rapid decay of any society.
2. Looking at the current political situation of Turkey
Turkey is a regional power with a specific foreign policy and foreign intervention doctrine, which enables it to counter the divided EU foreign policy with great power. It has only its own interests in mind, EU interests are not considered or are even actively worked against. In line with this foreign policy opportunism the thrust of its foreign policy is not only aimed at the EU or Europe, but also the Islamic and central Asian regions.
There has been no shortage of military interventions to enforce its foreign policy objectives. Approximately 30,000 Turkish soldiers have been stationed in Cyprus since 1974, although the reason for intervention (the fall of the Greek military regime) has been eliminated. Military interventions in northern Iraq are also part of the intervention doctrine. Turkey intervenes in order to enforce its interests; if a military intervention is not feasible, Turkey uses any means of considerable political and economic pressure. This includes diplomatic activities in the U.S. and the EU with respect to the Armenian genocide and the Kurdish PKK. Turkish interventions against the nomination of the former Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as NATO secretary general remain in fresh memory. Not freedom of expression, but Muslim sensitivities were important for Turkey. Despite this blackmail, the Turkish attitude was rewarded by US benevolence.
Anti-Western sentiments by Turkey are no surprise. In the framework of the OIC, where the secretary-general is a Turk, Turkey acts as an important spokesperson in the battle of Islam with the West. This was the case in the cartoon controversy as it is now with the current efforts of the OIC to subordinate the UN Human Rights Declaration of 1948 to sharia law. This notion aims at subduing criticism regarding the Islamic view on human rights.
Turkey has a constitution incompatible with that of the EU because political life and religion are under the influence of the military. The right to exercise religious beliefs and the right to belong to a religious group are not in the individual’s sphere as it is in the western world.
The religious authority, the Diyanet, regulates the religious life of Sunni Islam, the confession of the majority of the population. Other beliefs are disadvantaged. The once thriving Christian minority has been reduced to numerical insignificance. Even 20 million Alevis, who are considered Muslim, are impeded by the Sunni majority from practicing their religion.
The Diyanet appoints imams and sends them to countries with Turkish populations and with populations of Turkish descent, for example to Germany and Austria. There are local Diyanet representations in both countries fostering religious and national ties with Turkey, but not mandating integration efforts into the host society. In Austria Diyanet is represented by ATIB. Turkish secularism is imposed from above, not grown bottom up like Western secularism. The comparison with French laicism is misleading.
The founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, established the separation of religion and state about eighty years ago, the military being the guarantor of the secular state and the overseer of everything from religious life to the banning of political parties. Despite all of Kemalism’s control, its efforts to enshrine secularism in the population have failed. Even today there are still two antagonistic groups: the religious population in rural areas, including migrants to the cities, and the diminishing group of western oriented city population.
One reason for concern is the failure of the Turkish constitutional court: the judges could not agree on the banning of the ruling party and the banning of the prime minister, and the head of state as well as other politicians from politics as such due to disrespect of principles of Turkish laicism. For all intents and purposes Turkey finds itself in a clash of cultural beliefs. The headscarf has been and remains a highly explosive ideological matter. In twisting the facts, the EU supports the Islamic side.
The influx of capital from Muslim sources is one instrument for this clash of cultures is. If one practices Islam, one can count on economic and financial support. This applies not only to areas of housing, work, school and alimentation, but also to entrepreneurs in financing and contracting.
The “moderate Islamist” government is step by step leading Turkey towards the establishment of an Islamic state, and is currently completing the necessary ideological reorientation within the state’s administrative system.
The Turkish constitution provides not only for the special roles of military and religious authority, but also for a religious-ethnic centralized state. Consequently, Turkey’s constitution recognizes no ethnic minorities, such as the twelve million Kurds living within its borders.
In accordance with this centralized state, a striking nationalism is lived in Turkey being protected by penal code provisions (prohibition of insulting Turkdom, no criticism of the official position towards the Armenian genocide and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus). The omnipresent Atatürk images and statues testify to this nationalism together with the national motto — visible almost everywhere — “If you’re a Turk, you’re happy”. In addition to Islam, this nationalism offers an explanation for the lack of integration readiness and capabilities of the Turks in Europe.
A shocking demonstration of this religious-nationalist attitude is the murder of the employees of a bible-printing press in Malatya in 2007. The perpetrators justified this act as a fight against the enemies of the faith and the Turkish nation. Then German socialist MEP Vural Öger, of Turkish descent, poured oil into the fire when he declared that the EU was responsible for this criminal act because of the pressure applied on the Turkish legislative to institute reforms.
Bringing the Turkish constitution in line with EU principles would entail the destruction of both pillars of the Turkish constitution and would thus bring an end to Atatürk’s Turkey. In addition, it can be seen in all clarity that the EU will either accept a factual military dictatorship or an Islamic state within its ranks provided the “negotiations” with the EU continue to proceed at the same pace. In any case, the EU will remain the pawn of Turkish politics.
Unperturbed of these inconsistencies, Turkey postulates incomprehensible declarations and claims an accession date between 2013 and 2015:
- We have met the conditions and have the right to full membership.
- The EU has no right to reject Turkey. Turkey accuses the EU, in an act of incredible insinuation, of being a Christian club, at the same time ignoring its own significant contributions to the OIC — an exclusive organization of Muslim countries. A Christian equivalent to the OIC does not even exist.
