thenation.com: Western media are characterizing the demonstrations as a clash between Islamism and secularism—but it’s government abuse of power that Turks are protesting.
Turks gathered at Taksim Square, in Istanbul, for unprecedented protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan over what they see as his authoritarian rule. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Protests in Istanbul rage on after police violence transformed an occupation by a handful of activists in a public park into massive anti-government demonstrations around the country.
The occupation of Gezi Park, located in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, was initially spurred on by government plans to develop a shopping mall over the park, one of the last remaining green spaces in the sprawling metropolis. Media outside of Turkey wrongly characterized this as a tree-hugging environmental protest, rather than a battle over the nature of urban space. After the protests became world news, Western media got it wrong again by characterizing the uproar as a revolt against Islamic influence in Turkish politics.
For The New York Times, Tim Arango frames the protestsas a fight over the country’s identity as Islamic or secular. And the BBC aired a segment portraying the growing movement as a secular revolt against Islamic rule, falsely claiming that 50 percent of the Turkish public is Islamist.
The latter claim is a reference to the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) received nearly 50 percent of the popular vote in the 2011 general elections. But it overlooks the fact that support for the AKP came from many sectors of society, not just devout Muslims.