WASHINGTON -- I have a Turkish friend, who must remain nameless. He had lived here in the United States for years until he decided a decade ago to go home.

It seemed like a great idea. The Turkish economy had started to boom, and he wanted to become a part –- a profitable part –- of his homeland’s new revival.

For a time, everything worked out well. He tapped his deep contacts in Istanbul to get established in the restaurant business and later, in the resort and hotel scene in Bodrum.

He was happy, giddy almost, making money and being back where he grew up in the glittering new Istanbul.

But as the years went by and the administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan became entrenched, my friend began to worry: privately and fleetingly, then openly and constantly.

My friend was a secularist by nature and upbringing. His hospitality businesses involved selling alcohol. His girlfriend was blonde and wore short skirts. He liked to promenade with her in the Grand Bazaar, if only to annoy the shopkeepers. He and his boyhood friends would roll their eyes when they heard the muezzins’ calls to prayer in the city.

Slowly, but implacably as my friend saw it, Turkey under Erdogan was becoming inch-by-inch more Islamic –- something it had not been, even nominally, since Ataturk replaced the Ottoman Sultans with a secular state.

Under Erdogan, first you saw more women in the streets with headscarves or more complete coverings. You would see them in increasing numbers on the commuter ferries crossing the Bosporus. Then, the old, decrepit mosques in the city began to be restored, and no one rolled their eyes at the call to prayer.

Erdogan eased if not erased tension over this creeping piety with a furious flurry of state-augmented capitalism. He invited billions in foreign investments (especially, though not exclusively, from the Gulf). He financed vast public works projects, particularly in Istanbul. He loosened rules on business.

The resulting surge of economic growth kept people too busy to hate, to use the old slogan of Atlanta back in its post-segregation heyday. But that same growth also fueled the power and wealth of the prime minister’s political machine, the Justice and Development Party.

Moving carefully but systematically, Erdogan began rooting out secularist foes in the military, jailing journalists and taking other actions that indicated to people such as my friend that there was more Development than Justice in the Erdogan movement.

Then the visits began to my friends' businesses: the visits from the government men. Even in Bodrum, they wore plain pants and white shirts. They looked out of place, and they wanted to look out of place.

They wanted to know more about his businesses. Not that there was anything wrong with them, but were they being run properly? Did they shut down for the night at a decent hour? Were the books in order? Were they disturbing the neighbors in any way?

The last time I talked to my friend, he was no longer such a happy-sounding fellow. He was worried and not eager to talk. You could almost hear the sound of a window closing. So far as I know, my friend has not been in Taksim Square. He’s no fool, and he is too old for that kind of action anyway.

But his friends' kids are, I am guessing -– armed with fireworks and Twitter. They want a democratic Turkey, but a secular one. They want modernity and all of the personal freedoms that go with it. There are students and environmentalists and women’s rights advocates. There are people drinking beer, which has now become an act of defiance.

They don’t want what they fear Erdogan wants to give them, which is a boring and controlled semi-religious state, even though he was frank about his desire to build a Turkey that is both dynamic and devout.

And here is the complex thing: Whatever his flaws, the United States and its allies are counting on Erdogan. They need him to not fail. They don’t want a coup, either from the right (the army) or the Islamists. Above all, the allies want stability, which is what they have always wanted from the Turks, who sit astride history and geography and faith as no other people.

The United States and Europe have military alliances they want to keep. Israel has a neighbor it doesn’t (for now) have to fear in an existential way. Arabs want a place to invest and to vacation. They have purchased many of the grand old homes along the Bosporus. It is a lovely and historic Islamic riviera, where old wooden summer villas cost millions.

Nobody wants this to end, or end badly.

The symbol of Erdogan’s party is a shining light. It’s iconography that advertises technology -– not religion. And it was deliberately chosen for that reason.

Such cheap symbols hardly reassure my friend. The rest of the world may have no choice but to see it as a ray of hope.

