Modeling Modernity

FATIH SARIBAS / REUTERS

TAKING CHARGE: Turkey's newly elected President Abdullah Gul reviews presidential honour guards as he arrives to take the oath of office in the parliament in Ankara August 28, 2007.

Historians, like economists, are rightfully wary of the phrase "It's different this time." The higher the stakes, the more pressing the desire to avoid past errors. Considering the ravages that followed the introduction of Islamic law, or Shari'a, in places like Iran in 1979 and Afghanistan in the 1990s, Westerners can be forgiven for worrying about the election of a former Islamist, Abdullah Gul, to the presidency of Turkey, the one Muslim democracy that seemed to have avoided Islamic extremism so far.

But there are good reasons to think that this time it is, in...

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