No place for ambiguity for Turkey’s Jewish community

No place for ambiguity for Turkey’s Jewish community

Under normal circumstances, we should not have categories like moderate Islam or radical Islam. Yet, as long as there are fanatics killing not only non-Muslims, but also Muslims in the name of Islam, we need to accept the existence that many people misinterpret Islam.

A few years ago, Turkey stood as an antidote to radical Islam. Not because it was ruled by a staunchly secular regime, on the contrary, it was run by a government with a core religious base. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) undertook democratic reforms and with the country registering strong economic performance early on, Turkey was perceived to be an example proving that Islam is in fact compatible with a fully functioning pluralistic democracy.

That’s why we had so much talk about whether Turkey could or couldn’t be a model for other countries.
Unfortunately there is no such talk now days. The democratic backpedalling of the AKP, coupled with the general conviction in the international community that Ankara has been supporting radical Islamic movements to topple Bashar al-Assad, has raised serious doubts about Turkey being a success story that could blend Islam with democracy.

It is a pity to see that the AKP has unfortunately lost most of the credit it gained at the beginning of its administration of being a responsible “Muslim” power, something the secular camp would rightly object saying that countries should not act according to their religion but according to universal values. Still, perhaps the world needed to hear such a story especially after 9/11.

At the end of the day the AKP has missed a big opportunity and it did not have to turn out like that. Its aspiration of being the leader of the Muslim world, leading the revolutionary changes that were expected to take place following the Arab Spring and to be the spokesperson of oppressed Muslims, have contributed to a chain of mistakes by the AKP.

Perhaps we cannot criticize the AKP for its ambition of being a leader of the Muslim world and the spokesperson of oppressed Muslims. Yet, it could have been a totally different story had the AKP also aspired to care for all the oppressed in our region, regardless of their religion or sect. It could have been a totally different story had they come out more forcefully in protecting Christian minorities under threat in Iraq, for instance. Or for the small Jewish communities in the region threatened because of something they have not done themselves.

But, most importantly, the AKP government who gained a lot of international appreciation for improving minority rights in Turkey, especially at the beginning of its administration, should have maintained this line.

The AKP government has every right to criticize the Israeli government and side with the Palestinians. But at the same time it should leave no ambiguity when it comes to anti-Semitism and especially its position vis-à-vis with its own Jewish community. It should come out strongly against any act, behavior, implication, insinuation against Turkey’s Jews. Its unequivocal stance against any behavior toward Jews is not only an obligation if Turkey wants to remain committed to international values, but it will also gain credibility and strengthen its criticism against Israeli cruelty.