Charles Martel smote in vain?
October 3, 2004 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Turkey Rhubarb in the Low Countries. Since there's nothing interesting going on here in the US right now, let's enjoy a moment of EU fun. (y2-length post inside).
posted by jfuller (27 comments total)
British-born Princeton historian Bernard Lewis produced the grenade:.
Asked whether the E.U. could serve as a global counterweight to the United States, Lewis replied simply: "No." He saw only three countries as potential "global" players: definitely China and India, and possibly a revivified Russia. "Europe," he said, "will be part of the Arabic west, of the Maghreb." What seems to have infuriated European listeners is that Lewis did not assert this as a risqué or contrarian proposition. He just said it, as if it were something that every politically neutral and intellectually honest person takes for granted.
EU comissioner Fritz Bolkestein pulled the pin:
the single market commissioner and a former leader of the Dutch liberals, said the European Union would "implode" in its current form if 70 million Turkish Muslims were allowed to join. He predicted that Turkish accession would overwhelm the fragile system and finish off any lingering dreams of a fully-integrated European superstate. In a speech at Leiden University, he compared the EU to the late Austrian-Hungarian empire, which took so many different peoples on board in such a haphazard fashion that it eventually became ungovernable.
AsiaNews notices that Bolkestein is on the same wavelenth as Jozef Cardinal Ratzinger, who told Le Figaro that
Europe is a cultural and not a geographical continent. Its culture gives it a common identity. In this sense, Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe.
Two days after Bolkestein's speech at Leiden University, the Financial Times obtained a letter from Franz Fischler (Austria, about-to-retire E.U. commissioner for agriculture) to the other EU commissioners, complaining that Turkey was
...far more oriental than European" and, worse, that "there remain doubts as to Turkey's long-term secular and democratic credentials. There a fundamentalist backlash.
Naturally prospective EU member Turkey is yelling xenophobia and racism. And an interesting (and nicely symmetrical) take can be found on
The “noise” that speakers like Bolkestein make against Turkish membership are there to pressurise the Muslims and put them on the defensive in relation to their Islamic identity. This is rather reminiscent of the way that the Muslims were previously put on the defensive over Jihad, the same Jihad that took the Ottomans to the gates of Vienna. Muslims everywhere, not only from Turkey, should resist the integration of our lands into economic and political unions with the Capitalist nations. Individually Muslims will also be accepted in the West, but only on Western terms. The double shams of pluralism, and freedom of speech have no relevance when it comes to Islam. The best policy, in the minds of the West, for defeating the Islamic personality is to integrate the Muslims into their way of life fully.
The Weekly Standard (already linked but here's page 2) summarizes neatly:
Europe's reaction was a collective So now you tell us! Taken together, Bolkestein's and Fischler's remarks seemed symptomatic of the political correctness that suffuses the issue of Turkish accession. A majority of the European parliament is anti-accession, the various national parliaments are against it, and the national populations are overwhelmingly opposed. It is the European Commission that has been driving the process--and now two prominent members of that very body, on the eve of leaving their political careers behind them, were saying it was all a big mistake that nobody dared to talk about.
(all mistyping by jfuller. I fondly hope all the links work. Couldn't find a pertinent WorldNetDaily link for this post to make y'all happy, sorry, I did try.)

posted by jfuller at 8:09 AM on October 3, 2004

it's so funny to see how right-wingers, for all their swagger, are essentially scared shitless by Islam. scared shitless.
40 years ago, it was the Negroes. 20 years ago, the Mexicans.
now, a new (generally dark-skinned) bogeyman for a new millenium.

look, jfuller, a Muslim: BOO !

posted by matteo at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2004

oh, I almost forgot:

to watch the nutty right-winger (apparently beloved by the Weekly Standard) Frits Bolkestein, former leader of the right-wing party VVD, get a tasty organica banana pie in the face, the link is here.

watch out for Muslim pastry chefs!
posted by matteo at 8:37 AM on October 3, 2004

look, jfuller, a Muslim: BOO !

It is simple to make fun of a supposed xenophobia, but from the Turkish ghettos of Rotterdam to the 11th district of Paris, millions of women are being subjugated under 1000 year old Islamic ideologies.

The breaking down of socialist welfare from the enormous influx of Muslim immigrants is also an issue in many countries.

It is not just the conservative right that is concerned, and answering such calls with facile one liners is not helpful, and produces no discussion, nor solutions.
posted by four panels at 9:08 AM on October 3, 2004

> Turkey will be part of Europe.

Kinda cool, no? They want to become Europeans! Join the people with topless beaches and no death penalty! Everybody wins!

> "Europe," he said, "will be part of the Arabic west, of the Maghreb."

Um, that sounds insane. I fear Prof. Lewis has lost it. Turks are not Arabs, by the way. And they are closer to the Mashrek than to the Maghreb.

There's any number of issues that would be interesting to discuss. But the article and its rehash in the post aren't really interesting.

By the way, I live in Paris next to the 11th, and there's probably a few women being subjugated, though most of them are having a good time. Anyway, issues relating to women's rights and to freedom of (and from) religion are not exactly being ignored in France or in Europe. What makes these people say the battle is already lost? Demographics? Please make a better case. You're not making any sense.
posted by Turtle at 9:59 AM on October 3, 2004

Turkey ought to be admitted to the EU. Most of its trade is with the EU. For the last 500 years Turkey's history has been, pretty much, European/Mediterranean history. Turkish Islam is a lot different than Arab-identified Islamic nationalism. For one thing, about a third of the country are followers of sufic sects, particularly Alevi-Bektashi, which treats women as equals and openly skeptical to Islamic clericism.

The recent spate of reactionary actions like calling for the criminalization of adultery is the work of the Islamic Refat party. Refat is less a fundamentalist party than a bad socialist solution to Turkey's problems: when in doubt, invoke Allah and throw lots of money.

Turkey is a lot like Portugal and Greece were when they entered the EU, and the way Hungary and Slovakia are now in the EU - developed, but not completely at full speed. Istanbul, the Aegean coast, and the Black sea area live at European standards. The Kurdish east and the southern parts of Turkey still operate as third world countries within a country. EU membership however, would be a powerful economic boost, which in EU cases usually means that people have enough work that the urge to migrate shrinks. Why build highway overpasses in Germany when you can stay home and build them in Erzurum with EU support?

Opposition to Turkish membership in the EU based on religion is ridiculous. It's not like the EU is going to have to adopt sharia law. Turkey is a secular nation with a strong muslim tradition. It has made a lot of "progress" on its own terms in ways more conservative Muslim societies have yet to attempt. EU membership would foster even more progressive developments within Turkish society.
posted by zaelic at 10:08 AM on October 3, 2004

> It is not just the conservative right that is concerned, and answering such
> calls with facile one liners is not helpful, and produces no discussion, nor solutions.

Aw, cut matteo some slack. He can afford to shoot spitballs because xenophobia just isn't an issue in his own sunny tolerant country. Just google for "clandestini" or "Bossi-Fini law."

> *snicker*

Sheesh, first quonsar changes his handle to *titters*, now this. Is it something in the Kool-aid?
posted by jfuller at 10:16 AM on October 3, 2004

If Turkish islam were to spread deeper into the mid-East countries, the result would be a liberal Islam. That's a good thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2004

Also, the idea that a multi-cultural state is ungovernable is out-dated, and never was accurate. The Austro-Hungarian empire fell apart for many reasons (including civil war), but not just because people spoke different languages or had different cultures. It had, of course, stood for a few hundred years - isn't that a good enough run?

Britain and France, the prototypical "nation states" have always had a diversity of language and culture - they may have tried to pretend otherwise through most of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the UK is acknowledging it's other languages now (is France doing the same)? Canada has an offical policy of multiculturalism, and, despite separatist propaganda (a movement begun before official biligualism, in response to the lack of French rights), continues trucking along quite nicely with biligualism. The Quebeckers voted on sovereignty association, and they voted against it.

As for Turkey's democratic and secular heritage - it's just the same as most of Europe. Is Italy really secular? How long has Eastern Europe been democratic? Even now there is no such thing as separation of Church and State in Britain, and the fact that their PM may or may not be secretly Catholic is a news story. In contrast, my friend who studies these things tells me that Turkey (the modern country) was founded around secular, nationalist principles, and secularity is a way they seek to differentiate themselves from the Middle East. How much impact this policy has had on popular identity, I don't know, but the government itself is invested in being a secular nation.

