Dream of Rome ~ Turkey


In a new extract from his brilliant book on Rome, Boris argues that our anxieties about Islam must not jeopardise the reconciliation between East and West

Why are we so afraid of Turkey?

Fragments of plaster are still falling from the ceiling after the Pope made his famous speech about Islam in September 2006.

Hardly anyone had heard of Manuel II Palaeologus, the old codger he quoted with such explosive results. Not many knew that he was the antepenultimate Roman emperor, or that he lived in what is now Istanbul.

But after six centuries of obscurity, Manuel’s views were top of the news.

“Show me what Mohammed brought that was new,” said the Pope in Regensburg, “and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached.”

That sentence was taken out of context, flashed round the world, and soon there were riots everywhere from Jakarta to Qom.

The doors of churches were stoved in by mobs. Morocco recalled its ambassador to the Holy See.

Most wretchedly of all, Somali gunmen were so stoked up by the anti-Papal imprecations of the local imam that on Sept 16, shortly before lunch, they pulled up outside a Catholic-run hospital in Mogadishu and fired seven shots into the back of a sweet-faced, 62-year-old Italian nun called Sister Leonella.

It was no accident that the head of the Roman Catholic Church should quote the despairing words of the father of the last Roman emperor.

The views of the present Pope about Islam, or at least the views he cited and from which he at no point dissented in his speech, are very old indeed. They are at least partly dictated by deep underlying accretions of phobia and anxiety.

It is these subconscious layers of prejudice that help to explain how we think about everything from Islamic terrorism to Turkish membership of the EU.

To understand how these attitudes came to be formed, we need to look right back to the time of Manuel II Palaeologus, and the role of Islam in the death throes of the Roman Empire.

Manuel was not a “Byzantine”, or at least he would not have understood what you meant by that polemical term, coined in 16th-century Germany.

He was a Roman, a Romaios, and though he spoke in Greek, that was because Greek was a Roman language. His coins still called him “king” and “autocrator”, and he was the direct titular heir of Augustus Caesar, in an unbroken tradition going back 13 centuries.

He was the Vice Gerent of God on Earth, the ruler of the Roman Empire – though the Roman Empire over which he ruled had been sliced down to a tiny rump.

By 1391 the position was so bad that Manuel had to give himself up as a hostage to the sultan, the appalling Beyazit, and to go out and watch the Turks on their dreadful business.

He was made a spectator of the Turkish destruction of what had been the heartland of civilisation, and of the Roman world, and Manuel’s anti-Islamic appeal has a resonance today, because Turkey is again being considered for membership of the EU.

In so far as there is a problem with the Turkish application, it is little to do with economics. Turkish per capita GDP is bigger than some previous EU entrants’.

It’s not about Cyprus, or poverty, or population. It’s not even that the Turks have sallow skin, thick eyebrows, or low foreheads, or whatever other prejudiced stereotype you choose.

No, my friends, the reason the richest nations on earth have havered for so long about admitting Johnny Turk to their club is all about – you know – “values”.

As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, put it breathily on the Today programme: “Surely a European Union has to be more than economic? It has to have common values and so on…”

And as for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, here is what he said when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger, back in 2004. “Turkey is in permanent contrast to Europe,” he said, and admission to the EU would be a mistake.

What these politicians mean, with their nudge-nudge remarks about “values” and “culture” and “Europeanness”, is that in the course of that thousand years something rather fundamental happened to the Roman Empire and to Constantinople. That something was Islam.

Adolf Hitler was not a noted classical scholar, but he took a professional interest in the rise and fall of Reichs. “I often wonder,” the dictator mused, “why the ancient world collapsed.” It is a very good question, and much depends on what you mean by collapse.

Hitler was too busy conquering Belgium to read the works of its greatest historian, but in 1935 Henri Pirenne had produced an answer to the Führer’s question. It was called Mahomet and Charlemagne, and though hardly anyone is now willing to defend the argument in its entirety, it has proved one of the most influential works of our time.

Henri Pirenne looked at the barbarian invasions of the western Empire. Where others have seen breakdown and disaster, he was more struck by the continuities.

In spite of their name, the Vandals did not destroy all the Roman villas.

They liked to live in them, and even if there were a few tiles missing, the agricultural system was recognisably Roman. There were still land taxes, and the same latifundia – the big farms – and the same tolls at the markets.

Above all, they benefited from the same great Roman unity – the economic system that was based around Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean.

Plato once came up with a fine metaphor for the Greek cities that ringed the Mediterranean: they were like frogs around a pond, he said; and in many ways that metaphor was still accurate.

The frogs were larger, perhaps, and they were more like Greco-Roman frogs, but they were still all the same species, croaking and communicating across the prosperous inner sea.

