Turkish opera buffa (now at its best!)

Turkish opera buffa (now at its best!)

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan keeps hosting very important heads of state who want to see all Muslims dead – last week, the guest was Pope Francis and this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A day before the papal visit to the Crescent and Star, Mr. Erdoğan said “foreigners” were unable to solve the problems of the Middle East because Western states “don’t like us.”

(“Foreigners” are non-Muslims. So, for the Turks, Indonesians, Egyptians, Syrians, Moroccans, Saudis and Iranians are not foreigners – locals with whom the Turks cannot communicate with a common language.)

“Only we [Muslims] can solve our problems. I speak openly; foreigners love oil, gold, diamonds and the cheap labor force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East. Believe me, they don’t like us,” Mr. Erdoğan said. “They look like friends, but they want us dead, they like seeing our children die.”

If Pope Francis did not convert to Islam during his flight to Turkey, he met with a man who thinks the pope likes to see “our children die.” So did Mr. Putin.  

The Turkish opera buffa is at its best. For his part, the main character told the pope, “Let’s stop Islamophobia.” To play his part, the pope called for a “dialogue that can deepen the understanding and appreciation” between faiths. Thundering applause. And, privately, loud laughter.

Could Mr. Erdoğan have told the Pope that he believes Christians, including the Holy See, want to see Muslim children dead? No. That was not in the script featuring their “interfaith dialogue.”

At the start of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis called for interfaith dialogue to counter fanaticism and fundamentalism. Could he, possibly, have told Mr. Erdoğan that a powerful belief that non-Muslims want to see Muslim children die is pure fanaticism and fundamentalism? No. That was not in the script either. 

Missing in the opera buffa script also was Mr. Erdoğan’s doctrinal commitment that the Middle East must be a “Muslim-only” (preferably Sunni Muslim-only) land, while the pope pledged to support Middle Eastern Christians. Instead, the usual Kodak-moment exchanges of pleasantry, smiles and words of interfaith dialogue. Facts can be ignored.

As always, Mr. Erdoğan (and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu) has a confused mind about when and where the non-Muslim West should get involved in Muslim affairs of the Middle East. “Middle Eastern countries could solve their problems by themselves without any help from the West,” he said in one speech. In another, he condemned what he termed the international “silence” over the “state terror” being instigated by the Syrian regime. He overtly and covertly seeks foreign powers’ military engagement to facilitate the downfall of a Muslim regime in Syria; and at the same time believes that Muslims could solve their problems without any help from the West. The same hypocrisy applies to Egypt.  

“The only condition to overcome the crisis in the Islamic world is unity, solidarity and alliance. Believe me, we can resolve every problem as long as we are united … If we act together, we will end the loneliness of Palestine … It is possible to end the bloodshed in Iraq and the killing of Syrian children if we unite.” Thundering applause, again. Part of the script…

Which just does not explain why Mr. Erdoğan lobbies in Washington, London and Paris for “Christian involvement in the Middle East,” which he rhetorically rejects. “We can solve every problem as long as we are united.” Nice.

Go ahead and start by uniting your Saudi and Iranian Muslim brothers. Then you can unite your Hamas and anti-Hamas Palestinian brothers to score something better than a non-functioning “governing partnership” in the Palestinian territories. Remember to shake hands with your Egyptian brothers, too. After all, they are Muslims. But don’t forget to unite with your other – and slightly savage – brothers in Syria and Iraq, (although they may have challenged your “Islamic Caliphate” ambitions). Remember also your Shiite brothers in Lebanon. But still, if all of that looks too ambitious, Mr. President, you can always start by uniting your own people: The secular and Islamist/conservative Muslims of Turkey.