BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Leaders of the European Union this week voted to suspend some of the discussions about accepting Turkey as a new member. The vote means it will be at least a decade, and probably longer, before Turkey could join the EU. The Union has identified several key issues that need to be resolved. One of them is Turkey's record on religious freedom. Turkey is 99 percent Muslim, yet officially secular. The Turkish constitution provides for freedom of religion, but the government regulates all Muslim and non-Muslim activities. Kim Lawton reports on the challenge Turkey faces as a secular and Islamic nation.
KIRI OZTURK (reading to her children from a children's book): Allah made camels with great big humps. Allah made elephants with long, slinky trunks.
KIM LAWTON: In a suburb of Istanbul, Kiri and Orhan Ozturk are teaching their kids about their Muslim faith. Kiri is American, and Orhan, Turkish. They met while Orhan was studying in the United States and were married in 1992. Kiri converted to Islam shortly after that. They moved to Turkey three years ago and say they're happy to be raising their kids in a Muslim environment.
Ms. OZTURK: It's so nice to be part of a community that you can share, and you don't need to constantly be explaining why you're doing things, especially during Ramadan when you're fasting. It's so nice to have everybody else be fasting at the same time.
ORHAN OZTURK: It's a great feeling. Whenever you want to go, you go do your prayer, and you belong to a community. In the States you are basically segregated.
LAWTON: It may be a Muslim environment, but Turkey is officially secular, and there is intense public debate here about how to maintain that often tricky balance.
Ms. OZTURK: Trying to figure out what a non-Arab, practicing Muslim secular country should look like, how it should behave. And I don't think everybody agrees yet on what that image is or how to put that together.
LAWTON: Partly in Europe, partly in Asia, Turkey has long been a bridge between East and West. But it doesn't fit neatly in either.
ORAL CALISLAR ((Newspaper Columnist, CUMHURIYET): When you look from the Western side, Turkey is very Eastern country. When you look from the Eastern side, Turkey is very Western country.
LAWTON: The modern Turkish republic was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who imposed a strict secular nationalism in an effort to westernize the country.
JOHN ESPOSITO (Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding): Ataturk promoted aggressively a notion of secularism, which was a very absolute separation of religion and the state, although the state did control religion.
LAWTON: John Esposito directs the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and has written widely about Islam in Turkey and the Middle East. He says all too often secularism translates to hostility.
Mr. ESPOSITO: If you look at secular elites in Turkey, their notion of secularism is not simply separation of church and state. They basically have a very negative attitude towards religion -- towards religion itself.
LAWTON: Oral Calislar is a columnist at the leftist daily newspaper CUMHURIYET. He says the secularists don't want to see Turkey become a theocracy like Iran, which imposes strict Islamic law.
Mr. CALISLAR: Iran example always threatens Turkey's people's mentality. They thought that some day, if we don't be careful, Turkey will be Iran, and because of that the secular people are afraid from that, and because of that they are very careful about Islamic movement, political Islamic movements in Turkey.
LAWTON: A more openly Islamic view has been on the rise in this democratic state. The prime minister and current ruling party come from a religious political movement and often clash sharply with the secularists, and people like the Ozturks say those clashes filter down to average Turks, sometimes presenting challenges in living out their faith in their daily lives.
Mr. OZTURK: In a way, sometimes it's easier in the States than here.
Ms. OZTURK: Yeah, I agree.
Mr. OZTURK: Although we are secular country and, you know, over 98-99 percent Muslim. But we go by the secularism very rigidly.
Ms. OZTURK: There's sort of this message that's going around that to be Muslim, to practice your religion is sort of backwards, old fashioned, and that to move forward is to be modern, to be more like the West.
LAWTON: One of the fiercest conflicts is over wearing the Islamic headscarf. Although it's common to see women with the traditional religious head covering, Turkey has a longstanding ban on wearing headscarves in any public buildings, including government offices and universities.
Kiri chooses not the wear the scarf, but she sympathizes with those who do.
Ms. OZTURK: Women who choose to wear a headscarf cannot go to school, cannot get jobs, cannot enter many government buildings.