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  • Turkish protesters clash with Turkish riot policemen on Taksim square in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. Turkish police used water cannon today to disperse thousands of demonstrators who had gathered anew in Istanbul's Taksim Square, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters hold up their hands as they gather on Taksim square before clashes with Turkish riot police in Istanbul on June 22, 2013 during a wave of new protests. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters hold up their hands as they gather on Taksim square before clashing with Turkish riot police in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man bleeds from a head wound as Turkish police clash with anti-government protestors while they clear Taksim Square and push them down the Istikhlal shopping avenue on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • A man braces against a shield as Turkish police clash with anti-government protestors while they clear Taksim Square and push them down the Istikhlal shopping avenue on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • An anti goverment protestor waves a Turkish flag with a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey on Taksim square during the clash between riot Police and protestors in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters raise their hands as they gather on Taksim square during the clash between riot police and protestors in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Cyclists ride bikes during the silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors gather in Taksim Square carrying carnations to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors push back on a police car, carnations sitting to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest, as police move into clear Taksim Square in Istanbul, on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors gather in Taksim Square carrying carnations to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish riot police argue with anti-government protestors as they begin moving in to clear Taksim Square, on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • A protester reacts in pain to a salvo of tear gas fired by Turkish riot police officers to chase out demonstrators and to dismantle the tent camp set up by demonstrators in Gezi Park in Istanbul on June 15, 2013. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People light candles for the victims of the protests at Taksim square, in Istanbul, early Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • A protester reacts as police throw tear gas among tents during an operation to evacuate the Gezi Park of Taksim Square in Istanbul, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

  • Police enter to evacuate the Gezi Park in Istanbul, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

  • Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • People march from Anatolian side to European side to Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 16, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters take cover from a water cannon during clashes with riot police at a demonstration in Ankara on June 16, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A pretzel vendor walks in front of a line of Turkish police cordoning off Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • A protester reacts as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • As police vehicles rolled into Kizilay Square, one woman approached a lightly armored truck bearing the logo of the police anti-terrorism department and grabbed a side window to ask those inside: "What is this oppression? Have you no fear of God? I have no children, but all of these (demonstrators) are my children!" she said, motioning to the young protesters nearby, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • A protester reacts as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • In this Saturday, June 15, 2013, file photo, protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

  • Turkish protesters hold a massive rally on John F. Kennedy street near the U.S. Embassy, shouting slogans such as "government, resign!" in Ankara, Turkey, early Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • In this Tuesday, June 11, 2013, file photo, a protester tries to remain standing as a police water cannon fires water during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis, File)

  • In this Tuesday, June 11, 2013, file photo, a protester tries protect from water projected by a water canon from police during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

  • People carry the coffin of Ethem Sarisuluk, one of five people killed during the recent protests in Turkey, as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo )

  • Police fire tear gas as riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, near city's main Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013.(AP Photo )

  • Anti-government protesters demonstrate in central Ankara on June 17, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Anti-government protesters demonstrate in central Ankara on June 17, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People walk during a rally by the labor unions in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, June 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • People shout anti-government slogans during a rally by the labor unions in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, June 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • Erdem Gunduz, right, stands silently on Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, early Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • A protester stands in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • Mert Solkiran, centre, stands in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • Erdem Gunduz, left, and dozens of people stand silently on Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, early Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of confrontation with police, sometimes violent, Turkish protesters are using a new form of resistance: standing silently. The development started late Monday when a solitary man began standing in passive defiance against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authority at Istanbul's central Taksim Square. The square has been sealed off from mass protests since police cleared it over the weekend. The man has identified himself as Erdem Gunduz, a performance artist. His act has sparked imitation by others in Istanbul and other cities. It has provoked widespread comment on social media. (AP Photo)

  • Protestors stand in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • A man sleeps at Taksim's Gezi Park early on June 12, 2013 in Istanbul, hours after riot police invated the square. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators wait at the entrance of Taksim Gezi park on June 12, 2013. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Turkish lawyers march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators wait at the entrance of the Taksim Gezi park on June 12, 2013 after a night of running battles with riot police as Turkish Prime Minister moved to crush mass demos against his Islamic-rooted government. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Lawyers and members of the Turkish bar association shout slogans as they march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Turkish lawyers march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Riot police fire tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

  • Protesters clash with riot police at Taksim square in Istanbul on June 11, 2013. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Riot police fire tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

  • An injured person is helped by fellow protesters during clashes with police on Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 11, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)