Ebru Ş. Canan
The contested nature of Islam and democracy in Europe among the public and political circles inextricably relates to the EU membership of Turkey – predominantly Muslim but a secular state founded on democratic values and principles. This paper examines the debate over Turkey and its accession to the EU within the context of religion, democracy and the question of the compatibility of these two from mass and political elite opinion level in Italy. The debate over Turkish accession to the EU not only does the preferences of the decision making elite but also opinions of their electorates – mass public – play an indispensable role. This paper surges into public and political elite perspectives on Islam along the lines with whether it is considered compatible with democratic values. This paper questions Islam, democracy, Turkey and EU also with reference to the degree which religious fundamentalism is a threat to Italian elite and public, and on what grounds judgments on Turkey’s EU membership are articulated. The core questions addressed in the paper read: “How do European publics and political elite view whether Muslim Turkey is compatible with membership of the EU and its ‘democracy’?” and “What implications shall we draw out of this analysis for the state of Islam and democratic compatibility?” It provides an empirical investigation into temporal (2004 through 2006) changes and the public-elite cleavage in Italy presenting a quantitative discussion of the data from the Italian Elite Survey (IES) (2004), European Elite Survey (EES) (2006) and Transatlantic Trends Surveys (TTS) (2004 and 2006). In conclusion, this paper generates implications for Italians attitudes towards Islam and Islam’s compatibility with democracy in particular, and bridging the culturalreligious divide between the ‘other’ Muslim and Turk in Italy and Italians approaches to cultural-religious diversity in general.