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Commentary: Talking Turkey

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor-at-large   |   Oct. 3, 2005 at 7:55 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- It will be an exercise in diplomatic futility and hypocrisy, choreographed to remain on stage, kabuki-like, for 10 years, with a cast of hundreds of diplomats and Eurocrats (EU's civil servants who micromanage everything from the size of condoms to the curvature of bananas).

Turkey, with 5 percent of its land mass and 10 percent of its people on the European side of the Bosporus and 95 percent of the country and 90 percent of its population in Asia Minor, wants to become a full-fledged member of the European Union. This would give EU a common border with Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, a notion that has already given Europeans an acute attack of Turkophobia.

EU membership negotiations, which were scheduled to start this week, are programmed to last 10 years. By then, Turkey's population will have increased from 71 million to 82 million, making a Muslim country the largest in the 25-nation European Union. That's why it's not going to happen. But the European players, eyes blazing with insincerity, have to convince the spectators that if the negotiations are successful, and Turkey agrees to all European demands, preconditions, codicils, and 80,000 pages of EU law, membership, strongly endorsed by the U.S., will be forthcoming.

Turks are beginning to question the utility of what now strikes them as a charade whose pantomime hints have already been correctly interpreted. These voices now say Turkey should distance itself from a Europe that doesn't wish to go beyond "privileged partnership" status. Most European leaders understand that rejection could tip Turkey, now governed by an Islamic party, into the camp of radical Islam. But one European opinion survey after another says Turkey does not belong in EU.

French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed new European constitution last spring because the move was widely interpreted as facilitating Turkey's membership application.

A fear that transcends all others in Europe these days is called "Eurabia." The nightmare this conjures up is of militant Islam overshadowing a Judeo-Christian Europe. The Ottoman Empire and before that the sword of Islam carved out a nice chunk of Europe through the Iberian Peninsula into southern France.

The Muslims of 1,000 years ago put the Europeans to shame. It took Europeans several centuries to match their architecture and their gardens. They also outclassed Europeans in astronomy, medicine, engineering, geography and mathematics (algebra is an Arabic term). Cordova, their capital in Spain, was Europe's richest city, replete with magnificent palaces and mosques.

The age of Islamic military conquest lasted until 1669, when the Ottoman Empire made its last acquisition by conquering Crete from the Venetians. Fourteen years later, it was curtains for the Ottomans in Europe. They failed to take Vienna and retreated in disarray. On the southwestern end of Europe, Islam's armies collapsed almost 200 years earlier when they lost Granada, the last Islamic city in Spain, in 1492, the year Columbus arrived in America.

Islam's big mistake was to ban the printing press, which was banned by Ottoman decree in 1485. It would have been a sacrilege, flat earth clerics decided, to use the Arabic language in mechanical equipment. That was the geopolitical ball game. When Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, Cairo had no printing presses. By then the European intelligentsia had been embarked on self-improvement through books for almost two centuries.

Today, there are approximately 20 million Muslims, including 3.8 million Turks, living in Europe, a number that is projected to double by 2020. Poor immigrants, most of them illegal, continue to flow into EU countries from the Middle East, including Turkey, North Africa and sub-Sahara Africa.

New arrivals fade into the masses of mostly unemployed Muslims that huddle in the poorer neighborhoods of Europe's major cities. For the most part, they are not integrated. Even second- and third-generation European-born Muslims, now holders of EU passports, and free to travel to the U.S. without visas, resist assimilation. Their hero is neither European nor American, but Saudi. Pro-Osama bin Laden literature can be found at kiosks all over Europe and on thousands of websites.

In Europe, would-be jihadis continue to volunteer to fight in Iraq. They use the Internet to learn how to make bombs from store-bought chemicals. They also learn the names of mosques in Syria and Jordan that can hide a jihadi making his way into Iraq, and then to learn the different locations in Iraq where jihadis should report for training and combat assignments. An unknown number have already returned from Iraq with newly acquired terrorist skills, the ability to form sleeper cells, and encourage others to sign up for "holy war against the infidels."

The Dutch intelligence service -- AIVD -- says radical Islam in the Netherlands now encompasses a multitude of movements, organizations and groups that embrace the fundamentalist line, 20 of them hard-line Islamist. In London, authorities believe as many as 3,000 veterans of al-Qaida training camps over the years were born or based in Britain. And in France, a study of 1,160 recent French converts to Islam found that 23 percent of them identified themselves as Salafists, another way of spelling Wahhabi.

EU countries are tightening their immigration laws in response to popular demand to retard the growth of their Muslim populations. So talking turkey about Turkey in this environment can only produce a turkey.

© 2005 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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