So-Called "Islamist" Turkey.

Spencer Ackerman responds to Eli Lake's piece on the deteriorating strategic relationship between American Jews and Turkey over the Gaza flotilla incident. The current rap against the Turkish government is that the governing party is "Islamist":

On the one hand, the Shtetl Elders are throwing “Islamist” at the AK Party sloppily — Erdogan is a billion light years away from bin Laden, another demonstration that the term “Islamist” conceals more than it illuminates — though I suppose no one should be surprised that the Shtetl leadership is not going to reflect on whether something might be wrong with Israeli policy if it’s alienating its decades-long friend in the Muslim world.

The point of course, is to make any political party in any Muslim country with any religious elements whatsoever indistinguishable from Hamas or Hezbollah, and frankly the people who would throw Islamist at the AKP probably wouldn't make much distinction between al-Qaeda and the former two groups. But this is a fool's game--you're not going to have democratic governments in Muslim countries that have rigidly secular political parties anymore than you could find such parties in the United States. Is the AKP's defense of the hijab any more offensive than the bi-partisan religion-based opposition to marriage equality or repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell? As Matt Duss wrote last month:

Much like the United States, Turkey is a fairly religious society. It makes perfect sense, then, that as Turkey has become more democratic, and political participation has expanded beyond an elite, Euro-centric core, that religious conservatives have become more visible, and issues relating to Turkey’s Islamic identity have come to the fore.

Ironically, the closest analogue to the culturally conservative, economically liberal AKP would probably be...the Republican Party.

This failure of distinction on the part of conservatives also relates to the Obama administration's national security strategy, which attempts to cleave Islam from terrorism for the purpose of isolating and discrediting al-Qaeda and its allies. I like to think about this as a numbers game--many conservatives see the fight against terrorism as the U.S. vs a billion and a half Muslims, which is part of why they're willing to read any clash between American and Turkish interests as proof that Turkey wants to join the grand Islamist conspiracy to destroy the United States. The Obama administration sees the fight as being between the billions of non-extremist people in the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, against a few thousand violent extremists.

Which fight seems more winnable?

-- A. Serwer

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