Just when you start to think that "at least the trains run on time" in Turkey, they seem to derail one after another. Just like a piece of news that may please you - but only for an instant. Just like the feeling of sad humor that comes a second after the feeling of silent approval while and after reading the story of a heavy fine that hit a private television channel for "pairing a 15-year-old girl with a 45 year-old man in a matchmaking show."

Citing a pretext for the fine, the presumably independent but practically Justice and Development Party-controlled radio and television watchdog said that the show had broadcast an example of child abuse by fixing a marriage between an underage girl and an adult. The watchdog also noted that the show had violated the regulation that states "broadcasts must not be against society's national and spiritual values and the Turkish family structure."

After the show, we learned from the news, the watchdog was bombarded with a flurry of complaints from viewers while the girl's father issued a complaint to the prosecutor's office.

So far, so good.

But when you superimpose this nice little episode - which could have happened in any "sane" country - onto another Turkish "background," a fresh "those crazy Turks" picture will emerge: Do the heavy fine and its legal justification mean that our president had once violated society's national and spiritual values and the Turkish family structure when he married our first lady at the age of 15 (now, beat that if you can, Harry!)? Do they mean that our president once committed child abuse? I guess not - just to be on the safer side of a potential future prosecution. But questions inevitably linger in the air.

Did marrying a 15-year-old girl not violate "our sacred values, our spirituality and our even more sacred family structure" two decades ago but it does today? Is the definition of child abuse different today than before? When exactly did we discover that marrying a 15-year-old girl constituted child abuse? Does anyone have an idea how common child brides are in Turkey's conservative layers (read: most of Turkey)? Is marrying a child bride fine but broadcasting it on a TV show is not?

The explanation, once again, is in the Islamic conservative thinking.

Last year, the broadcast watchdog warned a television channel for a perfume commercial featuring a woman in a bikini, sunbathing aboard a yacht and kissing a man in a swimsuit. The broadcaster was warned for "forcing the limits of obscenity." But this is hardly surprising in a country where, according to Pew research, 16 percent of people think death by stoning should be the appropriate sentence for adultery, and 13 percent think men and women should not be allowed to work in the same workplace. Justification for all that is not too hard to guess.

Two months ago, Hüseyin Üzmez, the hero of the famous "Üzmez affair" and a columnist for the Islamist daily Vakit, was released from prison after a court suspended his 13-year sentence. Mr. Üzmez had been convicted and imprisoned on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

After his release, Mr. Üzmez publicly defended the Islamic rules that he said permit girls to wed under the legal age of 16. Justifying sex with a 14-year-old girl, the 78-year-old Mr. Üzmez said, "A girl who has reached puberty, who is having periods, is of age according to our (religious) beliefs."

Such weirdness is at the heart of the social/political division between Islamist/conservative Muslims and secular Muslims in Turkey. Ask any Islamist and he would proudly tell you that what Mr. Üzmez did was perfectly normal - precisely like how the man defended himself - "according to our beliefs." Just like marrying a 15-year-old girl is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." Just like marrying up to four wives is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." Just like stoning an adulterer is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." The same conservative Turk would also defend liberty for such behavior on the grounds of "religious freedoms."

It is also for the same reason why a clear majority of Turks will prefer to have a president like they have today, but complain to the watchdog for a TV show featuring what their favorite president had done. No doubt, the election of Abdullah Gül as president of Turkey in 2007 reflected the will of the Turkish nation, a will used by the perfectly legitimate proxy, Parliament. Just like a (presumed) majority of Turks would see no harm in underage marriage "according to their beliefs."

The disturbing question is, how democratic would it be if democratically elected representatives ran a country according to the religious beliefs of a clear majority of the electorate. This is why advanced democracies can ban even democratically-elected parties if they champion undemocratic rule, either through racist- or religious-based governance.