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NYT: Conservatism growing in Turkey

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

With the European Union acting more unsure about whether to admit Turkey, there are signs that conservatism is growing across the nation, both politically and culturally, according to a prestigious U.S. daily.

Referring to a recent survey, The New York Times said the prolonged road to membership, and the many economic, legal and cultural adjustments made to pave the way, have soured some attitudes toward the EU.

The poll — conducted by professors Ali Çarkoðlu and Ersin Kalaycýoðlu from Sabancý and Iþýk universities in Istanbul — shows a decline in support for membership, from a high point of 74 percent in 2003 to 58 percent this year.

Interviews with 1,846 adults in 23 cities throughout Turkey, conducted in March and April, found a strong religious influence. More than 60 percent of those responding said they would refuse to let their daughters marry non-Muslims. Also, 60 percent blamed a lack of religious beliefs for “failure in life” and 46 percent favored schools specializing in religious teaching for their children over schools with secular curriculums.

According to The New York Times, since the time when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — born in the ashes of fringe religious-based parties — came to power as a result of the 2002 polls there has been an increase in public displays of conservatism around the country, notably in the number of women wearing headscarves in the streets.

“But headscarves are still banned by the Constitution, and religious conservatives hoped that the EU would ask Turkey to permit the practice in the name of religious freedom. In the survey, 68 percent said they considered the ban to be religious oppression and supported its repeal,” it added.

The daily also quoted Professor Emre Kongar, an academic who accuses the government of not truly caring about the EU, as saying: “Unfortunately the present government is using its political power to transfer the capital from secular to religious circles. It’s a real threat to the secular democratic regime.”

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