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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Turkey's silent revolution
Woman in Capadocia
Crossing Continents
Thursday 12 July 2007
At 1102 BST on BBC Radio 4

The rise of a new social class - Turkey's Asian heartland - is threatening the power of the Westernised elite that has run the Turkish republic since its foundation more than 80 years ago.

A new order of Islamically educated businessmen - the "imams of industry" - has changed the face of the once-backward region, linking it into the global economy and generating unprecedented wealth.

Now, as Turkey faces a decisive general election this month, the secular establishment fears the party that represents that new class will win a second term of office - and use it to begin imposing Anatolia's moral values on the rest of the country.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in power for the last five years, has its roots in political Islam.

It insists it is fully committed to the secular republic founded by Kemal Ataturk. And it has done more than other government to bring in the democratic standards required to bring Turkey closer to the European Union.

But its opponents fear it is seeking to re-Islamise Turkey by stealth.

And for them, those fears were confirmed when the AKP nominated the foreign minister Abdullah Gul to be the country's next president.

Gul, from the Anatolian city of Kayseri, would have been the first head of state whose wife wears a traditional Muslim headscarf.

The Constitutional Court blocked the appointment - on a technicality by the constitutional court. And that helped trigger the early elections on 22 July which have now become a battle for ultimate control of the country.

The army has warned it will not hesitate to intervene again in politics - as it has four times in the last 50 years - if it believes Islamic fundamentalism is threatening the state.

In Kayseri, home of many of the "imams of industry", AKP supporters insist that is not a danger.

But it is a town where religious influence has increased markedly in recent years.

Crossing Continents investigates what has happened there - and asks if an AKP victory in the elections will plunge Turkey into crisis.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 12 July 2007 at 1102 BST.

It was repeated on Monday, 16 July 2007 at 2030 BST.

Presenter: Tim Whewell
Producer: Julia Rooke
Editor: Maria Balinska



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