Erdoğan’s experimental cooking and the Arab restaurant

Erdoğan’s experimental cooking and the Arab restaurant

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s men are busy chasing ghosts: Ghosts of foreign spies who have miraculously provoked hundreds of thousands of silly Turks out into the streets for a wave of protests that no columnist, analyst, political scientist or government had predicted. The same men are also busy planning preemptive strikes on various mediums of social media. A vice president of Mr Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has hinted “legal regulation to set social media in order.” “Twitter lies are deadlier than bomb,” the man said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Erdoğan’s friends in Europe and across the Atlantic have been behaving in an unusually unfriendly way, sending message after message to Mr. Erdoğan and observing, with disappointment, that their messages disappear as they arrive in Ankara. They are patient, although the language to which Mr. Erdoğan’s (and Turkey’s) Western friends resort gets tougher.

But why do they suddenly feel such affection for the unimportant half of Turks and their concerns? Why do they dare anger their man in Ankara? What has made them see, after years of blindness, Mr. Erdoğan’s democratic deficiencies? Why would a European politician call Mr. Erdogan “Europe’s last standing dictator” when Mr. Erdoğan is the same Mr. Erdoğan – the same man who once declared that his ambition was to “raise devout generations”? Why has Washington issued about 15 statements criticizing Mr. Erdoğan’s way of handling peaceful dissent?

Another question: Who, other than the AKP loyalists in Turkey, is unhappy about the Turkish protests? Take, for instance, Murad Aly, media advisor for Egypt’s leader Mohamed Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party, or simply the Egyptian Mr. Erdoğan and AKP: “What is going on in Turkey is intended to promote the idea that Islamic regimes … have failed.” You see, the man does not mention “democratic regimes,” he simply refers to “Islamic regimes.”

It is understandable that the Turkish unrest is bad news for Mr. Morsi, whose police force is preparing to counter, probably much in the way Mr. Erdoğan’s police force did in Turkey, mass rallies against his rule scheduled for June 30. Naturally, any parallelism between the Turkish and Egyptian rallies would be disturbing for Mr. Morsi and his supporters at home and abroad.

Reuters accurately put it in an analysis that “riots and protests have highlighted an underlying schism in Turkish society reaching back to the 1920s.” Another analyst commented that “some see the protests as part of a nationwide discontent with political Islam.” And another observed that “pro-secular protests rocking Turkish cities have sent ripples across the Arab world, unnerving Islamist leaders who have long touted Turkey as a successful model of political Islam.” Like Mr. Morsi, who once declared that Mr. Erdogan’s AKP was a “source of inspiration.”

Naturally, for his western friends, Mr Erdoğan’s governance no longer positively resonates through the Arab Street which itself is alarming news. What if the Turkish protests turned into an inspiration for more Turks to join in the future, shaking Turkey’s economic and political stability further, and for the Arabs who may one day decide to stand against political Islam?

Apparently, Mr Erdoğan wanted to experiment with cooking a dish – raising devout generations in this analogy. He had all the ingredients. He started cooking. He smelled a delicious aroma. His audience was happy that the same dish could be marketed at every Arab restaurant.

Mr. Erdoğan and his shoulder-patting audience were suddenly shocked at the smell of burnt food on June 1. He had set the oven flame too high. This was a dish best cooked on a low flame. Now, his loving audience is shouting at him, in panic, to put the flame down. The trouble is, Mr. Erdoğan thinks that the best way to salvage the burning dish is to put more flames into the oven. Hence, the occasional shout and protest from his audience: Don’t!

Never mind, dear friends of Turkey; Mr. Erdoğan is a pragmatic cook. At the end of the day he will put down the flame and get back to business. But watch out, so that he does not burn the whole house while cooking.