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Opinion: Attacks Prove Turkey is Part of Europe

The Turkish government's efforts to avoid the scope of international terrorism failed with the bombing of two synagogues. But its commitment to European values and norms should be recognized in light of the tragedy.


"Even snakes leave worshipers in peace," goes an old Turkish saying. Seen as such, those responsible for the bombing attacks against faithful Jews at two synagogues in Istanbul are lower than snakes and have only their outside appearance in common with human beings. There can be no justification and no understanding for the violent acts that destroyed two Jewish religious institutions on the Bosporous.

Which organizations are behind the attack remains unclear. But the fact that various groups are competing against each other to claim responsibility only heightens the blasphemy. What is clear is that extremist groups and fanatics are as capable of igniting infernos in the largely Muslim Turkey as they are in the rest of the world.

It is impossible to understand what sort of fanaticism drives people to bring pain to others and destroy houses of worship. The readiness for violence doesn't even stop short of aid organizations and civilian peace groups, as was recently seen in Iraq. Symbols like the Red Cross and Red Crescent on cars, or trucks with the U.N. emblem on the side are no longer a guarantee that they will be left unscathed by bombs, grenades or bullets.

Fight against terror failed

That Turkey has long been the target of international terrorism is no secret. The country has been trying for 80 years to find a peaceful co-existence between Islam and democracy and regards itself as a model for other countries with Islamic populations. As a result, the shock within the Islamic Justice and Development party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, is that much greater: The goal of taking Turkey out of the gun sights of terrorism has failed.

More visibly than ever before, the attack on the synagogues shows how big a threat the secular foundation of the Turkish Republic is actually facing. The NATO nation that shares borders with Middle East hotspots needs more than military protection and verbal commitments from the West.

Turkey is Europe

The concrete ties between Turkey and Europe and the anchoring of European values and standards in Turkish society should at the very latest be clear now, in light of the attacks in Istanbul. Those who want to claim the values and standards of contemporary civilization exclusively for Christianity, go against the Christian teaching to love thy neighbor.

Those who still want to block Turkey's progress towards Europe on religious and cultural grounds, and use their rejection in election campaigns, are behaving irresponsibly. Turkey's efforts to fulfill European expectations in areas such as human rights, democracy, minority protection rights and economic progress need to be attended to seriously and supported -- there can be no alternative.

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