Erdogan’s recent statements, during his public address on the European Court’s decision to allow the ban of the Muslim headscarf, Hijab, at work, goes beyond the deteriorating relationship with the Netherlands and Germany to deeper symbolic, political, and cultural turfs.
Likely, it is possible that Erdogan’s incitement over Europe’s “resurrection of the Crusades” and blaming their Court for the revival of the clash between the Crescent and the Cross, is no more than a mere tactic.
The point of this would be to provoke Turkish sentiment and aggregate consensus ahead of the upcoming constitutional referendum, which —if passed— would transform Turkey to a Presidential Republic, instead of Parliamentary, and allow for Erdogan to remain in power.
In this particular moment, in light of the intensification of the crisis across Arab and Muslim societies, what Erdogan doesn’t understand is that it may be too dangerous to play this game.
Soon enough, his speech will echo beyond the boundaries of his manoeuvre among many Arab youths, in such a decisive moment, shaped by the rise of religious extremism; i.e. ISIS and ilk. These groups are present all over the world, and have unrivalled recruitment and mobilisation capacities, compared to the extremist groups which preceded them.
The disparity here lies in the fact that Erdogan seems to have run out of tricks.
More or less, it seem he had nothing else to resort to besides this Daeshi rhetoric which is based on the relic of an ancient clash of civilisations and religions. Likewise is the American and European right-wing rhetoric, inspired of course by Samuel P Huntington’s work.
Notably, all throughout the years of his political career, from the establishment of the Turkish Justice and Development Party, to the night of the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, Erdogan had presented himself as the medium of understanding between the west and the east.
To the Europeans, he was a symbol of moderate Islam; an advocate of democracy, pluralism, peaceful deliberation of authority, and the civil state, with an economic mind to facilitate the bridging and partnership, meanwhile advancing European Standards of Human Rights.
However, it is not hard to see the dramatic shift in Erdogan’s tone, then and now. The man has changed; he has sacrificed his closest friends, like Ahmet Davutoğlu and Abullah Gul. His speeches have changed too. But he is not the only one to change!
To say the least, the west has changed as well. The United States of America elected Donald Trump, and the fascist European right has become a real contender in most EU elections.
Similarly, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who once had a sound civil, ethical, and humanitarianly position towards refugees in Germany, representing maybe one of Europe’s last democratic voices, and an outright advocate of openness against fanaticism, has also found herself in a bit of a political-media pit with both Erdogan and Trump!
Nearly a decade and a half into his time in office, Erdogan has now a sweeping fandom throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, despite his endeavour to hold absolute power in Turkey and stay in power.
Also, Erdogan has noticeably derailed from the trail founded by his party and promoted throughout the Muslim world. The Justice and Development Party decrypted the relationship between religion, society, and the state to preface a sound civil political dynamic.
If Erdogan sustains this tone, which is similar to the extremist Islamist dialect, then it would be safe to assume that the annihilation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will not be the end of it. Erdogan’s provocation of the western religious right will incur far more dangerous implications than all of ISIS’s and Qaeda’s suicide bombers, combined!
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.