Has Turkey been transformed by seven years of Islamic government?

Suzy Hansen in The National:

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 19 17.02 In the West, telescopic conversations about Turkey usually boil down to one simple underlying anxiety: Is Turkey, the secular star of the Muslim world, becoming more religious? Are the Islamic capitalists of the AKP steering it away from Europe and toward the Middle East? Moments of tension in the Turkish-US alliance – the denial of basing rights for the Iraq war, Erdogan’s Davos donnybrook with Shimon Peres, Turkish coziness with Syria and Hamas – have led Turkey’s “western friends”, as Erdogan calls them, to nervous scrutiny of the shifting mores of Turkish society.

Secularists and outsiders used to fret over what it would mean if an Islamic party came to power. Would they ban alcohol, liberate the headscarf, reject their western allies? The place to gauge the transformation, however, is not in parliament but on the street – in the mahalle.

As in most nearly democratic societies, social transformation happens at the street level, and slowly. It’s not that national politics don’t matter – a giant win for the AKP could lead to the election of a conservative mayor in your neighbourhood, simply because his ties to the party will convince voters he has the access to get things done. In Turkey, and concerning questions of lifestyle, it’s important to fix attention at the local level rather than leaving everything at the feet of a prime minister who must answer to generals, EU officials and the United States. It’s not Erdogan, after all, but your mayor who might ban alcohol at your local municipality cafe.

And yet, after seven years of AKP domination, the question remains: what has the era of Islamic rule meant for everyday life in Turkey?

More here.