Thursday, February 16, 2006


Hamas leaders paid a surprise visit to Turkey on Thursday, the first to a non-Arab country since the militant Islamists won a January 25 poll, but officials said they would not meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Muslim but secular Turkey has good ties with both Israel and the Palestinians and wants to play a more active role in Middle East peacemaking, but the Hamas trip has infuriated Israel and also upset the United States and the European Union.

"It is out of the question that the prime minister hold talks with the Hamas delegation," an official at Erdogan's office told reporters.

But he added that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul might be present at planned talks between the Hamas leaders and officials from Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has roots in political Islam.

More than just having roots in political Islam, the Justice and Development Party is essentially the Islamist Welfare Party, reorganized and renamed so as to be able to participate in Turkey's strictly secular (for now) politics. The relationship that develops between the Palestinian and Turkish Islamists should be very significant and instructive, given that we also have the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of modern political Islam, patiently waiting to sweep elections if and when Mubarak ever holds them. Oh yeah, don't forget Iraq.

It's pretty obvious at this point that some form of Islamic politics, if not outright Islamism, is the future of Middle East democracy. Whether this will translate into anything that can be called 'liberal' democracy remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that American policy makers had better start getting used to the idea.

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