WHEN it comes to finding a job, Fatma Bostan, a graduate student
studying public administration at Turkey's elite Bosphorus
University, should not have a problem.
Well-educated and fluent in English, this 25-year-old woman seems
to offer most of the skills a potential employer would want.
But there is one problem: In accordance with Islamic law, not a
wisp of hair peeks out of the scarf well-wrapped around her head and
neck, and over her clothes she wears a long, loose coat.
"People look at me and are scared, and I know it won't be easy
for me to be hired," says the soft-spoken woman. "But society can't
break people from their past, and I believe the Koran tells the
truth about the way I must live. One day, I think it will be the
same for everyone in Turkey."
Ms. Bostan's predicament exemplifies Turkey's struggle with its
religious heritage. Ever since 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led
the shift to a secular state, Turkey has managed to strike a balance
between its religious values and a Western-style political system.
But it is this very balance that many Turks now believe is in
danger, and they point to people like Bostan as proof of this.
"What I am frightened of is that in 10 years, Islamic students
who have been able to flourish precisely because of our tolerant
atmosphere will be in power and they will be there to actually
suffocate this tolerance," says a professor at Bosphorus University
who asked that her name not be used.
Although few people believe Turkey is in imminent danger of an
Islamic revolution, analysts point to a trend of greater agitation
by Islamic groups in the past nine months. Four prominent
secularists have been murdered.
In early September, Turan Dursun, a religious scholar well-known
for his critical writings on Islam, was killed after receiving
hundreds of death threats. His murder followed those of Muammar
Aksoy, a law professor and chairman of the Association of Kemalist
Thought (named after Ataturk), and Cetin Emec, a columnist and
former editor at Hurriyet, a leading newspaper. Emec, before his
death, had written articles critical of Islamic activities.
All three of the murders are presumed linked to Islamic
fundamentalists, though police have not pinpointed suspects.
But few people believe Iran was behind Dursun's murder, or the
others. Instead, they question Turkish government policies that,
while not actively promoting Islam, tacitly permit fundamentalist
activities to flourish.
The opposition Social Democratic Populist Party has launched an
investigation into antisecular activities within government
agencies, focusing on the interior and education ministries.
"There are certain violations by certain public sector groups and
we need to study the dimensions of the threat," says a government
spokesman who did not want to be identified. "We have always had
certain groups interested in having a religious state in Turkey and
now the question is: Have they really become stronger and more