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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Turkey is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, and has stepped up security around the patriarchate in Istanbul, his spokesman said on Friday.
Spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos said the patriarch had not received any direct threats but had learned of the alleged plot from Turkish media, which was later confirmed to the patriarchate by Turkish police.
"Later in the day, police informed the patriarchate of a possible threat and dispatched additional police officers," Anagnostopoulos said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
Tayyip Erdogan has described his third term as Turkish prime minister as that of a "master", borrowing from the celebrated Ottoman architect Sinan and the last stage of his storied career after apprenticeship and graduation.
It's a lofty allusion.
Sinan's 16th-century creations came to define the Ottoman Empire at its apogee, the Suleymaniye Mosque, built for Sultan Suleiman, part of Istanbul's unmistakable skyline.
Now, entering a second decade at the helm of a country revelling in its regional might, Erdogan wants to leave his own mark on the cityscape with what will be Turkey's biggest mosque, a "giant mosque," he says, "that will be visible from all across Istanbul."
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Turkey sharply escalated its confrontation with Syria on Wednesday, forcing a Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara on suspicion of carrying military cargo, ordering Turkish civilian airplanes to stay out of Syrian airspace and warning of increasingly forceful responses if Syrian artillery gunners keep lobbing shells across the border.
Turkey’s NTV television said two Turkish F-16 warplanes were dispatched to intercept a Syrian Air A-320 Airbus jetliner with 35 passengers en route from Moscow to Damascus, and forced it to land at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, because it may have been carrying a weapons shipment to the Syrian government. Inspectors confiscated what NTV described as parts of missile and allowed the plane to resume its trip after several hours. The Turkish authorities declined to specify what precisely had been found.
“There are items that are beyond the ones that are legitimate and required to be reported in civilian flights,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu of Turkey said in remarks reported by the country’s semiofficial Anatolia News Agency. “There are items that we would rate as troublesome.”
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The Turkish government said it would return hundreds of properties that were confiscated from religious minorities by the state or other parties over the years since 1936, and would pay compensation for properties that were seized and later sold.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Sunday to representatives of more than 150 Christian and Jewish trusts gathered at a dinner he hosted in Istanbul to break the day’s Ramadan fast. The government decree to return the properties, bypassing nationalist opposition in Parliament, was issued late Saturday.
The European Union, which Turkey has applied to join, has pressed the country to ease or eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against non-Muslim religious groups, including restrictions on land ownership....
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey
In an earlier post, I wrote about the emergence of Turkey and Brazil on the world stage. Since then, the ‘terrible twins’ voted against the Security Council’s latest set of (almost certainly ineffective) sanctions against Iran. The Obama administration had worked hard to get both countries on board; their rebuff dramatized the limits of President Obama’s clout — but their isolation on the Security Council (the sanctions carried 12-2-1, with only intimidated Lebanon abstaining) dramatically illustrated something else: the impotence of the terrible twins. Brazilian President Lula and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan spoke out, but nobody listened.
Brazil and Turkey are learning something that more experienced world players already know: it is easier to make a splash than to make a change, easier to grab a headline than to set an agenda. Both countries can expect a rocky ride for some time; the democratic forces propelling new parties and new movements to the fore reflect domestic constituencies, domestic ideas and, in some cases, domestic fantasies about how the world works. Developing viable foreign policies that take those interests and values into account, but also respond to the realities and necessities of the international system will take time and take thought. At this point, it seems clear that neither the Brazilian nor the Turkish administrations have mastered the challenge.
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A hulking shell of a department store towers over this city's Uighur quarter, a reminder of what can be lost here by speaking up.
For years, it was the flagship of the business empire of Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled leader and matriarch of the Uighur people. If Chinese government accounts are accurate, she helped instigate fierce ethnic riots that killed hundreds and injured thousands here last July -- an accusation she vehemently denies.
Still a prominent landmark even in its ruin, the Rebiya Kadeer Trade Center was partially confiscated by the government in 2006 when Kadeer's son was charged with tax evasion, although tenants were allowed to stay. After the riots, it was shuttered and slated for destruction. The government said the building had failed fire inspections, but it seems in no hurry to set a demolition date.
The forsaken structure makes for an effective deterrent. Last summer's chaos has been replaced with a level of fear that is striking even for one of China's most repressed regions. Residents are afraid of attracting any attention, afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they seem most terrified of talking.
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For decades, Turkey was one of the United States’ most pliable allies, a strategic border state on the edge of the Middle East that reliably followed American policy. But recently, it has asserted a new approach in the region, its words and methods as likely to provoke Washington as to advance its own interests.
The change in Turkey’s policy burst into public view last week, after the deadly Israeli commando raid on a Turkish flotilla, which nearly severed relations with Israel, Turkey’s longtime ally. Just a month ago, Turkey infuriated the United States when it announced that along with Brazil, it had struck a deal with Iran to ease a nuclear standoff, and on Tuesday it warmly welcomed Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, at a regional security summit meeting in Istanbul.
Turkey’s shifting foreign policy is making its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a hero to the Arab world, and is openly challenging the way the United States manages its two most pressing issues in the region, Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”
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Last week I asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. The dean of Middle East historians speculated that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran—even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic.
Reading the news about Turkey from afar, it's easy to see what Prof. Lewis means. Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dramatically recast the traditional contours of Turkish foreign policy. Gone are the days when the country had a strategic partnership with Israel, involving close military ties and shared enemies in Syria and Iran and the sundry terrorist groups they sponsored. Gone are the days, too, when the U.S. could rely on Turkey as a bulwark against common enemies, be they the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Today, Mr. Erdogan has excellent relations with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, whom the prime minister affectionately calls his "brother." He has accused Israel of "savagery" in Gaza and opened a diplomatic line to Hamas while maintaining good ties with the genocidal government of Sudan. He was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his fraudulent victory in last year's election. He has resisted intense pressure from the Obama administration to vote for a new round of Security Council sanctions on Iran, with which Turkey has a $10 billion trade relationship. And he has sabotaged efforts by his own foreign ministry to improve ties with neighboring Armenia.
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Pope Benedict XVI has called on Turkey to give legal recognition to the Roman Catholic Church in the Muslim-majority but politically secular nation, which has been criticized for its treatment of religious minorities as it seeks to join the European Union.
Receiving Kenan Gursoy, the new Turkish ambassador to the Vatican last week (Jan. 7), Benedict said Catholics appreciated the freedom of worship, “guaranteed by the constitution” in Turkey. However, he added that “civil juridical recognition” would help the church, “to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society.”
About 99 percent of Turkey’s 77-million people are Muslim. The Catholic Church there has about 32,000 members.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
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