- Even in the Council of Europe the creation of a European flag with a cross — following the example of the Pan European Union — failed due to Turkey’s resistance.
- Turkey accuses the EU of discrimination and complains about EU admonitions. In truth, Turkey receives an extraordinary special treatment, which has not been received before by any member state. Even Croatia is tackled in a tougher way. Turkey is obstinate and ignores the mood of the European population like an invading army.
Turkeys ploughs its way into the European Union. It bullies concessions and does not show any willingness to fulfill accession criteria. It follows its well-established negotiation tactics: wooing — being offended — threatening.
It wants a Turkish Europe, as clearly expressed by the Turkish prime minister, during his recent appearance in Cologne.
As a result of these unfair and persistent negotiating tactics Turkey sits in most EU bodies and is well represented in think-tanks, and is thus forging its “own accession conditions”. Together with Spain, Turkey sets the tone in the United Nations “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative. A weak EU is largely helpless in the face of this Turkish determination, which is supported by the hegemonic interests of the US. Hence, it is clear that
- The voices of critics — no matter how high-level and competent, such as oriental Christians or fully integrated immigrants — fall on deaf ears.
- EU institutions do not acknowledge that to the majority of European people a full membership of Turkey is not only not an advantage, but rather a significant disadvantage.
- EU institutions see the population as its greatest enemy (see the undesired outcome of the vote on the Reform Treaty in Ireland).
- All arguments in favor are a distortion of the facts:
- Turkey reconciles Islam and democracy and is a bridge to the Islamic world: because of its constitution, Turkey is not a democracy in the Western sense and is the scene of daily conflict between Islam and secularism. The Islamic world sees Turkey as a lever as well as part of its program to Islamize the world. However, Turkey is also an adversary because of its military pact with Israel.
- The geopolitical position of Turkey and its military force would strengthen the EU’s role in the world: due to the absence of an EU-proactive intervention policy, Turkey would conversely use the EU for its own ends. In any event, the EU would be fully dragged into Turkey’s neighborhood conflicts. The EU would thereby be destabilized.
- The EU has promised accession, Turkey has been waiting for forty years: there was no democratically legitimate promise. During those forty years, Turkey has moved away from Europe, during the 1970’s it even explicitly turned away from the EU and Europe.
- Without accession the reforms will break down and discontinue: Turkey is a founding member of the Council of Europe and as such has been overdue with its reforms for decades. These reforms should primarily serve Turkey’s self-interest. The EU is not obligated to reward Turkey.
- The economic potential: economic successes and opportunities do not justify candidacy, even if these successes cater to special interests. Furthermore, there is no additional benefit in accession since Turkey is already part of the existing customs union, among others. In any case, Turkey is a newly industrialized country with specific characteristics such as a high proportion of population employed in agriculture (30%); high unemployment, particularly among young people, receiving financing as a condition for market opportunities (one of the largest debtors to the IMF), there is considerable economic risk and corruption, low per capita income, child labor, inadequate patent protection and uncertain law enforcement.
Reason becomes nonsense; benefits turn into menace.
3. Looking at the hegemonic positions within the international community
Who determines the course of events?
Without claiming to be exhaustive and in light of the above, the following picture evolves: those who depart from the European navel-gazing to view the world from an outside point of view recognize that — apart from a few countries active in world politics — Islam and the international flow of capital combined with energy and the supply of raw materials dictate the events.
In our Western Hemisphere, it is the United States which largely intervenes in the course of events. U.S. foreign policy means energy. The Islamic world pursues with increasing dedication and success the Islamization of the rest of the world, whereby it makes use of the oil weapon and the resulting capital.
An international network of capital flows, outside the control of national governments, but also of international organizations, stretches across the entire world and makes decisions that suit this network. A financial center must remain attractive and determine all other policies.
China is becoming noticeable , e.g. in Africa, in securing its supply of raw materials. Russia has reasserted its position as a global player during the recent conflict with Georgia.
There is thus the question of what the individual can and must do in this situation. This is a grave issue for all those who are committed to European values.
The burden of our history compels us not only to reflect on the past and to avow a “Never again”, but above all a vigilance against the zeitgeist, the “mainstream”. The art world, much of the media, the churches, science and many political parties are looking away when it comes to Islam and Turkey. There is already limited freedom of expression and fear of speaking the truth.
The putting down of civil society and of Christianity, in particular the Catholic Church, the attack on the family, the promotion of gender mainstreaming, equality of homosexual relationships are not a substitute for action! Limits of individuality must certainly be set.
As in the past, which is burdening us so very much, it is also necessary to look and watch carefully and to speak the truth in public. Only he who wants to know the truth will be able to learn the truth! There cannot be any excuses made in hindsight. These would be null and void.
Maybe this time it will be possible, with the appropriate corresponding courage and perseverance, to create a counter-weight to the zeitgeist and to clarify that 3 multiplied by 3 equals 9 and nothing else.
Raising questions, sending letters to the editor in newspapers, holding speeches and the like in its multitude can effect many changes. Perhaps the above observations are helpful.
He who fights can win; he who does not fight has already lost.
Harald Fiegl boasts eleven years of work experience in Turkey, of which he served seven years as Austrian trade representative. His remarks are based on his professional experience, continuous information, and several journeys to Turkey, as well as personal contacts which continue to this day.