And then, says Henri Pirenne, there came the Muslim invasions of the seventh and eighth centuries.

The Persian Empire fell. Egypt was lost. Africa was lost, the breadbasket of the Roman world. The Arabs were completely different in their war aims from the Germanic tribes who had pushed down from the north and sacked Rome.

They didn’t want to integrate. They didn’t want to buy into that gorgeous Roman civilisation. They didn’t aspire to Romanitas, let alone Christianitas. The Germans became Romanised as soon as they entered Romania.

As Pirenne puts it, the Roman became Arabised as soon as he was conquered by Islam.

Onwards and upwards roared the Muslims.

They conquered Spain. They burst through the Pyrenees, capturing Anjou and Arles and what had been Roman Provence.

Thanks to the Muslim embargo on trade with the infidel, and their possession of Spain and North Africa, the western Mediterranean became a Moorish lake from which sea traffic had all but disappeared.

Pirenne quotes the 14th-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldoun, who says gloatingly that, except for the bit nearest Constantinople, “the Christians could not float a plank upon the sea”.

The result was the destruction of the Roman Economic Community, and the collapse of trade.

Papyrus disappears, Pirenne points out. Gold becomes far scarcer. Half the frogs around the Mediterranean pond were turned into Muslim frogs.

The vital point is that they croaked in Arabic, and they had nothing to do with the Greco-Roman frogs. It was the end, says Pirenne, of the unity of the Roman system. It marked a steep decline in prosperity.

There are many who now say that this brilliant thesis is a gross oversimplification.

But even if it is only half-true, even if Pirenne’s critics are right to say that these transformations were well on the way before the Muslim invasions, one can hardly doubt the profound psychological and emotional pull of what he says.

Deep in the European subconscious is the memory of a war with the Muslims; how Sicily was lost, how half of Spain was conquered and finally how Constantinople was sacked on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, a date that lives in infamy.

The Turks battered down the doors of churches and enslaved people on the spot.

Women were ravished; girls and boys were raped on the altar tables. Hundreds of severed heads bobbed in the waters, reminding one Venetian of rotten melons in the canals of his native city.

Knowing that the city was lost, Manuel’s son, Constantine XI Dragases, cast off his imperial raiment and charged into the fray. When his savaged body was recovered, it is said that the sultan, Mehmet II, had his head stuck on a pole.

For 900 years, a gilt cross had been seen on the vast dome of Hagia Sophia. Now Mehmet commanded a senior imam to ascend the pulpit, and as the slashing of throats and smashing of pictures continued all around, he announced in the name of Allah the All-Merciful and Compassionate that there was no God but God and Mohammed was his prophet.

It was the end of Rome, in the sense that Constantinople was still the imperial capital.

It was the end of Christianity as the dominant religion of what was to become Istanbul. From that date, Turkey joins Egypt and North Africa and the huge tracts of the former Empire which our Popes and prelates and politicians think are not culturally congruent with modern, western Europe – because they fell to Islam.

The French object to the Turks because of the Armenian massacres, as though France were guiltless herself. Brussels occasionally launches another of its sermons about gender equality, though it should be remembered that Turkey gave women the vote before Belgium.

Far more important is the Turkish record on human rights, and this is very far from perfect.

But then neither was the Greek human rights record when she was admitted to the EEC; and it is one of the most important reasons for keeping the Turks on the tram-tracks to EU membership, surely, that we thereby help the progressive forces in Turkey, and stop the country drifting backwards.

There is no doubt that the present west European snootiness – all this blather about “values” from the Popes and the priests and the politicians – is beginning to turn the Turks off. The more pro-Islamic mood in Turkish politics is starting to impress other countries in the Middle East, and Turkish influence is spreading in the area for the first time since the dissolution of the Islamic caliphate in 1924. The number of flights from Istanbul to Damascus has doubled since 2000. Arab visitors to Turkey have trebled between 2001 and 2005, and in that year one million Iranians flew for their hols to the Turkish Riviera.

Now: what would be better for the long-term health of the planet – a Turkey increasingly apathetic about Europe, and interested in forging links with Iran? Or one firmly entrenched in the European Union, reaching out to provide a stabilising influence in what will remain, in our lifetimes, the most dangerous region of the world? I know what I want. So why does everyone hesitate? As the Pope indicated, the problem is religious, or “cultural”. It won’t do.

We need reconciliation, not repulsion. We need reciprocity, not rejection. Instead of intensifying the differences, by burbling on about alien “values”, we should see that we are coming to a critical moment in our discussions with Turkey. We either shore up the Ataturk achievement, and reinforce Turkey’s huge success in becoming a secular democracy with a Muslim population. Or we wrinkle up our noses at the Turks because of their religion.

