Islam, democracy and market economies are offered as independent concepts. However, a look at Turkey's performance in the 2000s is enough to see the rapport among these three concepts.
Actually, politicians, academics and specialists closely follow the majority of the population in Turkey being Muslim, and the relation between the operation of democracy and the market economy.
The primary question is: Can the Turkey example set the example of an alternative economic system for Muslim countries?
The reason for this question is: Coming into office after the 2001 financial crisis, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), despite its conservative nature, made radical changes in many fields with its reformist nature. Through the challenges it faced during the change of economic structure, the party sped up its self-criticism, signed free trade agreements and decreased the public share in the economy.
While competition was encouraged, important steps were taken to bring direct foreign investment into the country. Only experiencing recession during the 2008 global economic crisis, Turkey recovered in a short period of time and was one of the few countries that continued its positive economic growth trend.
The tripling of income per capita, the progress in health, education and social protection are acquisitions earned by a conservative party operating its market economy. Besides, we witnessed the implementation of projects like finance centers, transportation and energy within this period.
These were steps that are not expected from conservative parties. However, the Turkish economy opening to foreign countries, applying free-market properties and the improvement in economy have all actualized during the rule of conservative governments. The AK Party unifying its conservative nature with its reformist attitude is a very important factor in its success story.
By successfully applying the Islam, democracy and market economy synthesis, Turkey becomes an important example for the countries in the Muslim region. Turkey is important in showing that success can be found in an alternative structure within the economic system. (Many countries are aware of such an alternative system, but have not had the courage to take the step.)
It is especially important for countries in the Islamic geography to come together around the Turkish example, which holds Islam, the market and democracy within, found an alternative economic system and make it effective in the global economy.
Why shouldn't Turkey become the cradle for Islamic finance?
Turkey is a rare Muslim country that has managed to expand its economic growth, protect its market economy, ensure its political stability and democracy despite the internal and external attempts to negatively stir the country. Furthermore, it is a democratic country that has been able to maintain its political stability against the radical groups that serve anti-Islam purposes in the West. It is important that Turkey leads the conservative and reformist system.
Turkey's economic performance was discussed at the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AEC) (an alliance of which the AK Party is a member) meeting, in which I was a speaker too on Saturday, hosted by AK Party Vice President and Foreign Affairs Director Dr. Fatma Betül Sayan. The perception that Turkey's Islamic features complying with democracy and the market economy creating an alternative in this region dominated the summit.
We can say that Turkey's successful economy can create awareness in terms of Islamic economy and decrease biases. Turkey's role is to protect the exemplary political and economic stability and to strengthen this mission.
This will give privilege to Turkey in terms of making Turkey a finance hub (more importantly in terms of Islamic finance) by drawing Muslim investors from Islamic countries and other foreign countries. Therefore, it is important to offer this group, which wants to invest in accordance with Islamic rules, economic and financial tools that are suitable to Islamic finance.
At a time when economic life for Muslim countries is flowing in the opposite direction, the Turkish example needs to be explained well to Muslim countries to turn the direction of the flow to its natural course.