There was a time when Turkey was a modern example to the rest of the Muslim world. And there was one fundamental reason for that. It was because Turkey realized that it could either be a backward Muslim colony of Europe, or it could put Islam in its place, and reform in order to try to keep up with Europe. And there is also a fundamental reason why that brand of reform has not come to the rest of the Muslim world. It is because they never had to learn that same lesson.
But while Turkey modernized, the Muslim nations of the Middle East instead followed a completely different paradigm. And they succeeded for two reasons. Oil. And the willingness of First and Second World powers to pander to them. Where Turkey had to learn to do things the hard way, to separate mosque from state and try to build modern institutions, a bunch of backward desert sheiks were lucky enough to take control of barren regions where infidel geologists found oil. Those sheiks were also lucky enough to stumble into a perfect era of infidel infighting that allowed them to play Americans against the Europeans against the Russians. Not long after the sheiks had more money than they could count, which meant that they didn't need to modernize, instead they could buy all the American and European technology they wanted, and even import actual Americans and Europeans to do the work for them.
Of course the Saudi, Emirati or Kuwaiti way was none too feasible for Muslim countries without a whole lot of oil under their feet-- but that didn't matter. Because money bought them a whole lot of cultural warfare. While US troops guarded the fat sheiks from any neighbors who were investing their money into building a military-- the Saudis spent their money on foreign investments and on building up the Islamic takeover of Europe and America. Where post-war terrorism by Muslims had begun as Soviet proxy attacks on Britain, America and Israel-- it discarded its red Marxist outer shell to reveal its green Islamist interior. Not long after the the USSR fell, Middle Eastern terrorism was swiftly taking on a wholly Islamist coloration. A coloration heavily funded by oil money.
The Saudi model showed that modernization did not require modern thinking. It showed that Muslim countries could still be Islamist, and still have all the benefits of modern living. All it took was money. While Turkey was busy being Europe's backward cousin, the Saudis were gorging themselves on Western delicacies, importing foreign architects and landscape planners, models, entertainers and huge numbers of slaves from Southeast Asia. In doing so they made their larger point, which is that Western civilization was a commodity that could be bought, and that it was possible to have it all, the raw meat of Islam and the fruits of the West on one plate. Western civilization was for sale.
Turkey had reformed because civilization had proven to be the strong horse, and Islam the weak horse. When the balance shifted, civilization was revealed as the weak force, and Islam as the strong force. And not only did we not try to turn the tide, our governments affirmed this with everything they did, both in their domestic policies toward Muslim immigrants, and their foreign policy toward Muslim nations. Call it appeasement or dhimmism, what they did not only devalued them individually and nationally, it devalued the very idea that civilization was superior to medieval barbarism, and destroyed the very forces that might have modernized the Muslim world.
A generation later, the tide of Muslim immigrants to Europe learned the same lesson as well. After some initial fuss about integration, they could also combine Islamism and Western civilization. It was possible for them to be doctors, dentists, lords and engineers-- while at the same time believing they had a duty to force their new hosts to bow to the god of Islam, first seen by Mohammed on a three day bender in the desert. And if they had any qualms about it, their local petrodollar mosques were sure to fix that. And if not them, then their children.
Western civilization had not only shown itself to be for sale, but its secularism and modernity were instead revealed to be weaknesses. Any Muslim in Europe could not help but realize that it was the very lack of principles that made it so ripe for the plucking. The way of Ataturk had ceased to make sense. The way of the House of Saud on the other hand was looking pretty good. Or even the Way of Bin Laden.
European tolerance for Islam eliminated any real reason for Turkey not to become Islamist. As Erdogan has demonstrated, it is possible to run a country that continues to deny genocide, oppresses minorities and has jails filled with political prisoners. That openly supports terrorism and Islamism-- and yet is on track for membership in the European Union. Erdogan does not need to dig up Ataturk and turn him upside down-- the Great Tolerators of Europe were already doing it for him.
Where Ataturk knew that Turkey had to modernize, the Islamist believes that modernity is a sham. That Islamic science has already discovered everything worth discovering and that what the West calls modernity is nothing more than an excuse for wanton immorality and a lack of principles. The modern European Muslim is increasingly coming around to that way of thinking. And thought that way of thinking may be a sham, it is a reasonably successful one, because Europe itself is propping up its underlying assumptions.
Where the Sick Man of Europe had to choose between modernity and Islam-- the modern Muslim need make no such choices. He can listen to Islamist preachers ranting on YouTube, compel patients at his medical office to comply with Islamic laws and have his wife cover her face when she goes outside.
Progress comes from challenges. Challenges demand that you overcome the obstacles holding you back. The Muslim world no longer has challenges. Instead the door has been thrown open for them with no demands or expectations. Islam is not held accountable in the way that other religions are. Muslims are not held accountable for one of the world's largest and longest ongoing killing sprees. Muslim countries are not held accountable for everything from the genocide of millions to barbaric acts of torture and mutilation.
This is the soft bigotry of low expectations. Nothing is expected from Muslims, which only helps the Islamists make the case that Western civilization is hopelessly decadent and weak, and that imitation it would be a mistake. All the fawning praise directed at the "Religion of Peace" feeds that cycle, reaffirming the Islamists' arrogance and sense of destiny as those they think of as enemies foolishly give way to them. That is the attitude Hitler had as he realized that the nations that seemed overwhelmingly powerful were not going to stop him. It is the same attitude you can easily see among Islamists, whose sense of cultural invulnerability is running at an all time high.
Paradoxically enough it was European tolerance that helped Islamize Turkey, as it has helped Islamize its own resident Muslims. Its tolerance has only fed intolerance. By acting like the conquered, they have only attracted conquerors. By failing to challenge Islam, they discredited their nations and their way of life in the eyes of men faced with a choice between honorable barbarism and dishonorable accommodation to civilization's burdens. And the children of those men are murdering them in the streets of their own cities today.
(Spanish language translation at REFLEXIONES SOBRE MEDIO ORIENTE Y EL MUNDO)