And if we do, what are we saying to moderate Muslims all over the world? What are we saying to those who believe it is possible to make an accommodation between Islam and democracy? What are we saying to the millions of Muslims who have made their homes and lives in western Europe, including Britain? Are they a kind of geographical error?

Should they be barred, by their alien “culture”, from living here? We would be crazy to reject Turkey, which is not only the former heartland of the Roman empire but also, I see, one of the leading suppliers of British fridges. One Turkish company alone has 15 per cent of the UK fridge market.

Think of all those Turkish fridges, thundering through the passes of the Balkans to Germany and Britain. Think of the intimate interdependency it sets up between the workers of Turkey and the kitchens of Britain.

Think of the colossal numbers of Britons now buying property in Turkey.

I am not saying that a lively trade in fridges or timeshares means political union. Nor am I saying that this process should happen quickly, or that we should soon allow unlimited migration from Turkey to the UK. Absolutely not.

But what do we gain by continually asserting some “cultural” gulf between us and this “alien” people?

One day, if we get it right with Turkey, we could rebuild the whole ancient harmonious union around the Mediterranean, the rich and free dissemination of produce described by Henri Pirenne, from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Bosphorus; from Tunis to Lyons.

We could heal the rupture created by the Muslim invasions. We could create, once again, the Roman Economic Community built around Mare Nostrum.

Over time, we need to develop a new and deeper relationship between the EU and the Maghreb countries of North Africa, based on the old Roman idea of tolerance.

It is time we all grew up and recognised that there is not a cat’s chance in hell that Islam will build a new caliphate in western Europe; and it is time the Muslims got with the programme, and recognised the irreversibility of female emancipation, and also that there is no disgrace in being altogether apathetic on the question of whether or not Mohammed is the sole Prophet of God, and that if a religion is truly great it does not matter a damn whether people draw pictures of its prophet.

That will never happen as long as Muslims feel demonised, as long as their very sense of identity and belonging is created by a sense of rejection and inferiority.

One of the reasons the Roman system worked so well for so long was that different religions and races were a matter of curiosity and respect, not paranoia.

That is a dream worth reviving – and not just because it holds out the hope of reuniting the two halves of the Roman empire around the shores of the Mediterranean.

If we can achieve a reconciliation between Islam and Christianity, I suppose we might also save the lives of innocent people like Sister Leonella.

The Dream of Rome by Boris Johnson (HarperCollins) is available for £8.99 + 99p p&p. To order please call Telegraph Books on 0870 428 4112

27 thoughts on “Dream of Rome ~ Turkey”

  1. “The Turks battered down the doors of churches and enslaved people on the spot.
    Women were ravished; girls and boys were raped on the altar tables. Hundreds of severed heads bobbed in the waters, reminding one Venetian of rotten melons in the canals of his native city.”

    Some may say that the repetition of 600 year old history such as this isn’t likely to speed reconciliation, especially when acts of atrocity by C21st Christians using WMD are uppermost in peoples’ minds…

    As a swashbuckling read, great – but if you are truly wanting diplomacy around ‘Mare Nostrum’, then such use of the English language can hardly be translated not to offend, and only draws on feelings and stories of barbaric Christian acts which may otherwise have lain dormant in the minds of normal, peaceful Muslims.

  2. Is it that we are afraid, or is it that, in reality, Turkey simply cannot be termed ‘European’? (Any more than Israel -for example- can). Also there is the fact that Turkey still denies its role in the slaughter of many tens of thousands of Kurds before and during the first world war.

    The EU is the European Union: It is not an alliance of countries bordering the mediterranean, however practicable such an alliance might be.

  3. Deep in the European subconscious is the memory…

    Is there a European subconscious? And by what means has the memory of the fall of Sicily entered into it?

    I suggest there is no such thing as a European subconscious. There are instead written histories. But for these, nobody would know a thing about the past.

    We could create, once again, the Roman Economic Community built around Mare Nostrum.

    Boris always seems to want to reconstruct the Roman empire. It’s a nostalgia that comes with a Classics training, I suppose.

  4. I notice that, when North African countries are mentioned in the article and comments, there is no mention of Algeria. If Islamic factions in Turkey become more aggressive and popular, the Algerian Civil War (1991-2002) is a model for what could happen in Turkey, in my opinion.

    Scared of Turkey? Of what Turkey could become, perhaps. Once again we have the possibility of democracy being used to elect a government that would strip away democracy, and turn the country in to a Sharia theocracy, following the apparent will of the people.

