European values and the Muslim world: Turkish cases at the European Court of Human Rights

Aktay Y.

Global Change, Peace and Security, vol.20, no.1, pp.99-108, 2008 (Refereed Journals of Other Institutions) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 20 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/14781150701876053
  • Title of Journal : Global Change, Peace and Security
  • Page Numbers: pp.99-108


'Europe' is supposed to be an Enlightenment project that embodies the accumulated experiences of modernity. This project declares that secularism and human rights are the basic conditions for creating an ideal world that is expected to be embodied within the institution of the European Union. The integration of Europe has been based above all on the acceptance of standardized human rights that are the expression of the heritage of the Enlightenment. The realization of human rights requires political neutrality towards all religions, which in turn guarantees the legal equality of all citizens. It is only if secularism can be made the social and legal foundation of Europe that Turkey's accession to the EU as a Muslim country might be made possible. Otherwise the EU is likely to remain as a Christian-oriented union inspired by a non-secular reference. However, there seems to be some resistance to accepting Turkey on religious grounds. This in turn undermines the so-called 'European values' (at the top of which is secularism) and revives the religious memory of Europe. The cases investigated in the European Court of Human Rights demonstrate that religious differences are still taken into account within the European project and that this has become a new barrier to the true realization of 'European values'. This paper aims to analyze the causes and effects of this encounter and the ways in which it is viewed within the Turkish-Islamic world with special references to its role in shaping a nationalist or Islamist identity that may work to counter Turkey's integration with Europe. © 2008 Taylor & Francis.