The Eden of the Middle East

The Eden of the Middle East

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became angry because the main opposition leader had called the Middle East a quagmire. “That’s insulting,” the prime minister said. Before a court bans using the words “Middle East” and “quagmire” in the same sentence, this columnist volunteers to call the peaceful, wealthy, healthy and happy region as “the Eden of the Middle East.”

In Eden, however, Turkish diplomatic missions, once opened with a Kodak-moment, half-baked ceremonies, seem to be deserted: Cairo, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad pending. But the usual Turkish euphemism beats even Turkish standards.

The deputy foreign minister in Ankara said the 49 diplomatic personnel, including the consul-general in Mosul, and their families held hostage by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “were not actually being held hostage,” but “were merely interned.”

A better wording could have been to say that they “were being hosted by fine gentlemen,” or “were partying together with their good Muslim friends.” The truth, however, puts that if an armed group raids a diplomatic mission and removes its personnel at gunpoint to an unknown location with the aim of negotiations to “win favor(s)” from the country of origin, it is an act of hostage-taking, no matter what the officials from the country of origin may call it. The unlucky Turks did not vacate the consulate to attend a backgammon tournament against ISIL’s backgammon heavyweights. Interned? Mind you, we are talking about an organization that was deemed “too extreme” even for al-Qaeda, which renounced it.

Iraq, theoretically, was liberated 11 years ago. When this columnist visited the country, for the first and only time, it was 1989, and “at least the trains ran on time.” Today, Osama bin-Laden is playing the Phantom of the Opera in the Levant, including large parts of Iraq. 

At the end of 2011 when the last U.S. troops left Iraq, President Barack Obama described Iraq as “sovereign, stable and self-reliant.” Recalling that statement and looking at the “Eden of Iraq” today, this columnist can only feel remorse for having, sometimes perhaps unfairly, criticized Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s vision over the Eden of the Middle East. My apologies to Professor Davutoğlu…

It is time Mr. Erdoğan, who shyly refers to ISIL as “an organization,” decides what kind of an organization it is. Charity? Nongovernmental? Non-profit? Or terrorist? Then Mr. Erdoğan, who vehemently denies there can ever be Islamist terrorists, should rethink his zealousness merely by asking a few questions to himself privately.

What kind of a religious state does ISIL aim to create in the Levant and the country that Mr. Obama claimed was “sovereign, stable and self-reliant?’ What are their operational methods? Do they kill innocent people? What is their aim in killing innocent people?

Why was al-Nusrah, another al-Qaeda offspring, officially declared as a terrorist organization by Turkey, while ISIL is “just an organization that ‘interns’ [not to be confused with hostage-taking!] Turkish diplomats and their families?” Why have ISIL declared sharia in the lands they occupy and have been strictly and violently implementing Islamic law? Why do ISIL kill any other Muslim who comes from a different sect than Sunni? In the name of “what” does ISIL kill? And finally, prime minister, why do you think does the search engine Google produce 43,300,000 results when you type the words “Islam” and “terror?”

It is a simple but an over-ironic twist of fate that for the likes of ISIL, even mild Islamists like Mr. Erdoğan can simply be infidels because “they wear the western necktie and shake hands with women.”
Just like the fact that the “Turkish Islamists” are infidels for the Egyptian devout because “they even fail to demonstrate piety by means of a zebibah” (a dark circle of callused skin, or in some cases a protruding bump between the hairline and the eyebrows, emerges on the spot where worshippers press their foreheads into the ground during their daily prayers. The zebibah is an unstated contest among people eager to prove just how religious they are).

It’s the Eden of the Middle East. And it’s funny that Islamists discriminate against each other. The rational mind cannot decide how and where to stand against discrimination in this particular case.