Why did coup happen?," Mr. Bowen writes that Erdogan “is a political Islamist who has rejected modern Turkey's secular heritage.” It’s a heritage that Turkey—and the Turkish military—take extremely seriously, dating back to the 1920s and Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
It’s true that Erdogan has Islamist roots. He came up through the ranks in the Welfare Party, which was banned by Turkey’s Constitutional Court in 1998 for its opposition to the nation’s secular charter. The following year, Erdogan was jailed for reciting an Islamist poem.
In spite of his early history, Erdogan has not been that much of an Islamist since he's been in power. The controversies that have characterized his eleven years as prime minister and two years as president have little to do with religion.
No, the real problem with Erdogan is not Islamism, but rather, in the words of Mr. Bowen, “Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian and is trying to turn himself into a strong executive president.”
Examples abound of attacks on freedom of the press and separation of powers:
I would be remiss if I didn't address some counter-examples, so here goes: Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AKP) has twice been dragged in front of the Constitutional Court in attempts to shut it down for infringing on the separation of mosque and state. But both attempts failed. It's also been alleged that Erdogan provided support to Islamic State; that charge hasn't stuck either. In fact, one of his accusers, US Vice President Joe Biden, ended up having to apologize. If any support did occur, it was probably more about opposing Assad than supporting Islamism. And although there have been restrictions placed on the sale and advertising of alcohol, they aren't that different from what exists in the United States.
All-in-all, Erdogan more closely resembles a strongman in the mold of Vladimir Putin than an Islamist like Muhammad Morsi. Some of my anti-Islamist friends will no doubt say that he’s playing his cards close to his chest, and he plans to implement a theocracy just as soon as he has consolidated enough power to get away with it. They might be right. But Erdogan’s not really a close-to-his-chest type. He’s more a shoot-from-the-hip, Donald Trump type, with a history of outrageous statements comparing Israelis to Nazis or telling female journalists, “know your place.”
In any case, regardless of whether there's a master plan for theocracy, I hope, for the sake of the Turkish people, that Mr. Erdogan never becomes powerful enough to implement one. Unfortunately, the failure of last night's coup will make the continuing concentration of power in Mr. Erdogan's hands that much harder to prevent.