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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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Arthur Scott

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August 15, 2016

Will Muslim Turkey ever become Christian EU member?

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said that he would start a discussion among European heads of government to quit talks with Turkey about joining the European Union because of the country's democratic and economic deficits.

European leaders have voiced concern over Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on dissidents after a failed coup attempt month his idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey.

In an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF, Kern said: "We are all well advised to now say we're pressing the reset button," calling  membership talks a "diplomatic fiction".

Nearly three decades after its official bid to join the European club, Turkey is not yet a European  Union member. Talks on possible EU membership for Turkey have been taking place since 1963, when Ankara and Brussels drafted an association agreement stating the country would aim to be a member of the bloc. After formally applying in 1987, Turkey began accession talks in 2005.

Tellingly, according to YouGov's latest Eurotrack survey, there is immense hostility to Turkey joining the European Union.  Britain is the least hostile of all the EU countries with 67% against the Turkish entry into the EU. In other countries the opposition is: Denmark 82%, Finland 83%,  France 74%, Germany 86%  and Sweden 73%.

On June 22, 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bluntly said Europe doesn't want his country to join the EU because the majority of the nation's population is Muslim. He said his government will ask the public whether negotiations with Brussels should continue. He was quoted by Reuters as saying at a graduation ceremony in Istanbul:

"Europe, you don't want us because the majority of our population are Muslim...we knew it but we tried to show our sincerity,"Erdogan said at a graduation ceremony in Istanbul.”


The comments were made on the eve of Britain's historic 'Brexit' vote, in which UK citizens decided  no to remain part of the EU.

Referring to Britain's vote, Erdogan stated that Turkey could also hold a referendum on the EU. "We will go and ask the public whether we should continue negotiations with the EU." 

Interestingly, Turkey's chief negotiator with the EU, Egemen Bagis,was quoted by daily Telegraph in September 2013, as saying that Turkey will probably never become a member of the European Union because of stiff opposition and "prejudiced" attitudes from current members. In the first such admission, Egemen Bagis, said that his country had to accept that its long cherished goal of joining the EU was likely to end in disappointment.

Vatican opposes Turkish membership of EU

In December 2010, The Guardian reported that previously secret cables sent from the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome indicated that the  pope is responsible for the Vatican's growing hostility towards  Turkey joining the EU.

In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, spoke out against letting a Muslim state join, although at the time the Vatican was formally neutral on the question.

The cable released by WikiLeaks shows that Ratzinger was the leading voice behind the Holy See's unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe's "Christian roots" in the EU constitution. The US diplomat noted that Ratzinger "clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe's Christian foundations".

The Vatican's acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger's comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position.

But by 2006 Parolin was working for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and his tone had distinctly chilled. "Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey's EU membership per se," he told the American charge d'affaires. "

In 2009, the American ambassador while briefing in advance of President Barack Obama's visit, said that "the Holy See's position now is that as a non-EU member the Vatican has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey's membership. The Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of membership with the EU."

Roman Catholicism is the only religion in the world with the status of a sovereign state, allowing the pope's most senior clerics to sit at the top table with world leaders. The cables reveal the Vatican routinely wielding influence through diplomatic channels while sometimes denying it is doing so. The Vatican has diplomatic relations with 177 countries and has used its diplomatic status to lobby the US, United Nations and  European Union in a concerted bid to impose its moral agenda through national and international parliaments.

Pope Benedict’s anti-Islam remarks were not a Freudian slip

In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI provoked outrage in the Muslim world with a speech given at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The lecture, entitled Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections, explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity.

During his address, Pope Benedict quoted a dialogue between 14th Century Christian emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a Persian Muslim: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Turkey's state-run directorate of religious affairs, called the Pope's remarks "provocative, hostile, prejudiced and biased". The deputy leader of the Turkish ruling AK party, Salih Kapusuz, declared that "he has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages… Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks is going down in history for his words… in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini".

Pope Benedict was forced to issue an ‘explanation’ and not an ‘apology’ in response to the angry reactions. Many analysts pointed out that the Pope did not apologize outright, as Muslims demanded, for his remarks implying that Mohammed's teachings were evil and inhuman. Instead, he said he was "deeply sorry" over the reaction to his words.

The Pope said: "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect."

Vatican rebuffs Muslim outreach: Quran cited as the main obstacle

Tellingly, in October 2007, Vatican rebuffed a massive outreach effort by 138 Muslim religious leaders and scholars who sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in an attempt to improve Christian-Muslim relations.

The letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” which is also addressed to Christianity’s other most powerful leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, seeks to recognize similarities between Islam and Christianity as a way of fostering mutual understanding and respect between the two religions.

It compares texts from the Bible and the Koran to argue that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Both believe in “the primacy of total love and devotion to God,” and both value love of neighbor and a peaceful world.

In a belated response to the Oct. 13, 2007 letter, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, told the French Catholic daily La Croix, on Oct. 26 that a real theological debate with Muslims was difficult as they saw the Quran as the literal word of God. “Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Quran in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”

Another reading of his comments suggests that the Vatican does not want a dialogue with Muslims unless they change their belief in Quran as a revealed book. Like most Christian theologians, the Muslims have to believe that sacred scriptures are the work of divinely inspired humans.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)