Keep marching Mr. Davutoğlu, in Ankara too
Paris demonstrated yesterday that the 1789 revolution took place in nowhere other than France.
Millions rallied in Paris on Jan. 11, in protest at the Jan. 7 killings in which two terrorists with radical Islamist links killed 12 people in a raid on the French weekly satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Some 50 heads of government or state joined the rally to show their solidarity with the French people against terrorism.
Among them was Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
It was not clear up until Saturday whether or not he would join the march. The decision was announced following a call of condolences from Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan to French President François Hollande.
Whatever might have been the motivation, Davutoğlu’s decision to join the protest was right. His attendance at the rally was important not because of the fact that Turkey was the first Muslim country to announce that its prime minister would take part in the rally. The opposite would have been wrong, since Turkey is still an active member of the Western security alliance NATO and the Council of Europe, (if not the European Union).
The importance comes from its domestic effect. If Davutoğlu (or Erdoğan) had not attended the Paris rally, then the perception among the Turkish people - especially the supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) - would have been that the government “understood” the root causes of the terrorist act, even if it was not sympathetic to it.
Nevertheless, the age-old propaganda tactics were still in evidence, for example when state broadcaster TRT’s live coverage said “Other leaders joined Davutoğlu in the Paris rally.” Thank God such tactics are not working, as people watch the news from elsewhere. Still, the government managed to give the message to international public opinion that it is against the terrorist attack, even though it was committed by Muslims.
The exemplary stance of French President Hollande, calling the Kauchi brothers “French terrorists” instead of calling them “Islamist terrorists,” helped a lot for all world leaders to handle the situation.
Germany’s Angela Merkel has also played an important role in absorbing the shockwaves created by the attack on Muslim communities in Europe.
However, the steps that Turkey must take in countering terrorism sourcing from within radical Islamist movements should not be limited to the march in Paris.
Before flying to France, Davutoğlu endorsed reports about Turkish support to French security and intelligence services, along with the services of many other states, especially the countries of NATO, of which both France and Turkey are members. Of course, Turkey should help its allies when they are under threat, just as it expects help from its allies when needed.
What the Turkish government can still do more about is control of the domestic political climate, which is providing a fertile ground for Islamist militancy due to the rise of radical Islamism with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq on Turkey’s southern borders. This comes at a time of rising Islamic rhetoric from government figures, who are operating in a secular, democratic Turkey, under the rule of law that is still written in its Constitution.
What Turkish government could and should do more is to impose tighter measures along its borders against the infiltration of radical Islamist militants, putting more pressure on their activities in Turkey, including recruitment. It may be true that Islamophobia is a problem in Europe, but to make it a propaganda issue in everyday domestic politics will not help weaken Islamophobia in Europe; rather, it will strengthen anti-Western sentiment in Turkey, from which radical organizations could benefit.
So, Mr. Davutoğlu, please continue in Ankara your rally in Paris.