  5. We can equally say that all, or at least most, religions bring only evil things. The attitude of our current & the previous Pope towards Franjo “genocide is commanded by the word of the Almighty” Tudjman of the Croatian Nazis & the Krajina Holocaust makes the Pope hardly an exemplar of morality himself.

    Nonetheless the religious division should give us pause. The fact that Turkey is not, except for a small area, part of Europe should at least cause us to look askance.

    However the 3 biggies are that Turkey is a 3rd world state, that it has a large pupulation & would become the 2nd largest state in the EU, & that it has a fast growing population which will make it larger than Russia in a little over a generation. Because population growth leads to having a large part of the population being of child bearing age it takes a long time to slow. I see no advantages, even purely philosophical ones, commensurate to the disadvantages to us from union with Turkey.

  6. Never mind reconciling Christianity and Islam, lets try to reconcile the following statement:

    <‘… and that if a religion is truly great it does not matter a damn whether people draw pictures of its prophet’<

    with this one:

    <‘One of the reasons the Roman system worked so well for so long was that different religions and races were a matter of curiosity and respect, not paranoia.’<

    Let’s get away from the Roman Empire and the EU for a minute and think about 21st Century Britian; a society diverse in cultural heritage, currently debating the subjective politcal and social philosophies of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘intergration’ and ‘cohesion’. It is not long since Sir Trevor Phillips announced he believed that ‘multiculturalism isn’t working’, prompting Ken Livingstone to suggest ‘soon he’ll be joining the BNP’.

    Can we then equate Sir Trevor’s comments to ‘drawing pictures of the prophet’? Years earlier mainstream criticism of multiculturalism was cast down with accusations of racism in a manner akin to angry Muslim youths burning Danish flags.

    Does the fact that sensible mainstream discourse has ensued suggest that our society is working well, treating the ‘religion’ of multiculturalism with ‘curiosity and respect’ or does it suggest an explosion of institutional paranoia has gripped society, detonated by the bombs of 7/7?

    There’s no question that British society is ‘great’ enough to withstand people ‘drawing pictures of it’s prophet’. We seem to do nothing but criticise ourselves, and in an increasingly sensationalist manner. Even minority groups are learning how to be more sensational with their gripes. Muslim Council of Great Britain Leader Muhammed Abdul Bari recently asked MP’s ‘What is the degree of xenophobia that tipped Germany in the 1930s towards a murderous ethnic and cultural racism?’. Tabloids and Broadsheets alike were awash with his comparison of modern Britain to our former arch-enemy Nazi Germany, yet no-one went out to the streets to burn the Holy Qaran. Society proved not to be so fragile as to take serious offence from a comparison with a regime we lost a million lives fighting.

    The reaction to Mr Bari’s comments in the media do beg an important question however. If he had simply trotted out the same old line warning against increasing ‘Islamophobia’ would the press have even bothered to publicise his gripes? The modern media is by nature sensationist, not only does it draw cartoons of people’s prophets, it revels in the aftermath and inevitable flag-burning. Whilst the average man in the street does treat the unknown with curiosity and respect, competition, and the fact that sensationism sells, drives the media to fan the flames of paranoia.

    This criticism could fairly be levelled on the politicans too. The alleged ‘sexing up’ of the notorious dodgy dossier, claims that global warming will cause a seventy metre rise in sea levels, the hysteria about what we eat and the ‘deadliness’ of passive smoking. Who is infecting the public with flag-burning paranoid rage? In the case of extremist Muslims it might well be certain religious leaders, desparate to cling onto the attention of their followers amid the temptations of the modern world. In the case of everyone else, who generally look to the politcal and media classes to satisfy their curiosity about current affairs, perhaps the cartoon drawing, paranoia inducing journalists and politicans need to aportion a generous slice of the blame onto their own plates.

  7. I haven’t got around to reading this book – I will have to some time. Anyhow, I think a lot of what this says boils down to: join all cultures up together, Europeanise them, and you avoid conflict. And as a model, look at the Roman Empire, where there was a great deal of cultural unity from Alexandria to Eboracum, whilst incorporating a lot of diversity, in spite of a lot of movement of peoples.

    I have some sympathy with this idea, but Britain doesn’t fit in with this comfortably. We hardly wish to return to the status of a Britannia, a backward province unpopular with governors and dumped when the barbarians came down from the north owing to its inessentiality.

    One thing that helps is that Roman culture was more or less an appropriated Greek culture, given a no-nonsense pragmatic Latin streak, dressed up here and there in the native garb of assorted subject peoples. It is questionable whether we approve too strongly of the culture we’re exporting ourselves. We do have a great lack of confidence in our own culture. There is lack of faith in western belief systems. The Romans were appropriating a culture they admired, wheras us Europeans are trying to cling on to old bits of native culture in the face of an aggressive commercial American culture. We are not basically convinced that we want to export our values at all and I think this does Turkey’s cause no good.

