The BBC News website reports (Obama reaches out to Muslim world) that President Obama has visited Turkey, as part of his sensible strategy to “reach out” to the Muslim world (something long overdue, I suspect). Unfortunately, reports indicate that Mr Obama also said Washington supported Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, quoting his as saying:
“Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it,” he said to a round of applause from the audience. “And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”
Well, firstly, President Obama really ought not to be speaking in those terms about membership of the EU (though I grant you he may have been misquoted) – after all he’s the President of the USA, not an EU politician. Secondly. I’m a little wary of a supposedly secular country with evidence of religious penetration of political life entering the EU. While I’m broadly in favour of ethnic diversity (certainly as I’ve experienced it in the UK), I’m unhappy enough with christian interference with politics within the EU without adding another religion to the pot.
One example of this is something I’ve blogged about recently – Turkish government intervention in the science press to suppress discussion of Darwin and evolution ( Censorship of science in Turkey) – an extraordinary tale of religiously motivated suppression.
The second example is the near-vetoing of the Danish candidate for NATO General Secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey represented the sole dissenting voice in Rasmussen’s election, and this was due to the rumpus over the Danish newspaper’s cartoon kerfuffle a few years ago. Mediawatchwatch has covered the impact on the NATO General Secretary election (Still no Motoon apology from NATO chief Rasmussen), and has a rather nice quote from Rasmussen:
Listen. In Denmark we do not apologise for having freedom of speech. [...] You all know that a Danish Prime Minister cannot apologise on behalf of a newspaper
It required President Obama’s undoubtedly effective diplomatic talents to rescue the stalled NATO situation from this standoff. One is left wondering what paralysis would have afflicted the EU had Turkey been a member at the time the cartoon crisis broke.