What is ethically correct in international relations? Shall a country abide by the diplomatic code of conduct, norms and values? Is it an absolute rule to always apply Westphalian principles? What is morality? What is right and what is wrong?
Turkish international relations experts who are capable enough of unquestioningly subscribing to the policies of the political clan ruling the country question why Turkey has decided to align itself with Qatar while ignoring that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the heavyweights of the Arab world. Naturally, Turkey should not feel obliged to take a side in every regional, international or other issue among the family of Muslim nations. Why should it? On the contrary, in order for it to play a role in resolving disputes between other friendly or brotherly countries, shouldn’t Ankara avoid taking sides unless it also is part of the problem?
Turkey’s deployment of troops to Qatar was, of course, an issue decided long ago. An agreement was signed between the two countries and the issue was on the agenda for the Turkish parliament for a long period. Why did Turkey move the issue to the front of parliament’s agenda and get it approved immediately after the Saudi-Egyptian drive to isolate Qatar began? It is difficult to understand. Was it necessary? Could 3,000 Turkish troops deployed there help any cause? Can Turkish troops in Qatar, for example, be an important element in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) terrorist group? Could the Turkish military presence in Qatar, for example, deter ISIL from staging some dastardly attacks anywhere in this region or elsewhere? Can Qatar, after all that has been said and done during the past days since a web of Arab states severed their diplomatic relations, closed their airspace to Qatar and asked the Qatari diplomats and civilians to pack up and return to their country, still play a role and put aside the fight against ISIL in any civilian international campaign? Well, the 2022 FIFA World Cup may still be on, as it might be too early to decide whether there is need to look for another venue. However, if this crisis cannot be resolved soon, would it be a surprise for anyone if a decision to cancel the venue is delivered soon?
Qatar is accused of supporting, financing and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and such organizations considered by the Saudis, Egyptians and many other countries as terrorist groups. Turkey refuses to accept the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and deals with Hamas, which indeed is just the Palestinian wing of the same group, though it still is on Turkey’s official terrorist organizations list. The Turkish president and his political clan might still love to salute the crowds with the Rabia sign of the Muslim Brotherhood. All these, as well as sending troops and launching a food assistance program for the Qataris, could only serve those anti-Turkish dens across the world that Turkey has also been aiding and abetting terrorism. This is not an acceptable policy and at least the Turkish opposition parties must have the honorable courage to stand up and declare that “this is wrong.”
The United States, particularly since President Donald Trump assumed the presidency, has abandoned the “mild Islam” hallucination. Political Islam cannot be acceptable, and Washington has finally realized this. Europe, scared of political Islamist elements on its streets, has been mellowing for a long time, but it has also started to acknowledge that a firm decision must be taken against the exploitation of Islam with the aim of achieving some political targets. Naturally, excluding Turkey, Qatar and some other isolated helmets in the Muslim league of nations, there is also a growing realization of the importance of secular governance for the progress of democracy in Muslim territories. Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, parted from democratic governance and eventually landed in a sui generis one-man rule attempting to portray itself as presidential governance.
The friends of Turkey in Europe and across the Atlantic should remember what a valuable example the Turkish model was and how bad of a decision it was to try to nourish “mild Islam” in Muslim societies, be it Turkey, Pakistan, Iran or elsewhere. ISIL and such threats are not primarily directed against Christian, Jewish or other belief groups but against Muslim societies trying to adhere to the fundamental and peaceful teachings of Islam. These radical groups have existed all throughout Islamic history from the very early period on and unless the fundamental teachings of Islam are inculcated in Muslim societies, this problem will continue to exist.
Embracing the principles of democratic governance, starting with the right to disagree, is a must for democracy to nourish in any country with a Muslim society. How could people exercise the right to disagree if the holy Quran is the constitution or prime law? At that point, there comes the need to have secular laws, secular governance and respect for religion. Turkey’s previous exercise in secularism was deficient as the state ignored the importance of religion in the private sphere. Now, it is time to think about Muslim illumination and renaissance.