    Also, we have to consider the clearest political difference between the EEC and the Roman Empire – the Roman Empire was Roman, governed by Roman senators, later Roman Emperors. There was no doubt about the primacy of one specific group within the Empire. Wheras in this decision, we have assorted countries looking to look after assorted interests. Every country which joins the EU seems to be closer to the UK than to France and Germany – so France and Germany are hostile to more new countries.

    Anyway, I haven’t made up my mind on most of this stuff – I have to say I feel we should court Turkey to a) avoid it allying with Iran and b) because I have hopes it would be close to us in its position in the EU if we push for its entry.

    Some comments on earlier replies.

    Russelg: It is simply true that this occured; and Boris is writing for English people, not for Muslims. He’s trying to persuade us to accept them, not the reverse. I’m sure Boris would write the same about many an Aryan conqueror. I believe this book is in no small part an entertainment; and fairness and diplomacy are dull things. As for Mare Nostrum, the Romans wrote about the terrible things the Gauls did, for example, burning men alive and so on – they still absorbed them into their sphere.

    Chris Morriss: The question is – what is the purpose of an alliance based entirely on some superficial geography; It would be like England refusing to accept Cornwall into England because no Angles lived there. Remember that the Commonwealth has, or will soon, accept Rwanda, a former French colony, into its ranks. The only case you put is the European Nationalist case, which is flawed because of the lack of a “European identity” in many of the present member states (not least Great Britain).

    idlex: I suspect the comparison of the Roman Empire with the EEC is a running theme of this book of his this is taken from? As for European subconscious, I think there is one; it’s like, inherited culture, passed on in part by written histories, in part by stories, etc – its a stronger thing in other parts of the continent than here – Britain has never been comfortably European – it was a backward backwater of a place for a lot of the Middle ages, often belonged more to the Nordic Sphere than the Mediterranean Sphere, Oscar Wilde wrote in The Importance of Being Earnest that Europe had heavily passed us by.

    Break now.

  8. Your treatment of Turkey (“A general speaks his mind”, March 14th), while repeating same old EU-clichés about Turkey, adding nothing new, speaks volumes about the centuries old “crusader mentality”, downgraded to “Christian Club” in the lst half of 20th century, which seems to be the driving force behind EU’s actions. And actions do speak louder than words.

    Consider these, for example:

    When Turkey signed on the European Common Market in 1962, Spain, Portugal, and Greece were dictatorships. When Turkey applied for full membership in 1987, the Soviet Bloc countries like Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania were still considered “the enemy”. Now the first 3 are joined to the EU and the latter 2 are also joined lately.All of these countries, even Cyprus and Malta and others, passed Turkey by, simply because they were Christians. It seems, if you are Christian and you “breathe”, you are accepted. And if you are not Christian, you are not accepted “…even if you can catch a bird with your mouth!” (A Turkish proverb).

    While Turkey is asked to solve its problems with Greece over Aegean and Cyprus before entering EU, Greece had never been asked to do the same. Doesn’t it take two to tango?

    When EU asks Turkey to lift the embargo on Armenia, the aggressor which ethnically cleansed 1 million Azerbaijanis and still occupies 20% of Azerbaijan, the same EU sees nothing wrong with applying embargo on Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

    Isn’t it about time that EU looked at its own doubles standards when EU is dealing with Turkey? EU didn’t even include, for example, the most brutal terrorists like PKK and DHKP-C in their list of terrorist organizations, after Turkey lost a whopping 40,000 victims in war with terror. What is EU still waiting for? A European 9/11 to take place?
    With Respect

  9. <‘What is EU still waiting for? (Altun)<

    Turkey to implement our ridiculous human rights treaty that allows highjackers to get off scot free. Perhaps Turkey could do us all a favour and try and renegotiate it, no-one else seems to have either the politcal will or the clout.

  10. Turkish medieval intolerance against European democratic values and traditions, by Islamic extremists who have settled in the EU, has not endeared Moslem settlers to the indigenous inhabitants of Europe. In the EU there are an estimated 3m Turks working in Europe, mostly in Germany. It is expected, with accession, a further 1.8m Turkish workers are expected to move to Germany alone. Such a prospect is not welcomed by much of the German public, due to the failure of much of the existing Turkish community to integrate into mainstream society.

