In October 2009, a group of neo-Nazis disguised as Turkish teachers commemorated Hitler in Kayseri in scenes reminiscent of the famous Turkish-Islamist slogan “Now I understand Hitler!” About a month later, the AKP’s local mayor in Rize, Halil Bakirci, said that, “Due to Israel’s policies, we are worried that something undesirable may happen to Israeli tourists.” Bakirci would, in his later political career, be crowned as the man who invented a miracle solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem: If Turkish men took Kurdish women as second brides, he suggested, there would not be a Kurdish problem.
In “Misalliance of Civilizations” (this column, Nov. 5, 2009), I asked: “Would Sudanese tourists be in danger [in Turkey] because their head of state has an arrest warrant out for crimes amounting to ethnic cleansing? Were Iraqi tourists in danger because of Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait? Were Iranian tourists in danger because their leader talked about wiping a country off the world map?” And now, three and a half years later, I am asking: Are Syrian civilians in danger in Turkey because their president is bombing his own people? So, what put/puts Israeli tourists in exclusive danger in Turkey if the Turks do not have the habit of holding other nationalities responsible for the acts of their governments?
While the Israeli and international media were busy last week merrily chanting about the “time for an overture to Turkey,” or “a new rapprochement with Turkey” and ringing jingle bells for reviving friendship, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
answered the question in the preceding paragraph, ironically, at a UN event devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, “Islamophobia ought to be considered a crime against humanity just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism.” Once again, the world was “shocked.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes “it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting... under the theme of responsible leadership.” A UN statement said that Erdoğan’s statement was not only wrong but contradicted the very principles on which the Alliance of Civilizations is based.” And Secretary of State John Kerry said “comments by (Erdoğan) equating Zionism to a crime against humanity complicate the efforts to find peace in the Middle East.”
You all may be “shocked” gentlemen, and, once again, I am shocked at your being shocked! Let me refresh your memories: We are talking about a prime minister, the winner of the 2010 Moammar Qadhafi Human Rights Award; a country where half the population votes for him, 65 percent adore his foreign policy; where only four percent have a favorable opinion of Jews, 41 percent believe Judaism is the most violent religion in the world, and only nine percent think Arab groups had carried out 9/11. Welcome to Turkey!
On the other hand, nor is the word phobia (from “phovos” in Greek, meaning morbid fear) accurate to define a crime, like the word xenophobia is often misused in political jargon. How can mere morbid fear of something be a crime? A phobia can only “prompt” a crime if the phobic person commits a crime based on his phobia. And the “Islam” part of the made-up word Islamophobia is also wrong. If Muslims use that word to describe fanatical Muslim-haters or radical anti-Islam, a) they should have invented a better word, like “Islamistophobia,” and b) in more democratic parts of the world hate speech/acts/discrimination are already crimes, regardless of faith or ethnicity.
Most radical behavior against Islam is not in fact against Islam but either against radical interpretations/practices of Islam or against Islamism, especially when the latter publicly targets the ideal of Islamizing non-Muslim lands, cultures and people. As a matter of empirical fact, quite a large number of Muslims, too, are anti-radical Islam/Islamism. “Islamophobes” do not have a phobia of Muslims who have a phobia of radical Islam.
For a better, new, round, perhaps Secretary General Ban should consider reshuffling the top management in the Alliance of Civilizations. My nominees would be Khaleed Meshal of Hamas, Anders Breivik of the Norwegian Defence League, Baruch Marzel of the Jewish National Front party and Nikolaos Michaloliakos of the (Greek) Golden Dawn Party.