Why are Turks xenophobic?

Why are Turks xenophobic?

Turks love to mount their high horses and wax moral about xenophobia toward the Turks and Islamophobia toward Muslims in general in the West. This is also a pet theme of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and he never wastes an opportunity to bring the matter up.

He also likes to equate Islamophobia with anti-Semitism, although one would be justified in doubting that his heart is in the right place in this regard, given his vitriolic remarks about Israel that are only a notch away from being anti-Semitic.

All Erdoğan seems to be saying when bringing up this matter is “if you are so against anti-Semitism, and have laws against it, why don’t you do the same with Islamophobia.”

One would assume that prejudice towards other races and nations is so little, almost non-existent, in Turkey that Turks, including the president himself, are totally justified in taking a moral stance against racism against Turks and Muslims in the West.

However, this has once again been shown to not be the case, if we are to go by the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey published recently. According to this survey, Turks are the most xenophobic people in the world today.

“In fact, it is hard to find any country or organization that the Turkish people really like, except, of course, Turkey itself,” according to Jacob Poushter, a Research Associate at the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

American’s who are offended and angered over the amount of anti-Americanism in Turkey should not take this personally. According to the Pew survey, while 73 percent of Turks have an unfavorable view of the U.S., 73 percent also have a negative view of Russia.

When it comes to Iran, this goes up to 75 percent, while Israel is the most hated country, with only 2 percent of those questioned having a favorable view of it. It seems that Turks don’t like the Chinese, the Brazilians, or the Saudi Arabians either, to name but a few other nations.

Those who argue today in connection with developments in Syria and Iraq that Turks incline towards radical Sunni Muslims also appear to be mistaken, because the same survey shows that 80 percent of Turks dislike Hamas. Meanwhile, 85 percent dislike the Lebanese Hezbollah, which of course is Shiite.

Explanations vary for what can only be considered a national deformity. The usual argument is to refer to an inbred insecurity that goes back to the First World War. That was a time when the West was trying to dismantle the Ottoman Empire, while some Western statesmen were declaring bombastically that “the Turk will be sent packing back to Asia!”

But what about countries that never did anything bad to Turkey, or the Turks? This could be a simple case of “if you hate one foreigner you might as well hate them all.” We even have a saying:  “The only friend a Turk has is another Turk.”

It is almost as if there is a cultural need to believe that, with a few exceptions, the world hates us, so the best thing is to have a blanket suspicion of all. But this is not the sign of a healthy society.

As for the saying, “The only friend a Turk has is another Turk,” it is sufficiently clear today that this is not the case. Turks do not just hate others, they also hate each other, and this hatred is constantly stoked by politicians, opinion makers, and officials.

If this is the “New Turkey” that Erdoğan and his supporters laud so much, it is clear that this Turkey is going to end up increasingly friendless in today’s world. How such a country hopes to be a global power, as Erdoğan wants it to be, is anyone’s guess.