Turkey and Pork
The Turkish constitution separates religion from party politics in order to preserve democracy. But Prime Minister Erdoğan has abused this separation, evidenced primarily in the erosion of the distinction between religious and secular public education. He has also embarked on a programme of obligatory retirement of thousands of secular judges - which amounts to those who dared to question his interpretation of the constitution - and replaced them with AKP apparatchiks. He also has instituted an interview process - controlled by party loyalists - designed to evaluate government technocrats on the basis of religiosity rather than merit. Turkish Air employees, for example, have even been questioned on their belief in the Qur’an.
Prime Minister Erdoğan also displays unprecedented (in Turkey) hostility towards the press. He has sued dozens of journalists and editors, and has confiscated whole newspapers - such as Sabah, the national daily - which he deemed too critical or independent, and transferred their control to political allies. Journalists such as Vatan's Can Ataklı and Reha Muhtar, television commentator Nihat Genç, Sky Turk's Serdar Akinan, and Kanal Türk's Tuncay Özkan are now under fire either for their own criticism or, in the case of the television announcers, for their guests' criticism of the ruling party.
Prime Minister Erdoğan has treated courts, both international and domestic, with disdain. After the European Court of Human Rights decided against permitting headscarves in Turkish universities, he declared that ‘only ulama (Islamic religious scholars) could’ issue such a judgment. In several instances, Erdoğan has refused to uphold the Supreme Court's decisions when it ruled against the AKP's confiscation of political opponents' property. In a moment reminiscent of Henry II, a follower gunned down a justice after the prime minister launched a fusillade against the Court.
If all this were deemed insufficient evidence of a distinct agenda, it is reported that the nation’s pork farmers and butchers are being singled out for special treatment, all in the name of EU harmonisation.
Eating pork, which is of course forbidden in Islam, became very popular in secular high society. But ‘religious dictates have begun creeping into their lives since a government led by devout Muslims took power’. Turkey's pork industry is now ‘on the brink of extinction’ as Christians ‘have long since left or been forced out’.
Butchers are being prevented from slaughtering pigs by the Agriculture Ministry, which is simply refusing to renew abattoir licences because they ‘do not meet strict new regulations’. And curiously, it is only the slaughter houses that deal with pork which are failing: those that deal with beef, chicken or lamb are passing with flying colours.
And one butcher confides that ‘none of us dares speak out’ because ‘it's all about Islam’.
He says: ‘Most people are more religious these days. They don't want to eat pork, and they don't let others produce it either.’ And another reveals: ‘The government doesn't announce out loud that it has banned the pig farms, but at the end of the day, that's what's happened here. They're trying to send a message to their religious constituents.’
Ironically, this is all ‘to bring Turkey up to European standards’ of Enlightenment.
And the affirmation of Her Majesty is just the sort of high-level and prestigious support Prime Minister Erdoğan has sought for his quest to join the EU.
Cranmer hopes they enjoy their state banquet. Doubtless pork chops shall not be on the menu.