By Meghnad Desai
Jun 23 2013
*While Gandhiji was fighting the British Empire for khilafat, Kemal Pasha abolished it. He also insisted that the Turkish language be written in the Roman script*
I don't dabble in social media but I gather they are full of alarmist predictions about what might happen if and when Narendra Modi becomes prime minister. The answer is: look at Turkey. It was made into a secular Republic by its founder Kemal Pasha who had no time for the mullahs. While Gandhiji was fighting the British Empire for khilafat, Kemal Pasha abolished it. He also insisted that the Turkish language be written in the Roman script. Turkey was modernised, secularised and its women were emancipated, unlike in other Islamic countries (or India).
Over the decades, it is the Army which has been the guarantor of Turkish secularism. Like Pakistan, Turkey had an intermittent democratic system. But more recently, the Army has kept away and there have been a succession of democratic governments. It was a great shock for the system when AKP (Justice and Development Party with Islamist origins but says it stands for 'conservative democracy') was formed in 2002 and won a landslide victory in 2003. This was because the other parties, which were nominally secular, proved corrupt and inefficient.
AKP has now been elected thrice, each time with a large majority. While it was cautious about proceeding along its desired lines initially, it has been bolder since. When it first insisted that women cover their heads, this raised alarm among modern Turkish women. Along the way, the government reformed the system, boosted the economy and made Turkey prosperous.