Fareed Zakaria ["Rejecting Turkey, and the Future," op-ed, Sept. 21] captured that odd European deafness to the sound of history being made. The rejection of Turkey's application to the European Union because of the Turkish government's proposal to outlaw adultery -- which it has since dropped -- is a pretext for the age-old European desire to keep its culture pure.

Despite some unfortunate tendencies toward centralization and a lack of transparency, it's hard not to respect what the European Union has accomplished. The addition of Turkey would raise its importance dramatically by helping to bridge the chasm between the Muslim world and the West.

Anything the West can do to engage Muslims, to challenge them with ideas such as the power of opportunity and individual initiative, it must do. Why push them out when we can bring them in?

Democracy needs Turkey as much as Turkey needs democracy. The European Union should help Turkey realize its democratic potential, and to do that Turkey should be embraced as former East Bloc countries have been.

SUTTON STERN

Portland, Ore.

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Fareed Zakaria suggested that Turkey would not need membership in the European Union if it were already an economically developed nation. But the European Union is not just another development project; it is a community of political, social and cultural values, and Turkey happens to be far from those values.

True, France had laws against adultery until 1975 (probably in the context of divorce proceedings), but since 1789 France has been a modern and enlightened country. Turkey is still feudal at its base.

Mr. Zakaria argued that Turkey's accession to the European Union could be mutually beneficial and promote better integration of Muslims. But that reasoning is contradicted by the slow pace of integration displayed by Turks already residing in E.U. nations.

And none of Mr. Zakaria's arguments void the fact that Turkey is not a European country. The mistake of offering Turkey the prospect of membership in 1999 needs to be corrected.

RONALD VOPEL

Brussels