The Region: Turkey trots toward Islamism
The Turkish regime is gradually suppressing freedom as its society moves steadily toward a more hardline Islamic identity. Keep in mind that Turkey has been a very self-consciously modern and secular country. While there were always restrictions on freedom – especially regarding the expression of Kurdish nationalism – it was miles ahead of the usual Middle Eastern standards in that regard. And Istanbul was the ultimate expression of modern, secular Turkey.
Thus, a minor incident is of immense psychological importance. Here’s one of many. A woman wearing sweatpants sought to board a public bus and a dozen or more passengers blocked her way. One man said, "Look at her. Her head is not covered, shame!” Nobody on the bus came to her defense and the driver did nothing.Why is this especially significant? Because the implication is that head covering for women should be mandatory in public and that those who advocate such measures will use intimidation to achieve this goal, unafraid of any possible consequences. On the contrary, it is those who would advocate freedom of choice who are intimidated.
Then there’s the new law requiring that every shopping mall, movie theater and indeed every public facility in the country have a Muslim prayer room. One newspaper columnist who ridiculed this idea wrote, "Have you ever heard any conservative or religious person in this country complaining: ‘I can’t live my religion if there are no [mosques] in opera or ballet houses?’” In other words, such legislation is not happening because there is a burning need for such things but because the government is Islamizing the country. It should be pointed out that anyone who wants to pray could easily find an existing mosque not far away and, indeed, a dedicated room isn’t even a requirement for Muslim prayer. (...)