Turkey a bulwark against radicalism

The horror in Paris, the cold-blooded murder of French citizens by other French citizens on religious grounds, was met with widespread condemnation but we are still a long way from a concerted political response to the threat of radical Islam.

This column will not attempt to solve the problem and it would be naive to presume that it could.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack and the events that followed, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that he is waging “war with radical Islam,” even though the adversaries are invisible – they do not go around in uniform and they don’t wear insignia – and controlling isolated outbursts of violence, the most abhorrent kind, is a difficult if not impossible endeavor.

The battle of Christian Europe against Islam was first waged in the Byzantine Empire and on the Iberian Peninsula. The Ottoman sultans brought Islam into the empire and managed to turn it from a rowdy and uncontrollable wave of violence and proselytism to an arm of their policy. It was the greatest service they could have unwittingly done for Europe and the Christian populations they had subjugated. The situation is much different today, for reasons which are not at issue here.

What is certain is that Greece is the closest country in Europe to the heart of the violence, a fact that is of great concern. Things would have been on much shakier ground, however, if Turkey had succumbed to chaos and if the delusion of the Arab Spring (which the West so irresponsibly cultivated) had prevailed, as many had hoped when they saw the uprisings at Taksim Square.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not liked by the West. Europe of the Enlightenment thinks him odious. But beyond his ideological obsessions, he is the leader responsible for bringing the kind of Islam back – within the political framework – that maintains control, albeit in a regrettably totalitarian manner.

It is unlikely that the Kemalist establishment would have been able to deal with any radical manifestations of Islam. Greece and Cyprus are constantly under pressure – often unbearable – from Turkish provocations that defy international laws but all of these problems date back to the past, without this meaning, however, that the current administration is beyond reproof.

Erdogan’s Turkey is clearly vulnerable to the threat of fundamentalism but it is much better prepared to meet it, not just in terms of military might but also in terms of where it is as a society. And this is nothing but a great benefit for Greeks.