Turkey is re-emerging to the Middle Eastern scene playing an actual role in the coming solutions. Whether or not those work for the best and persist is anyone’s guess. The Ottoman Empire comprised most of the areas that are in turmoil in the Middle East, today. One thing can’t be denied – they ruled an impressive space. A space that western forces do not seem to quite understand.

Image courtesy of The Islam Project.

Erdogan has made it mandatory to learn the dead language of the Ottomans in schools, a move no doubt meant to revive the identity of the Ottoman empire. They want to make Turkey great again. The cries of Allahu Akbar are heard in Turkish military training. This Turkish training video showcases an ancient Ottoman chant.

The Turks are pushing into the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region and becoming a prominent and relevant reality for many. They’re expanding in hopes to return the empire. The Turks blatantly want to re-assert themselves into the affairs of the Middle East. Like Iran, they’ve cloaked themselves in different clothing – but like all nation states – they desire power and influence.

Some believe that Erdogan and his followers want a conquest. Turkey has been quiet for sometime but is consistently gaining steam and momentum. They’re an important bridge between Europe and MENA. They’ve always been a critical geopolitical player and economically relevant to the two continents. Even now as the world is more global and digital, that location is still important. Turkey has factored prominently in the current situation in Syria and the fight against ISIL.

But skeptics suspect Turkey of either directly or passively supporting ISIS. The idea is that they share an ideology, an idealistic view of the Middle East with old Islamic borders re-established. While ISIL represents a war effort to see the re-establishment, the Muslim Brotherhood is engaging in a cultural, civilized war. It’s longer term than ISIL’s thinking, and less dangerous than Al-Qaeda’s methods. However, their goals are similar. The Muslim Brotherhood has factored prominently in Turkey.

Turkey is an interesting model where Islamism and practical government solutions have found synergy. A report released by The Brookings Institute entitled “Turkey: The New Model“, addresses the recent phenomenon:

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) went through five incarnations before it found a balance that voters would embrace but the military would also accept, albeit reluctantly. Its evolution reflects how democratic traditions and institutions can both interact with and moderate political Islam, at least in one geostrategic country. In Turkey, a tradition of free and fair elections and capitalism has encouraged Islamic parties to play by the rules. Turkey’s radical secularism, enforced by the military, has also tamed the strident religious dogma that once landed Islamic politicians in trouble—and even in prison.

The AKP is a political party with clear Islamic roots. It pragmatically moved to the center-right over a decade, mainly to escape the fate of its defunct predecessors. The party’s success, however, has had little to do with ideological factors. Turkish voters have been primarily concerned with bread-and-butter issues. In June 2011, they once again voted for political stability and rewarded Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the country’s growing prosperity and better social services, particularly in health care and housing.”

Turkey’s ruling party went on to win three more elections. In a nation where Islamic parties once stood no chance,  they’re dominating. They’ve steadily increased their share of the vote to 49% in 2011. Brookings wrote: “Turkey is notable because its Islamist parties have reemerged, more moderate and pragmatic, after each closure.” “Autocratic regimes in the Muslim world often ban religious parties, which then go underground and turn violent. Turkey’s Islamists have taken a different path. Despite being repeatedly outlawed and ejected from power, pious politicians have shunned violence, embraced democracy, and moved into the mainstream,” The Economist noted in 2008. “No Islamic party has been as moderate and pro-Western as the AKP, which catapulted into government in 2002 promising to lead Turkey into the European Union.”

Perhaps U.S. Policy should question Turkey’s motives in the region. They’ve been compliant – and ensured they’ve played by the rules. They even had a failed coup – that enabled the ruling party to take out the trash in the military, probably ensuring there won’t be another attempt anytime soon.

Turkey is both a possible powerful future adversary, but more rational actor, and model for other Muslim nations. It’s a conflicting view – our own fear of Islamism is at odds with the success of this democratic system the Turks adopted. However, their instincts toward populism are concerning. Mixed with Islamist and uncertain connections with Jihadi-Salafi groups raises concern. Are they trying to rule a stable people or re-establish the Ottoman empire and re-institute Islamic borders?

Hijrah is the conquest and expansion of Islam through emigration. It is modeled off the emigration that contributed to the Muslims leading toward prominence, originally.

Featured image courtesy of RT.com