If there are other concerns about the behaviour of current Turkish government, those would be good to hear - and certainly, if I were the EU, I would not want to extend membership to any country, no matter what religion, if it did not follow the rules that the EU has itself created regarding human rights, etc (Have these been formally codified?) But the behaviour of immigrants to other nations (many of whom are not Turkish) has nothing to do with EU polictics - those are internal matters.

about women - I have to say, having lived for several years in a Somali neighbourhood, many of those women don't feel oppressed - they are living as they always have, and forcing them to bare what would be indecent would be just as oppresive. The local dentist was a woman who chose to wear a hijab, a lovely dark scarf that matched her business pantsuit.

I know that coercion does take place in families, but it's not a simple case of "okay, you're being oppressed, come here and start wearing crop tops and mini-skirts" (itself a kind of oppression) It's something that has to be dealt with delicately, hopefully in a way that will give women the true choice of what they want to do. But I think that there are limits - women may be forced to choose between a western lifestyle, and their families. This choice, notably, exists for men and women from other cultures - such as the Amish, the LDS church, many other congregations. But I think the directions that France, for instance, has gone is not helping, and instead is only oppressing those women who wish to wear the hijab and other traditional forms of clothing.
posted by jb at 10:36 AM on October 3, 2004

So if Turkey goes EU isn't it feasable to argue that Lebanon and Israel should be considered as well? Lebanon has a lenghty economic and cultural relationship with Europe and Europe has been putting its collective nose into Israel's (and all its previous incarnations) business for several centuries. While I recognise that much of the outcry is racist - a fact to be deplored - is there not some legitamacy to the argument that maybe the EU should hold up just a bit?
posted by jmgorman at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2004

Or maybe it shouldn't - by bringing in more countries into it's sphere, what does Europe have to loose? They will only become larger and more powerful, like an empire, only all the bits join voluntarily.
posted by jb at 11:11 AM on October 3, 2004

from the Turkish ghettos of Rotterdam to the 11th district of Paris, millions of women are being subjugated under 1000 year old Islamic ideologies.

if you ever touch Milan, I'll be happy to introduce you to my good friend Jamila, an Algerian Muslim. she's a bartender at a pretty nice place near my apartment building, and generally wears cowboy boots, tight jeans and a push-up bra (no shirt, usually). I'm sure she'll be interested in your -- and poor Professor Lewis' -- theories. if you can manage to make yourself heard over the very loud music

in his own sunny tolerant country

yes, please do visit us, it's an amazing place.
just curious: do you own a passport or do you belong to the happy majority of Americans who doesn't?

or "Bossi-Fini law."

Bossi and Fini? Yes, they're (well, Bossi is very ill and de facto retired, but it's not relevant now) the right-wing politicians and staunch Bush supporters in Italy's government who decided (along with PM Berlusconi) to follow Bush's disaster mission to Iraq: they're your guys jfuller, not mine, really. they're your fellow right-wingers (actually, they're massively to the Left of any GOP politician I can think of, but I'm digressing)

look jfuller, Turtle is making a lot of sense. don't post on topics you clearly have very little knowledge about. a little more reading, and travelling, would probably help.
posted by matteo at 11:36 AM on October 3, 2004

One shouldn't gloss over the difficulties of integrating a pan-national union that includes several mutually-reenforcing differences in geography, religion, history and culture. India, the United States and even Canada have had to struggle with separatists that could not accept an overarching national identity.

Can Europe extend its definition of itself to include Turkey? Can the average Turk identify himself as a European? And how will Europe and Turkey deal with those who won't go along?
posted by SPrintF at 11:42 AM on October 3, 2004

> What makes these people say the battle is already lost? Demographics?
> Please make a better case. You're not making any sense.

Just to be perfectly clear, my post was a newsfilter post--something interesting/amusing that happened in the world recently. I personally think Turkey should certainly be welcomed into the EU. Algeria and Somalia too. To paraphrase Ben-Gurion, "Who's a European? Anyone who says he is."
posted by jfuller at 11:42 AM on October 3, 2004

Heh. That's also a good definition of what an American is. Maybe that's the trick of "Europe". You can spend your whole life trying to be French and you'll never really succeed. But being European? No problem! Europeans are reinventing America right in their own home. A kinder and gentler version, maybe. (The rest of the world no doubt thinks it was about time Europeans become kinder and gentler).
posted by Turtle at 12:05 PM on October 3, 2004

Oops I meant that.
posted by Turtle at 12:07 PM on October 3, 2004

> Bossi and Fini?...they're your guys jfuller, not mine, really.