    To sum up, for Europe, for its foreign policy and strategic ambitions there is a case for Turkey’s accession. In terms of providing a new source of labour, the case is doubtful, since the existing mechanisms for importing labour to supply European business work well enough. As for the accession bringing economic benefits to Europe, the case is not proven. On constitutional matters, unless EU reforms its constitution, in particular voting rights and on policy making and implementation are achieved, the disruption caused by Ankara’s accession, means that the case for the status quo in Brussels relations should be maintained. The strongest case against Turkey’s accession is Europe’s experience of the failure of Moslem immigrants to integrate and share in mainstream European democratic traditions and values. Overall, one is forced to conclude that there appears to be little advantage in Brussels continuing with negotiations to let Turkey join as a new member of the European Union

    Extract from Oxford Prospect article TURKEY IN OR OUT?

  11. “If we can achieve a reconciliation between Islam and Christianity, I suppose we might also save the lives of innocent people like Sister Leonella.”

    I may be wrong here, but that statment does come across as saying that the murder of people who have offended Islam is justified under Islam. I have heard many times that Islam is a peace loving religion so surely this murder (and the burning alive of African Christians during the riots in Nigeria last year)was nothing to do with the attitude of Islam, but more to do with a violent few looking for an excuse to kill.

  12. Well mate as a Tukish person I dont want Turkey in EU
    coz EU doesnt mean any Thing.
    just Sucking Union…
    I give 15 years to EU
    in that time there will be not EU…
    kind Regards.

  13. The problem is to many Europeans Turkey comes across as a country that is stuck in the middle ages and discriminatory. For Turkey to get approval among the people of the EU people it will have to prove that it believes in full equal rights to all people regardless of their sex, sexuality, religion, race or whether they have a disability. Most European people (and all of the European governments)do believe it is inferior to believe that homosexuals are not equal to heterosexuals or that women should not have the SAME and equal rights to men or to say disabled people can be discriminated against etc this is why we have laws against it. How then can we want to allow a country to join the EU when this country is believed to be so discriminatory. I even heard that Turkey wanted the EU to ban extra-marital affairs, I do not know if it is true or not, but the idea of it´certainly makes Turkley look laughable as an EU candidate.

  14. One thing in Turkeys favour is that is has taken steps to make government institutions secular. For instance I believe Turkey banned the headscarf and other religios symbols from public buildings before France did.

  15. I hope Boris, you won’t mind my repeating below on your site the entry in my own blog which I posted about your thought provoking extract in the Telegraph.
    As readers of this blog will know, Tory Heaven is in favour of a vastly slimmed down EU, effectively little more than what would be a European Free Trade Zone, much as originally envisaged in the idea of the ‘Common Market’ (an idea, alas, departed from). There is certainly no good reason why Turkey could not be admitted to such a free trade zone. The more difficult issue, however, is whether Turkish membership would be good for the kind of Europe that is more likely to develop in the future, namely an increasingly centralised, bureaucratic and socialist Europe, such as seems to be the dream of many of our European partners. In such an enterprise, one where the vast European Government is likely to interfere more and more in the lives of its citizens, as socialist enterprises ever do, the worry might be that a large, mostly Islamic nation like Turkey, may seek to exert an influence that might be at odds with the more liberalised, Christian culture of the rest of the EU. France has certainly expressed vociferously its reservations at admitting Turkey; the Germans equally have their concerns; and Pope Benedict has made it clear that he is opposed to Turkey’s membership.

    Boris Johnson, on the other hand, takes a different view. Drawing a comparison with the Roman Empire (which is the principal subject of his new book) he concludes that “One of the reasons why the Roman system worked so well for so long was that different religions and races were a matter of curiosity and respect, not paranoia. That is a dream worth reviving.” He favours the entry of Turkey to the EU, but points out that its largely Muslim population would have to make certain adjustments to their thinking if its membership were to be a success: Muslims would need to have “recognised the irreversibility of female emancipation, and also that there is no disgrace in being altogether apathetic on the question of whether or not Mohammed is the sole Prophet of God, and that if a religion is truly great it does not matter a damn whether people draw pictures of its prophet.”

    Mr Johnson makes a persuasive argument. In addition to referring to the success of the Roman Empire, he might also have mentioned the British Empire. It stretched, at its height, to over a quarter of the land mass of the world, and encompassed people of vastly differing races and religion in one large successful free trade zone. However, and Mr Johnson omitted to say this (at least in the extract published today), features of both the Roman and British Empires were that, while their success lay as free trading zones, they were governed by a small, homogeneous group. The Roman Emperor and his Governors all shared the Imperial vision, a Common Roman goal of spreading Roman civilisation and expanding the wealth and authority of Rome; similarly with the British Empire, Her Majesty’s Government, as representatives of the Crown, and the various colonial Governors equally shared a vision of British imperium, and a common religion and culture, which vastly assisted maintenance of the cohesiveness of the Empire. The EU does not share these advantages. The Governance of the EU is split between culturally distinct Member States who form continually shifting power blocks on different issues. There is no common culture or imperial vision, but rather the wishy washy principles of multiculturalism, tolerance and diversity, recipes, in the view of Tory Heaven, for the future disintegration of the EU into cultural, religious and regional ghettos.

