The Words By Which He Will Be Judged
So yes ... no surprise ... here in America we can have a Christian president without fear -- not that I'd fear it, but I recognize that some would.
Now comes an interesting question: Can the same thing happen in secular Turkey, now that a president with, as the media coyly says, an Islamist "background."
Abdullah Gul took office today, and the Times of London points out two significant absences: Gul's wife whose Islamic headgear has ticked off the secularists, and the military, who have made it pretty clear they won't tolerate a slide into Islamist shenanigans.
Against this backdrop, Gul took office:
Pledging his allegiance to the Constitution and the reforms of Kemal Atatürk, the secularist founder of modern Turkey, Mr Gül said: “I will embrace all my citizens without discrimination and carefully guard my impartiality.”
Mr Gül used his speech to emphasise the importance of democracy, the rule of law, social justice, individual freedoms and human rights. He said that Turkey should rejoice in its social diversity and defined secularism as a safeguard of religious freedom and guarantor of social peace.
Let's keep those pledges in mind. If Gul can stay true to his word, it will establish a great precedent for the Muslim world ... but can he stand up to pressure from his Islamist allies? It's anyone's call says LonTimes' Bronwen Maddox:
Gül’s reputation abroad is that of a moderniser. He led Turkey’s pursuit of talks with the EU, and has sidestepped with aplomb the provocative assertion of France, under President Sarkozy, that membership should never be granted to Turkey. It is fair to take him at face value, as a modern Turk committed to reform.
But it is impossible to forget what he represents: the desire of many ordinary Turks to have more of a voice in politics and in the country’s institutions than they have done. That authentic voice of many Turks is conservative and Islamist, albeit so far, in an undemonstrative way. Turkey’s policies may change little under Gül, but his election still marks a deep change from the vision of Atatürk.