Even though yesterday's election of Abdullah Gul as Turkey's new President had been forecast long in advance, it has nevertheless had the effect of sending shock waves through the country's secular establishment.
For the first time since Kemal Ataturk declared in the 1920s that the modern Turkish state should be run on secular, not religious, principles, the country has a president who is a practising Muslim and a parliament that is dominated by an avowedly Islamic party.
For the millions of Turks who remain committed to the Kemalist settlement, the encroachment of Islam into the country's leading political institutions poses a threat not only to their way of life, but also to the state's stability.
The Turkish military, which regards itself as the guardian of Ataturk's legacy, has made threatening noises about Mr Gul's appointment, with General Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey's military chief, going so far as to warn, on the eve of Mr Gul's appointment, that "centres of evil" were trying to "corrode the secular nature of the Turkish republic".
Turkey's military leaders have already forcibly removed four governments over the past 60 years, and there are understandable fears that it might be tempted to do so again.
This would be as foolhardy as it is unnecessary. Mr Gul's wife may offend secularist sensibilities by wearing a headscarf in public, but the former foreign minister is not about to turn Turkey into an Iranian-style theocracy.
Mr Gul is a moderate Islamist who, as the architect of Turkey's attempts to join the European Union, seeks close ties with the West, not friction.
Indeed he is precisely the kind of democratically elected Islamic leader the West should encourage, which is why Brussels is being short-sighted in persisting with its delaying tactics over Turkish entry.
Pakistan under General Pervez Musharraf is a good example of how a military dictatorship can exacerbate, rather than resolve, a nation's political difficulties. It would be a serious blow to Western interests in the region if Turkey were to suffer the same fate.
The Daily Telegraph
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 18:25