Mehdi Hasan at Al Jazeera:
Turkey is a paradox: it is secular and Islamic, modern and traditional, wants to be Western – yet tends to looks eastwards. But whatever Turkey is doing, it seems to be working.
Last year, Turkey emerged as a source of inspiration for countries in the Middle East during the Arab Spring; the country is now considered to be a regional superpower. Wherever Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan goes in the Arab world, he is mobbed by cheering crowds.
Meanwhile, Turkey's dynamic economy is breaking records. In 2011, it became the fastest growing economy in Europe – and the second fastest in the world. Foreign businesses are queuing up to invest in Turkey.
Is it any wonder that the country is thus held up as “the model”, both for emerging economies and for Muslim-majority countries struggling with the transition to democracy? However, inside Turkey, some say liberal democracy and secular freedoms are under assault. There does seem to be a climate of fear in the country's largest city. In Istanbul, I met nervous journalists and bloggers willing to speak only in hushed tones about the growing number of restrictions on free speech. Within 24 hours of our arrival, one of my Al Jazeera colleagues was detained by police officers, who went through his bag and rifled through one of our scripts. They loudly objected to a line referring to the country's “increasingly authoritarian government”. Who says that Turks don't do irony?