Worlds collide in the struggle for a nation's soul media fear shackles of a 'violent Islam' violent Islam

By the standards customarily observed by Turkey's less-than- squeamish private media companies, a bloodless pummelling for a young journalist is rarely newsworthy. Throughout this week, however, Turks have endured repeated screenings of an assault suffered by Isin Gurel, who received facial bruising while covering a demonstration in Sincan, 20 miles west of Ankara.

It was a contentious speech delivered by Iran's ambassador to Turkey, Mohammed Reza Bagheri, which brought Ms Gurel - who was covering a protest against the contents of the Iranian envoy's address - to Sincan. The assault which she suffered has excited the fears of Turkish secularists, who suspect Iran of fostering religious extremism in an attempt to hinder Turkey's increasingly fragile alignment with the West.

This debate has been symbolised by the assault's protagonists. Ms Gurel works for Interstar, one of a handful of punchy and innovative television stations which have sprung up in recent years. Some Turks think that her less telegenic assailant - who fled unhindered after flinging her to the ground - represents another newish arrival in traditionally secular Turkey: violent Islam.

Police inquiries suggest that Ms Guler's attacker was employed by the local council in Sincan. This claim embarrasses not only the council leader, Bekir Yildiz - who invited Mr Bagheri to Sincan - but also the Islamist- inclined Welfare Party, of which Mr Yildiz is a member.

Welfare, whose leader, Necmettin Erbakan, is Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, is in power nationally, and must balance the desires of its most militant cadres with the need to avoid angering Turkey's secular military.

Last Saturday's "Jerusalem Night", a meeting held to express solidarity with Palestinian demands for control of the Israeli capital, has reassured no one. For a start, the meeting coincided with the anniversary of the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader, to Iran in 1979. The meeting hall was decorated with portraits of prominent members of Hizbollah, the pro-Iranian radical Islamic group, as well as a representation of the Dome of the Rock, a symbol of what some see as Israel's illegal occupation of Jerusalem.

The Iranian ambassador evidently tailored his address to suit his surroundings. He included an oblique call for the introduction of the sharia Islamic law in Turkey, and declared that divine retribution would befall those striking deals with Israel. This was interpreted as a reference to military co-operation agreements which Turkey and Israel struck last year.

Mr Yildiz - who presumably knows that advocating sharia law is at variance with Turkey's secular constitution - seemed to echo the ambassador's remarks. Mr Yildiz was removed from his post and a warrant issued for his arrest: he surrendered himself on Wednesday. As for Mr Bagheri, his mistake was to criticise the agreements between Turkey and Israel. The second of these was signed by a reluctant Mr Erbakan, under pressure from the Turkish military. Yesterday, Oguzhan Asilturk, a senior member of the Islamist Welfare Party said that the ambassador was to leave Turkey. But the ambassador appears far from chastened. "Turkey is a 99 per cent Muslim country," he said. "You are already living according to the sharia," he said after a ticking-off from the Turkish Foreign Ministry..

In the meantime, Mr Erbakan was fending off criticism from sections of his coalition partner, the centre-right True Path party. While Mr Erbakan can rely on the support of Tansu Ciller, the foreign minister and True Path leader, others look askance at the policy of friendship which Mr Erbakan has adopted towards Iran. This policy has also angered the United States, which is considering imposing limited sanctions on Turkey, after Mr Erbakan signed a $23bn (pounds 14bn) natural gas deal on a trip to Tehran.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Business Studies Tutor / Assessor / Lecturer - Tollerton

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried