Global Alert: Turkey's Fundamentalist Turn
What news from foreign countries will we be talking about in two months? To keep readers abreast of the latest developments abroad, Brian Stewart will provide semi-regular commentary for the blog, highlighting global alerts that merit attention.
"A man's got to believe something, and I believe I'll have another drink." That line belonged to Peter De Vries, of whom one would be hard-pressed to find many admirers among the AKP, the Turkish ruling party with a distinctly pious bent. In recent months, not least during Ramadan, the AKP has taken care to restrict the consumption of alcohol, even in the traditionally liberal precincts of Istanbul.
The government's strict enforcement of this measure—last month it bullied Istanbul Bilgi University into instituting an alcohol ban before a rock concert—has stirred resistance from those whose beliefs are not confined to the supernatural dimension. Dorian Jones reports:
Tension erupted over a two-day international rock concert at Istanbul Bilgi University in mid-July that kicked off just before Ramadan began. Just half an hour before the concert an alcohol ban was enforced by University authorities under pressure from the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party. Ironically the "One Love" concert was sponsored by the country's largest beer producer, but the thousands of parched rockers had to make do with lemonade and water instead.
The decision provoked an uproar. "This is not a battle about alcohol, but about freedom" wrote a leading columnist, Hasan Cemal, in the Milliyet newspaper on July 17. A nationwide debate ensued during the weeks of Ramadan over the direction of the country, and, in particular, its largest city, Istanbul.