Who is an integrated Turk can’t depend on their views about Erdoğan
Thousands of members of the Turkish diaspora living in European countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium flocked to Sarajevo on May 20 to attend an election rally held by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of next month’s polls in Turkey.
The immediate reaction of the public in these European countries seeing their Turkish-origin compatriots cheering for a leader they are not fond of was most probably frustration. How come a Turk born and raised in Germany, for instance, can be fond of Erdoğan, they wonder. For some, the answer is clear and twofold. “First, because they are not integrated; second, because they are Muslims, and therefore not integrated into [Christian?] Europe.”
This presents a clear bias in terms of what we understand from integration. Can the integration level of a foreign-origin citizen be judged by the political views s/he adheres too? Can one claim that a Turkish-origin German is an integrated one if s/he is against Erdoğan but not an integrated one if s/he supports Erdoğan?
Some may claim that Erdoğan’s views and practices are far from universal democratic standards and therefore it is only natural to think that his supporters in Europe are those who have not internalized democratic standards and therefore are not integrated into Europe.
How about the Hungarians who voted for Victor Orban in Hungary and the Poles who voted for the Law and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski? The practices of both men have often been resembled to Erdoğan’s practices.
Meanwhile, one might as well argue that the views endorsed by the German AfD, the Dutch PVV and France’s Front National are far from universal democratic standards. Can one then claim their supporters — the native Europeans who have lived in these lands for generations — are not integrated?
As the answer to this question, some might claim that the supporters of these parties can equally be seen as the ones not integrated too, as most of them are the marginalized feeling alienated. In that case, we cannot draw a direct link between integration and religion.
This is exactly the point raised by Professor Ayhan Kaya. According to Kaya, scholars studying marginalized native youth and marginalized migrant youth have fallen into the trap of the clash of civilizations paradigm, looking at these two different groups from different lenses.
As an academic who has done his PhD on the hip hop and rap culture among Turkish youth in Germany in the late 1990s, Kaya is surprised by the lack of studies on current youth cultures.
“I think this is also partly due to the fact that scientists are also hooked on the civilizational and religious rhetoric. Many scholars working in this field of radicalization are blinded by this religious discourse. If there is radicalization [they think] ‘we need to look at Islam, we need to look at the Quran. The problems are embedded in Islam.’ This is completely wrong,” he told me in an interview published on May 21.
Kaya has been equally critical of the misconceptions in the debates that take place in Turkey about Islamophobia. In a way some among the Turkish ruling elites suffer from falling into the same trap of the clash of civilizations rhetoric by claiming Christians are the root cause of Islamophobia. Indeed, juxtaposing Islam against Christianity is something one can sense a lot among the president’s advisors which reflects on Erdoğan’s rhetoric as well, especially in his criticism directed towards European countries.
It is one thing to call unity among Turkish communities in European countries (who are highly divided) and another thing to ask them to unite against the alleged divisive efforts of host countries. The divisions among the Turkish communities in Europe are the replicates of divisions in Turkey, and ironically (as Europeans cannot be the instigators of divisions in Turkey) Erdoğan has been often accused of fueling these divisions by his polarizing tactics.
By the same token, it is inevitable that Erdoğan’s choice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country which still remains fragile due to ethnic and religious divisions, will make him the target of criticism.