    Tory Heaven would be delighted to welcome Turkey into a reformed, small government, solely free trade based Europe. Its entry, however, into the centralised, overweaning governmental EU of the present and likely future may very well only serve to further exacerbate existing problems. We ought to set our own house in order before welcoming in any further visitors.

  16. <‘Most European people (and all of the European governments)do believe it is inferior to believe that homosexuals are not equal to heterosexuals or that women should not have the SAME and equal rights to men or to say disabled people can be discriminated against etc’ (k)<

    Prove it! Prove that most Europeans don’t regard themselves as morally superior to homosexuals. Prove that most European people believe that employment law should force an employer to allow a woman that has recently had a child to start choosing her own hours of work. Prove it that most European people believe that the blind should have equal rights to join the emergency services.

    As for ‘all European governments’ don’t make me laugh. They seem to believe in the right to insist ‘do as I say not as I do’. They have replaced traditional God-fearing beliefs, often at pain of prosecution, with a doctrine of ‘equality’. Look at some of the evidence as to how they behave.

    1) Under Section 52(1) of the UK Equality Act 2006 ‘It is unlawful for a public authority exercising a function to do any act which constitutes discrimination’. Section 52(3) lists the exemptions to this rule which include: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and ‘the authorities of either House of Parliament’.

    So ‘equality’ is unworkable for the lawmakers (I agree) but not the plebs who have to administer their idiotic legislation?

    2) The Palace of Westminster is exempt from the draconian smoking ban that prevents people from buying land, building a public house and allowing their punters to smoke.

    3) According to the media, when the anti-smoking lobby in the European Parliament recently tried to ban smoking naywher in the building the smokers rebelled by just sparking up wherever they liked!

    4) Going transatlantic is turns out that holier-than-thou, almighty saviour of the planet, doomsday-prophet extraordinaire Al Gore’s house uses 10 times as much electricity as the average Yank’s does.

    K, you sound like you’ve been sucked into the loony-left renaissance. Led on one side by Red-Ken and his ‘free Venezuela, cheap oil for economically inactive Londoners, free jollies for £150k a year transport planners and multi-culturalism rules’ radicals, and opposed on the other side by Trev Phillips’s ‘multiculturalism isn’t working, make them do community service, make small businesses pander to the needs of the oppressed minorities at the whim of town hall bureaucrats’ moderates.

  17. Hooray for talking sense as usual, Boris. However I fear that, as usual, the uneducated dimwit jobsworths who control our destinies won’t listen. They never do – look at the midden that’s been made of Iraq, for instance. I find it one of the most depressing things about the news. One of Fred Hoyle’s characters in ‘The Black Cloud’ comments: ‘Politicians at the top, then the military, and the real brains at the bottom’ (in this story, the politicos are facing a situation not unlike the global warming crisis but worse). Perhaps there might be something to be said for the Plato’s notion of ‘philosopher-kings’?

  18. Steven_L
    I said the equal and same rights. That does not mean that I believe that woman should have more rights and different rights to men, it means I believe their rights should be (shock horror) equal and the same!

    This means I think it is wrong to have laws that make it ok for a man to commit adultary, but illegal for a woman to commit the same crime. I think it should be illegal to fire or hire someone, who can do perform their occupation well, simply because of their sex, sexuality, religion, disability etc. Discrimination is not defined as allowing a person to do a job they cannot do, but it is the refusal to allow them to do something they are capable of because of prejudice. Not allowing someone who cannot see to do a job that requires them to see is not discrimination, but refusing to allow them to take a taxi ride because of their condition is, as is assuming that they cannot use a computer or cannot take a degree. Just as it is discrimination to refuse to allow a white, male to take a job he is the most capable for simply because he does not fit into any minority groups.
    Futhermore, believing one is morally superior to someone else does not mean that a person believes that the other person is inferior or that they should have inferior rights or that a person who discriminates against them is superior. I know nuns and priests who probably do believe they are morally superior to others, but that does not mean that they believe in laws that discriminate against anyone who has sex before marriage or does not go to Church.

  19. Should Turkey be in the EU?
    Well at least part of it s connected to the European continental landmass which Britain isnt. (I dont know if Gibraltar qualifies.)

    So let Turkey in- then take Britain out, is the answer to that.

