Time for Turkey to make the move
Hatred toward the “other” has never been so causal, abundant and widespread.
The anti-Islamic sentiment has recently been on the rise in Germany. Mosques and accommodations of immigrants have been increasingly vandalized across the country. This trend explains the recent formation of the movement called “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West” (PEGIDA) in the country.
PEGIDA started as a 300-member group in Dresden, now approaching 20,000 members across Germany. They hold demonstrations every Monday in different cities carrying xenophobic and anti-Islamist slogans, having already become the country’s biggest civil movement.
Xenophobic incidents have been increasingly arising across all of Europe, implying a right-wing shift on the continent.
Similar discussions dominated Europe upon Anders Behring Breivik’s massacres in Oslo in 2011. The Norwegian perpetrator first detonated a bomb in front of government buildings. Then attacked the summer camp of the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party (AP), claiming a total of 77 lives. Breivik attributed his executions to his stance against Islam and multi-culturalism.
Hatred also strolls among politicians. The far-right party in France today led my Marine Le Pen, used to be a marginal movement in the 1980’s, being one of the first to revile against Islamization. Today, Le Pen is the strongest candidate for the presidential elections to take place in 2017. Anti-Islamism has become a staple in European political discourse.
But how has so much hatred accumulated against the “other?” Modernization and globalization have accelerated rapid social change by producing high rates of immigration. This, in turn, has caused fear among the inhabitants that they would lose what they have got. As the famous Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes wrote, “All varieties of social inequality derive from the division between the haves and the have-nots,” which causes hatred.
This situation has negated the most famous theory of International Relations: “The Democratic Peace Theory,” also called “McDonald’s Peace Theory” by New York Times’ famous columnist Thomas Friedman. He says if a country is rich enough to support hamburger joints, democracy is certainly there. And with democracy comes peace. This was what we expected from modernization. Yet life didn’t turn out the way we thought. Xenophobia has emerged as the dark side of modernity.
The other reason of this hatred lies on the other side of the coin: The Islamic world. Putting aside the perception of Islam that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have created, the following incidents happened only in the last two weeks: The Taliban in Pakistan attacked a school in the city of Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren. An Iranian jihadist stormed a café in Sydney, Australia, holding its clients hostage. And in France some successive brutal attacks occurred with their perpetrators shouting in Arabic “God is the greatest.” No need to mention that Boko Haram still holds almost 200 Nigerian school girls captive.
This all unavoidably shapes the perception of Islam in the Western world. The 9/11 attacks had already built a fertile ground for such an interpretation, with many Westerns identifying Taliban and al-Qaeda with Islam itself.
Yet the situation becomes increasingly gruesome every day. The reciprocal hatred fuels the hatred of the two “others” respectively. It is only a matter of time until an anti-PEGIDA movement pours into the streets.
Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s call for common sense is definitely praiseworthy. It is, however, inefficient. Only a call from a country that is part of the two “others,” could achieve any result. And Turkey looks to be the only suitable candidate for that.
Turkey’s relation with the two worlds provides both a unique opportunity and responsibility. It could mobilize international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is composed of 57 Islamic countries.
Yet Turkey, could take a more lasting step. It could revitalize the call for a “historic reconciliation” between Islam and Christianity, which former Secretary General of OIC Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu made to Pope Francis exactly one year ago during his visit to the Vatican.
Such a call would emphasize the common Abrahamic roots of the two religions and support interfaith dialogue. It would also be reminiscent of the reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity that took place in 1965 upon the release of a declaration by Pope Paul VI, decrying anti-Semitism among Christians.
The time is up to make the move, before we reach the point of no return.