Firewall against radicalism: Secular, integrated Turks in Europe
The radicalization of Muslim communities in Europe especially has taken an alarming dimension. In my previous article, I had said the ratio of radicalization among Turkish communities living in Europe was significantly less than other communities. I had named language as an important barrier against radicalization stemming from the Arab world.
Turkish religious organizations, beginning with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), which is active in Germany, as well as strong family bonds among conservatives, were other firewalls I had mentioned. I had also argued that another firewall could be the perception among conservatives in Turkish communities living in Europe of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as voicing the problems of the “weak” against the “strong.” His justified or unjustified bashing of the West weakens the frustrations of Turks who suffer from problems of integration.
Today, I would like to talk about another firewall: The secular and well-integrated segments among communities from Turkey, that stand alone as an important barrier against radicalization. Although the European press might highlight problems of integration, after five decades since the 1960s when the first wave of migration started towards Europe there here is a very significant number of people who are well-integrated.
There is no doubt that pious and conservative segments are more open to infiltration by radical Islamic thoughts. Secular and integrated segments, as well as Alevites and Kurds, have especially played a role in decreasing the ratio of radicalism among communities from Turkey.
Fine tuning anti-Western rhetoric
In the meantime, the foreign policy stance that has been endorsed until the 2000s, based on keeping a strong alliance with the West via several institutions like NATO, the Council of Europe and the European Union among several others, while maintaining warm yet distant relations with the Arab/Islamic world, have also served to give the right messages on where Turkish migrant communities should stand. As a state, Turkey has identified itself with the democratic norms of Western countries, while trying to avoid being associated with the Middle East’s corrupt, autocratic leaderships, of which some among them have fuelled radical movements.
Under the governance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the course of the last decade, Turkey has started to give an image deviating from that stance. While I still maintain that Erdoğan’s strong criticism against Western countries has played a firewall role against radicalization, an overdose of anti-Western rhetoric might give the wrong message to Turkish communities abroad. The widespread perception in Europe that Turkey has turned a blind eye to the passage of radical groups to Syria might lead some Turks to arrive at the wrong conclusions.
The unintended consequence of a failure to fine-tune the rhetoric, might be sowing the seeds of radicalization. President Erdoğan should not render the role he holds as invalid as a firewall against radicalization.