The hair up the Turkish nether region is the consequence of some remarks made by Van Rompuy five years ago regarding the pending application of Turkey for membership in the EU. Not to put too fine a point on it, Van Rompuy is against membership.
The Belgian, who most days has the texture and piquancy of an undercooked Belgian waffle, took the position that the admittance of Turkey would dilute, perhaps even pervert, the fundamental values of the Union. These values, Van Rompuy observed, were "also the fundamental values of Christianity."
This unexceptional, historically valid point is what sent the Turks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) into their fast boost exoatmospheric trajectory.
It probably didn't help that the Belgian also commented, "Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be a part of Europe."
Not that the Turks haven't tried over the centuries. Just think, "Walls of Vienna." The efforts by the Ottoman Empire, by the Sultan of the Sublime Porte, to extend the sway of Koran and scimitar to Eastern and Central Europe were neither peaceful nor absent a religious as well as a political motive.
The current peaceful attempt by Turkey to "invade" Europe may have economic considerations, but it is also informed by both religion and politics. Given that the AKP seems dedicated to rolling back the secularization initiated by Ataturk gives greater weight to Van Rompuy's views.
There is a fair measure of irony in the words of the AKP's Deputy Chairman for External Affairs, Suat Kiniklioglu, during the course of his interview with the Manchester Guardian. "What is even sadder is that he (Van Rompuy) is making that argument on the basis of the supposed Christian values of the Union. The values we (the Turkish government) envisage are of democracy, transparency, human rights, and the rule of law."
Duh. Just who does the AKP parliamentarian think invented, developed, and died for these values?
Each and every one of the listed values are products of the European historical dynamic. Yes, there are those who can argue that Islam, the Koran, Muslim history can show a dedication to at least the rule of law--provided it is Sharia solely. Yes, there are those who can point to carefully selected and parsed quotes from the Koran to show concern over at least some "human rights."
The same exercise in intellectual masturbation can be undertaken with, for example, the Soviet Constitution adopted in the shadow of show trials and lethal purges during the late Thirties as the Smiling Dictator, Joe Stalin, directed the combined productions. The take away is simply that words can be real pretty--and equally meaningless.
What counts is the effect of the words. The actions taken on their behalf, under their imperatives. What matters is taking the words and making them realities in the street. The history of Europe is a record of taking high sounding words and transforming them from lifeless symbols to street actualities by blood, persistence, and the passage not of years, nor decades but generations, centuries.
While the influence of Judaic thought, Judaic concepts of justice, of law, of duties are far more present in the European cultural matrix and have exercised far greater power on the evolution of European trajectories than many good "Christian" Europeans have cared to admit over the long, long centuries, the primary root of European values are, as Van Rompuy stated, those of Christianity.
The process by which secularism as the leitmotif of government emerged in Europe was one driven by religion. This paradox germinates in the profound ambition on the part of legions of Catholic Popes to be supra-national secular rulers using the force of religious belief as their primary weapon to subjugate or at least control the nascent national rulers of the several coalescing European states.
Secular government must proceed the full flourishing of democracy, transparency, genuine respect for the rights and dignities of the individual as well as the rule of impartial law. It is ironic to say the least that it was Christian ideas, Christian ideals, Christian values which provided the basis to successfully oppose a Christian political institution with theological roots and imperatives--the Catholic Church--so as to bring about the triumph of the secular state.
(It must never be forgotten that organized religions of all stripes are political institutions. That is to say organized religions, even if lacking a centralized and hierarchical structure, pursue political power--defined as the authority, the capacity to materially and directly affect the perceptions, beliefs, and thus the behavior of adherents. Or even non-adherents. But, this is a subject for another post.)
While Christianity, its theology, its many belief systems, carries the seeds of its own removal from institutional political authority, Islam does not. Unlike Christianity, Islam is a total system in which there is no split between the faith and politics, the creed and the legal system, the doctrine and economic activity, the strictures and science. There is no possibility of a state being simultaneously secular (and thus extending benefits, privileges, immunities and rights to all citizens equally) and authentically Islamic. There is absolutely no daylight between the faith and the polity, the community of believers and the community comprising the society.
To put it bluntly: There is no room for the Second Amendment or at least that part relating to the relationship between church and state in the Koran. In the sayings and deeds of the Perfect Man, Mohammad. In Islam.
The Turkish yowls prove that the shoe fits. That the reality, the history of Van Rompuy's comments pinch.
Fortunately M. Van Rompuy is not alone in his views. They are shared by both M. Sarkozy and F. Merkel. They are shared by many, many Europeans even if deprecated by members of the EU's elites, the chattering class, the academics, the Euro-philes for whom the hoi polloi of the many, many streets of Europe are nothing but rude bumpkins, rough peasants, unenlightened, unwashed masses.
In the West, in the US, the notion of "tolerance" like that intellectual perversion of Einstein's mathematics, "cultural relativism," has been raised to the level of a fetish. Our self-appointed elites wave the fetishes of "tolerance," "diversity," and "cultural relativism" while accusing those who do not worship the fetishes as "xenophobic," "Fascist," or simply "prejudiced," "Islamophobic."
It can only be assumed (hoped) this phase of self-loathing will pass before more harm is done by its lamentable existence these past few decades. The West, the US, has much to be proud of, many profound (and profoundly Christian rooted) accomplishments to celebrate.
Not least of these are the very values espoused by the AKP Deputy Chairman of External Affairs: democracy, transparency, human rights, and the rule of law. And, the one he didn't mention but is basic to the others: the triumph of the secular state.