Chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ruprecht Polenz, argues in favour of Turkish accession to the EU, and grapples with negative western perceptions of the nation, as well as of Islam. He spoke to Eren Güvercin
Ruprecht Polenz: This argument is one of the main reasons for public hostility to the idea, whether it is more or less subliminal or openly expressed. Upon closer consideration, this sense that Turkey somehow doesn't belong to Europe, that it is somehow different, ultimately conceals the question of differing religious affiliation, and a highly negative image of Islam. People are afraid of this Islam, they want to keep it at arm's length, and that's why people also don't want to see Turkey in the EU.
What is the source of these qualms?
Ruprecht Polenz: They are deeply rooted in history. If you look at school textbooks and the perception of history, the Occident is always presented in a kind of perpetual strife with the Orient, although closer analysis reveals that Islam was always an integral part of European history. The Ottoman Empire always had its part to play in the concerto of major powers. The modern fundamental European conviction that religion and the state should be separated actually makes it impossible to construct insurmountable political obstacles out of religious convictions.