Sunday, 21 August 2011

Does Italy Need an Ataturk?

I have just read M. Sukru Hanioglu's Ataturk (Princeton UP 2011) - sorry I can't get Blogger to do the umlauts etc - an academic study, dripping footnotes, of Ataturk's world view. For fifteen years, until his death in 1938, Kemal Ataturk drove the creation of modern Turkey as a successor state of the Ottoman Empire, a task he equated with promoting scientific materialism, secularism and Westernisation. To this day, Kemalism provides the main alternative to Turkish Islam - but even Turkish Islam is quite unlike the unreformed Islams of the Arab lands.

Thanks to Ataturk, modern Turkey uses the Roman alphabet and the Christian calendar, is largely unveiled and sends dreadful performers to the Eurovision song contest. Ataturk introduced the Swiss Civil Code, which created equal rights for women, and modelled the Turkish Republic on Europe's republics.

In the Ottoman Empire, enthroned in Constantinople, the Sultan as secular ruler was also the Caliph as religious ruler. In the 1920s, Ataturk first of all abolished the Sultanate and then, a much more sensitive task, abolished the Caliphate. This he saw as essential to the task of modernisation and westernisation.

In this period, Italy was moving in the opposite direction. The Papacy had been defeated in the 19th century and after 1870 the religious ruler no longer controlled a territory (the Papal States). Thus, the inhabitants of the Vatican became, in principle, answerable to Italian law - a situation they found intolerable. Mussolini came to the rescue in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 which gave the Catholic Church a territory - today's Vatican City State - and thus removed Church officials from accountability to anyone else's laws.

The territory is actually a bit bigger than we usually think, since it includes Castel Gandolfo and church Basilicas. Either way, big enough to operate a criminal organisation (including an unsavoury bank) and big enough to give refuge to fugitives from justice. The Vatican's internal organisation remains today opaque and unaccountable.

The absolute monarchy of the Vatican is careful not to offend Italy's government, however corrupt, provided it toes the Vatican line. So it does, since the Church's endorsement is still worth having in a conservative society.

Italy needs an Ataturk who will repudiate the Lateran Treaty and insist that no one who lives in Italy is outside Italian jurisdiction. No more Vatican hiding places, no more Holy See passports.

Its called Modernity, something the Vatican has held at bay since 1929. Time to call time.


No comments:

Post a Comment