Turkey should be constructive in countering radicalism

Turkey should be constructive in countering radicalism

It is clear by now that the terrorists who raided Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, killing 12 people and later turning Paris and its surroundings into a battlefield - taking lives and hostages - have links to radical Islamist organizations in the Middle East.

The attack, described by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as a knife stabbed in the heart of his country, is likely to have substantial effects not only on security policies, but also on immigration policies and social polarization, both in France and in Europe.

Valls, as a demonstration of high responsibility, said the security operations started after the raid were not a religious fight, but a fight against terrorism. Those words were in reference to concerns raised by leaders of Muslim populated countries, including Turkey, that the attack could fuel xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and increase pressure on Muslim societies in Europe.

The cure for the dire situation is not to take a defensive line, as if to find excuses for the terrorist acts of people committing crimes. As former Turkish President Abdullah Gül said in a written statement, “The perpetrators of this barbaric act not only betrayed and tainted Islamic values and principles, but also targeted millions of European Muslims who have nowhere else to live other than Europe.”

“Therefore” Gül continued, “the Islamic world and all Muslims should clearly denounce this inhuman attack and demonstrate solidarity with the people of France against religious extremism.”

That is in line with a written statement made by the Turkish Foreign Ministry right after the attack, but not in line with statements from some ranking Turkish officials, which have condemned the terrorist act with "ifs" and “buts."

There is no practical use to implying that those militants could be disaffected young men and women angered by the discrimination they may have suffered in the West. This could be taken by the radicals as an encouragement of their acts.

After all, there is not much difference - in the eyes of an al-Qaeda or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) mastermind - between Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, François Hollande, or Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan. After all, none of their regimes fit to the strict and brutal imposition of sharia law that they consider to be the “real” Islam.

But Turkey could and should play a constructive role in countering terrorism sourcing from radical Islamist movements - for the sake of democracies, Muslim societies both inside and outside those democracies, and for the security of Turkey itself.

In order to play that role, policies should not further antagonize radical movements, but they should not show any soft belly to them either. Turkey is the only Muslim-majority multi-party, secular democracy based on the rule of law, at least according to its current Constitution. It is also an active member of Western security system and therefore should continue to act accordingly.