I really do think that we in the West (European Union & the U.S.) are in the process of alienating Turkey at a time when we should not. The European Union keeps putting off and putting off decisions about whether to include Turkey within the European Union – to the point where the most resent poll I read put the desire of Turks to be in the EU at only 35-40% (it was as high as 70% just a while ago).
Muslim Turkey is never going to be like Christian Europe. They may technically share he same continent, but the culture and history are so vastly different. That’s alright, but if the decision makers in the EU keep demanding that Turkey first become like them in so many areas of national and cultural life, then Turkey will never be a member.
What does that mean? The secular Turks have looked to Europe as a means of maintaining the secular nature of the Turkish state, as established by Ataturk, over and against the example of the numerous Muslim states. If they are continually rebuffed by Europe, well, that can only happen for so long. Then what? Turkey will then look to its more natural associates – the Muslim Middle East – the Arabs and Persians, despite the animosities that have existed between Turks, Arabs, and Persians.
We already see the pressures of the Muslim nationalists in Turkey. We see the rise for the more radical Islamic movements. The current government is headed by a devoted and practicing Muslim. While the government and military have said they are determined to maintain the secular nature of the state, if the people rise up the only option is military intervention and a return to dictatorship (which will only solidify the resolve of the EU to keep them out). I know how the Germans regarded the Turks in Germany. I honestly believe some of the reluctance to accept Turkey has to do with European xenophobia (an odd sounding assertion, I know).
In my humble opinion, the West needs to give a little. Turkey needs to be more tightly integrated into Europe in order to provide an example of a predominately Muslim country living in a relatively free and democratic form within a sphere greater than Muslim states in the Middle East. We should not expect Turkey or Turkish society to mirror those of the West, even as we do call for Turkey and its government and military to be respectful of human rights and increase the protection of civil freedoms and economic opportunity different from religiously imposed ideologies.