Turkey and the Islamic and nationalist card
LEE JAY WALKER
THE MODERN TOKYO TIMES
The current Prime Minister of Turkey is playing the Islamic and nationalist card in order to boost his image. Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly knows how to garner public attention and Turkish nationalism is very potent in Turkey and others seek Islamization or a more overtly Islamic state. Therefore, Israel is the usual “whipping” nation in the mainly Muslim world and Erdogan is appealing to the most common of all denominators.
After all, anti-Semitism or Israeli bashing, or a combination of both, is a common theme throughout many mainly Muslim nations and in Europe many media outlets are clearly pro-Palestinian. Israel appears to be a “whipping boy” for people who are left-wing or supporters of the far-right, and this suits the Islamists because they can use this nation in order to ferment more hatred and to increase their respective power base.
Therefore, Erdogan will make the most of any opportunity in order to increase the power base of Islam in Turkey and he can also appeal to nationalists. Erdogan commented in the past that “A Muslim can never commit genocide.”
If so, Erdogan should look back to 1915 because Muslims slaughtered at least 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians, and Greek Orthodox Christians and of course how did Islam get to become 99% in modern day Turkey given the reality that this nation was once the bastion of Orthodox Christianity?
I negate to mention that Mohammed himself was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Judaism in Arabia once his power base increased. Also, I am sure that Assyrian Christians, Armenian Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Zoroastrians, and many others, would beg to differ. This also applies to African Christians and Animists in southern Sudan who witnessed the onslaught of Islamization and Arabization in more recent times.
Turning back to recent events then clearly Turkey is furious after at least nine people were killed on board the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara. At least eight were Turkish nationals and given the pro-Palestinian element and the way Israel is viewed, then clearly tensions and passions are running high.
Yet how would Turkey like it if Israeli nationals began to take aid to Kurds in Turkey? Would Erdogan be happy about this situation and when we magnify this by the nature of Hamas then clearly this issue is complex.
Erdogan and many others also point out that the blockade on Gaza is cruel. This is also ironic because Turkey have enforced a cruel blockade on Christian Armenia but of course this gets little media attention.
The blockade of Armenia by Turkey began in 1993 and this is not only brutal but given the legacy of 1915 and the systematic genocide which took place then it is clearly beyond belief. Also, unlike the situation for Israel, it is clear that Armenia have not used force or broken any laws against Turkey, however, Hamas often fires rockets at Israel and many terrorist attacks have taken place.
If we turn to Erdogan’s past then clearly he supported a greater role for Islam in modern day Turkey and in recent years he appears to be playing the “Muslim card” in order to boost himself and the political party he represents.
Past comments by Erdogan apply to the following:
“We will turn all our schools into İmam Hatips [religious schools]“—Cumhuriyet, Sept. 9, 1994
“Thank God Almighty, I am a servant of the Shari’a.”— Milliyet, Nov. 21, 1994
“I am the imam of Istanbul.”—Hürriyet, Jan. 8, 1995
“I support the proposal to inaugurate the parliament by reciting the Qur’an.”—Milliyet, Jan. 8, 1996
More recently it is clear that Erdogan will exploit any issue whereby he can claim that Muslims are being victimized and this suits his past agenda. Therefore, he strongly rebuked China in 2009 after major disturbances in Xinjiang and he stated that “The event taking place in China is a kind of genocide.”
It is clear that the “victimization card” suits Erdogan and he will use Islam and nationalism, or a mixture of both in order to further his cause. He also appears to be moving closer to nations which are more anti-Western.
For example, Soner Cagaptay (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) stated that “the AKP’s foreign policy has not promoted sympathy toward all Muslim states. Rather, the party has promoted solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes (Qatar and Sudan, for example) while dismissing secular, pro-Western Muslim governments (Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia).”
Erdogan also supports Ahmadinejad who is the leader of Iran because he congratulated Ahmadinejad despite major demonstrations in Iran after elections were held in 2009. Robert Tait, a writer at The Guardian newspaper stated that “Erdogan’s partiality towards Ahmadinejad may surprise some in the west who see Turkey as a western-oriented democracy firmly grounded inside Nato…but will be less surprising to Erdogan’s secular domestic critics, who believe the prime minister’s heart lies in the east and have long suspected his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) government of plotting to transform Turkey into a religious state resembling Iran.”
It is clear that Erdogan uses emotive language and panders to both Turkish nationalism and Islamism when it suits him. He also threatened to deport Armenians workers because he stated that “There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000.” He further continued that “If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them in my country.”
Erdogan is certainly changing the direction of Turkey and his past agenda appears to be coming out into the open. Secularism appears to be on the back foot and more worryingly is that he will use any event in order to boost himself and this applies to so-called “Muslim brotherhood” or Turkish nationalism.
Therefore, Erdogan who denies the 1915 Armenian genocide is the same person who uses the word genocide when it suits him. It is the same person who talks with love and compassion towards Sudan despite the ongoing events in Darfur. It is also the same person who decries the blockade of Gaza but who maintains the blockade against Armenia.
It is clear for all to see that Erdogan is hoping to use events in order to foster the notion of Muslim victimization and in the past he did state that he wanted an Islamic identity for Turkey. Therefore, he will use the anti-Jewish card and decry Palestinian persecution but he will gloss over the anti-Kurdish nature of many parts of Turkish society and the military of Turkey will continue to target Kurds within Turkey and northern Iraq.
Lee Jay Walker
THE MODERN TOKYO TIMES