    I would nt want to spoil it for the French and Germans.

    I ve nothing against secular muslims either.

    If you want to know who the moderates are i suppose you could try asking what the penalty for apostasy in Islam is /should be.

  20. Steve L + ‘K’
    An interesting digression onto the topic of discrimination.

    The main culprits lately appear to be some publically funded services. Although they say they dont have racial and other quotas their “affirmative action” policies disadvantage some groups.

    2 recent examples-
    Amongst the reasons given for moving scores of prison service jobs from Corby to Leicester are to benefit areas with an ‘ethnically diverse’ workforce with more employment, according to the local Tory Party candidate in the town- Louise Bagshawe.

    Tough if you live in Corby, which has for years had unemployment above the national average, and now lose your job! I guess your area is considered too ‘hideously white’

    The Police ‘service’ in a certain area recently admitted to racial discrimination by giving every ethnic minority candidate or woman an interview whilst hundreds of suitably qualified white male applications were automatically discounted.

    Also, It seems in the Police, you can get the sack for mis-pronouncing the word Shi-ites (as in muslims) as ‘Shitties’, but if you are of Iranian descent and leave messages on a woman’s answerphone threatening to kill her you still get promoted to Chief Superintendent or higher.

    Funny old world innit?

  21. “Is it that we are afraid, or is it that, in reality, Turkey simply cannot be termed ‘European’? …

    The EU is the European Union: It is not an alliance of countries bordering the mediterranean, however practicable such an alliance might be.”

    How European exactly are Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Madeira, the Azores, Ceuta, Melilla – all constituent parts of the European Union? Would you allow white, Christian Russia to join? After all, about as large a slice of Turkey lies in Europe as Russia.

    Turkey has long been a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe – not to mention Nato (though it’s hardly on the Atlantic).

    And 11 million Turks live in the geographically European bit of Turkey – that’s more than the number of Belgians.

  22. I was very impressed by this extract. Despite their total absorption with their primaries at the moment, I thought I would reproduce it, after getting permission, on one or two of the United States Democratic Party sites (the more left leaning progressive blogs). I did so by describing it as a “Conservatives’s Views”, knowing the kneejerk response that this might create. I am pleased at the early reactions to the extract:

    “Damn, I wish the “conservatives” on this side of the Atlantic were so rational and forward-looking. He writes very well, too, unlike the vast bulk of conservative politicians in the States.”

    “A recent diary illuminated the need of America to again lead by the force of our example rather than our force of arms. Mr. Johnson seems to have an appreciation for the power of diplomacy. He appears to understand that true leadership requires cooperation rather than coercion, and that caring and common interests build stronger foundations than fear and self-interest can.

    America deeply needs not just a new leader, but a new kind of leadership. The tyranny of Cheney and Bush should be held up as an example of how NOT to lead. Bush is small minded, self absorbed and utterly ignorant of how badly his policies have undermined the long term interests of America and our allies.

    Mr. Johnson appears to be the opposite of Bush. I hope he has lots of opportunity to exhibit a better kind of leadership than we’ve seen over here under Bush.

    The world needs it and deserves it.”

    “Whiplash. No other way to describe it: there he was building up a solid case against Turkish entrance to the EU — a case that I wanted to refute, but could find few ways to do so. Then he goes and demolishes it himself, with even more precision than he’d built it up in the first place.

    It’s a rhetorical skill that’s all but disappeared in the U.S.: the ability to present the other side’s views as anything other than a strawman. Would that we had a few conservative leaders like that!”

  23. Uhm excuse my ignorance but will it be the skull and bones , the molech worshippers , the bilderbergers or the good old scottish rite freemasons who decide the next puppet for good old uncle sam… far left far right..meet the new boss not quite the same spin as the old boss..

  24. Unfortunately I dont think it is possible to heal people’s differences and ‘just get along’. It is human nature to fear difference and ‘the outsider’, it is a constant in history.

    The most persuasive argument I can think of for including Turkey in the EU is to make the ‘outsider’ further away.

  25. Boris knows a bit about the Graeco-Roman world but zilch about its Islamic successor.

    1. The stuff about bloodthirsty Muslims is completely beside the point. Read any history of the crusades. Everyone was at it.

    2. The Muslims were highly conscious of a sense of continuity with the Classical world they took over and inhabited. Byzantine craftsmen built and decorated the Dome of the Rock and the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus. The Mu’tazilite philosophers were steeped in Plato and Aristotle. The Ottomans were proud to be the successor s of the Byzantines and protectors of the Constantinople patriarchate. If you go to Morocco today you see people dressed in late Roman costume (that’s why they look like medieval monks), idling the day away, like the Romans, in steam baths … etc etc

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