Sevket Kazan offers me a cup of sugary Turkish tea in his nondescript office, which is distinguished only by its photo of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A portrait of Ataturk is not generally a distinguishing feature in Turkey; indeed it is required by law. But this photo is a collector's item; it shows the militant secularist, who banned Muslim headwear, standing beside a turbaned imam. According to the caption, Ataturk is thanking Allah for Turkey's military successes.
“We are not an Islamist party,” Kazan is saying to me, as the call to prayer from the mosque attached to his party headquarters wafts through the corridors. “We are a party struggling against the oppression of Muslim people.” Kazan's semantic point is unpersuasive; His party, Saadet, and its powerful predecessor, Refah, were clearly Islamist in the sense that Islam is the organizing principle of its adherents' personal and political lives. But Kazan's affirmative claim is worth considering: that Turkey's Islamists are generally on the side of human rights in the struggle against oppression. Political Islam in Turkey may be imperfect, but it is promising and evolving. To declare it immutably undemocratic, as the European Court of Human Rights has done, is foolish or worse. The shabby reception Strasbourg has given political Islam can only lend credence to the charge, widely heard in Turkey, that official Europe suffers from “Islamophobia.”
Europe's tradition of Turk-bashing is long and ugly, although it has occasionally taken eloquent form. “What is a Turk?” asked a Christian cleric while the Ottomans advanced on Vienna. “He is a replica of the Antichrist … he is an insatiable tiger … he is a vengeful beast; he is a thief of crowns without conscience, he is a murderous falcon … he is oriental