Mustafa Akyol —
Religion, Democracy, and the New Turkey

There's a country between Europe's debt crisis and the Arab Spring, where democracy is valued and the economy is growing. It's Turkey. Mustafa Akyol gives a fresh perspective on this new model of religion and democracy.

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Akyol is a Turkish columnist for the English-language Hürriyet Daily News. He’s also author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty.

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Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Mustafa Akyol

Krista Tippett spoke with Mustafa Akyol in his light-filled apartment in the Fulya neighborhood of Istanbul, surrounded by minimalist furniture, a pinging iPad, and a movie poster of Rocky Balboa. Watch their completed, unedited conversation from a front-row seat in the room.

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Turkey's national flag waves in front of the Sultanahmet Mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque, in the old city of Istanbul.

Photo by Trent Gilliss

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You quote him as saying "Turkey will become an example of Islamic democracy when its really pious people embrace democratic values and help advancing them" Democracy is half of the story. Protecting the rights of the minorities, civil rights, is the other half. A democratically elected government with no rights is not progress. Some in Turkey think the military is necessary to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Krista, I am a long-time listener of your program and must say this is one of your best. We in the West often lump the countries of the Middle East together into a hodge podge of religious tensions and political unrest. Your program brought to light the stabilizing influence of Turkey in terms of politics, economics and religion. Thank you. Keep doing what you do.

Akyol says Islam was once a beacon of freedom compared to the Catholic world. This may be true, but it was a long time ago, 1,000 to 1,500 years ago. It was in the time of the Byzantine empire when Romans were killing people for not being Christian or not accepting what the government/religious leaders declared was true. People fled that had headed to Baghdad where non-sacred things, like the size of the earth or how far away the sun is were not declared sacred by religion. It was a place you could go and read books from all over the world without fear of punishment. You could ask questions about how the world worked and not have to give an answer that included "God". That ended a long time ago in that part of the world and Turkey is no more influenced by it now than Iran is. Instead of claiming that ancient ancestors of one country were once better than ancient ancestors of another, maybe we should discuss values in general and how to encourage people to live by those values.

Dear Krista,
Thank you very much to both; you & Mustafa. I have never done it! I downloaded the interview and heard it today.

The most constructive element he mentioned, as far as I am concerned, was regarding those the West loves to push as "Islam critics" such as A.Hirsi Ali and two turkish female lawyers here in Germany rendering them "Scholar Spermen" and giving them access to all existing media and galas.

No one DESTROYS better than them Mustafa´s, our efforts and will to reform muslim societies and Islam through a new reading of Islam. Glad, he also mentioned that the Florida/Coran ripper (Jones?) was the most quoted priest in Turkey...and elsewhere.

I have just come back from Algeria where people are WILLING and OPEN but live in the same bubble. They eat, drink the same things, refer to the same referents, breathe the same air and see the same sky. They need DIVERSITY and CONTACT!

Salam & Shukran again, Salim

You sure have a soft spot for the Turks, here they are culturally bakslciding as they tear up Atatfcrk's design, and you think their problems are of foreign manufacture. It is Islamic Hate that is setting them against Israel, it's sectarian hate Sunni vs. Shiite in Syria, Iraq, and Iran that is driving the foreign policy there.I also think the Turkish military is not what it once was, thousands of their officers have resigned or been arrested, and those that remain are political animals not soldiers. Which reminds me of Iran after the fall of the Shah, when Iran was reduced to human wave attacks in the Iran Iraq war. If I was the Turks, I would avoid rattling a saber that was rusted tight in its scabbard. But, they are probably too ate up with the Islamic [idiots] to even recognize their weakness. I think there is a good chance of miscalculation in the region that leads to a war between nations. The competition to fill the powervacuume left by the US withdrawl, is just throwing fuel on the fire.