Mmmm? The way I heard it, the Bossi-Fini law on immigration was adopted by the Italian Chamber of Deputies on June 4th 2002. Now according to my CIA World Factbook (I get all my info from my CIA contacts, just as you suspected), the Camera dei Deputati has 630 seats; 475 are directly elected, 155 by regional proportional representation, all seats filled by Italians, none by Americans.

So no, I don't think you can claim that I passed that law. It's rather more than clear that a whole bunch of Italians did it.
posted by jfuller at 12:39 PM on October 3, 2004

So if Turkey goes EU isn't it feasable to argue that Lebanon and Israel should be considered as well?

I would like to see Turkey and Israel join the EU (I don't know much about Lebanon, sorry).

Turkey could well be a member of the EU within the next 10 years (although this says it might be at least 10 years). Although, there are still a few other countries ahead of it in the list to join (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, maybe Macedonia).

(Interestingly, or maybe not, Turkeys population is almost the same as the total population of the ten recently admitted countries)
posted by ZippityBuddha at 3:41 PM on October 3, 2004

on the same wavelenth as Jozef Cardinal Ratzinger

You know, when the territory currently designated as "Turkey" was the Byzantine Empire, the Roman Church also fought tooth and nail against including it within "Europe", even going so far as to excommunicate all its inhabitants, establish rival bishoprics, and to encourage repeated invasions and occupations of its lands. I'd expect nothing less from the current boss of the Inquisition.

if Turkey goes EU isn't it feasable to argue that Lebanon and Israel should be considered as well

Well they're already in the Eurovision, I don't see why not!
posted by meehawl at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2004

um...maybe i'm being a littel bit anal about this but wouldn't it be impossible for isreal to join the EU as it's not on the friggen continent??? seriously, who's next, south africa.
posted by NGnerd at 4:14 PM on October 3, 2004

Israel is barely any further from the European mainland than Cyprus (and much nearer than Iceland, which is part of the European Economic Area, but not the EU).
posted by ZippityBuddha at 4:31 PM on October 3, 2004

So no, I don't think you can claim that I passed that law. It's rather more than clear that a whole bunch of Italians did it.

Why waste your time? In matteo's world, xenophobia is a strictly American (occasionally Israeli) commodity. If it happens in his own country, it's still your fault. "Your guys." It's easier to avoid responsibility that way.
posted by Krrrlson at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2004

Turkey is light years ahead of Romania and Bulgaria on an economic and legal/social basis. And just because you bring in Turkey does not imply that Lebanon and Israel also have claims. History has some pull, not just me-too-ism.
posted by zaelic at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2004

Turkey and Israel already compete with Europe in sport, and as meehawl mentioned, the Eurovision Song Contest. Culturally, I could easily see both as "European". The Palestinians would have much to gain from Israel joining the EU; the EU has been far less pro-Isreal than the USA has. For that reason, I don't think there is any liklihood of Israel seeking further European integration.

Religion should not be an issue. The EU is a strongly secular organisation, and it should always be the case that only secular nations can join the EU. Turkey is a secular Moslem nation in the same way that Spain is a secular Catholic national and Britain is a secular Protestant nation.
posted by salmacis at 5:06 AM on October 4, 2004

wouldn't it be impossible for isreal to join the EU as it's not on the friggen continent

They would have to abolish the death penalty first, that's a binding condition of EU membership.

But geographic proximity is no impediment to membership of most Empires. Hawaii, US Virgin Islands, and Alaska are good examples of non-contiguous US imperial possessions.

There are little chunks of EU territory in the Caribbean, in North America, in the Indian Ocean, in Antarctica, and in the South Atlantic and South Pacific.

The broad geographic distribution of EU territories has proved very lucrative in terms of exploiting exclusive economic zones, and also provides some countries, notably France, with convenient and distant nuclear testing sites.

The EU's willingness to continue geographic expansion way past its original rather narrow base is a defining characteristic of its current youthful life cycle. The EU's willingness to accept and restructure new territories for inclusion is also quite aggressive.

The US empire seems to have forsaken territorial expansion quite a while ago and is now fairly well constrained within its political borders in North America. Unlike past, current, and future EU integration talks and treaties, NAFTA did not enforce or encourage political and social integration or union. Don't be surprised if you see a contiguous EU stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals within a generation or two.
posted by meehawl at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2004

Don't forget South America.
posted by Utilitaritron at 7:40 PM on October 4, 2004

...or Poland! er, *ahem*...
posted by salmacis at 2:48 AM on October 5, 2004

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