Turkey: mass pro-secular mobilization

A judicial ruling against a teacher who wore the hejab inspires an assassination of a judge—which in turn sparks a mass mobilization against the Islamists. Whatever one thinks of the Ataturk-era policy of mandatory secularism, the politics of this one are pretty interesting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the (moderately) Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) condemned the killing, but was much more vociferous in his denials that his own statements about the ruling might have helped inspire it. (Hurriyet, May 19) Then he refused to attend the funeral. (Financial Times, May 18) From The Independent, May 18:

Thousands march in Turkey to denounce Islamic gunman’s attack

More than 15,000 Turks, from students to judges still in their robes, marched in the capital to support secularism and to condemn a courtroom shooting that killed one judge and wounded four others.

A gunman opened fire on Wednesday inside Turkey’s highest administrative court, shouting, “I am a soldier of God”. The suspect, now under arrest, claimed his attack was retaliation for a recent ruling against a teacher who wore an Islamic-style headscarf.

Yesterday judicial officials, academics, union leaders, students and workers marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern and secular Turkey, in a show of loyalty to secularism. They laid a wreath decorated with red and white carnations, the colours of the Turkish flag. Many carried the flag. Some were tearful, kissing the marble stones of the mausoleum.

“Turkey is secular and it will remain secular,” thousands chanted in the demonstration, broadcast live on national television. Thousands also are expected to attend the funeral for Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin. Among the four wounded, at least one is in intensive care.

The attack has stoked tensions between the secular establishment and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government, which has been trying to raise the profile of Islam in this predominantly Muslim but secular country.

See our last post on Turkey.