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Build bridges in Turkey

Turkey's Islamist party has escaped being banned. It now must reach out to secularists.

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In the big wide world, democratic Muslim Turkey serves as an essential bridge between Islam and the West. Turkey has brokered talks between Israel and Syria, and between the US and Iran. It's aiming to join the European Union. But now it needs to do some serious bridge-building at home.

This NATO country of 71 million people has its geographic toe in Europe and its heel next to some of the hottest trouble spots in the Middle and Near East. For months, though, it's been running pell-mell toward its own Muslim-Western chasm. Thankfully, last week's surprise decision by Turkey's highest court pulled it back.

The constitutional court decided not to ban the popular governing party, the AKP, which is mildly Islamist. But 10 of its 11 judges did find the party to be "a center of antisecular activity" and stripped it of half of its state funding.

Essentially, the court has put Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his party on probation. No more creep of Islam into the public sphere, such as allowing women to wear head scarves at public university – a measure the court struck down earlier this year. The court was holding fast to Turkey's secularist tradition, its separation of mosque and state, as established by modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

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