July 7, 2014

Turkey no longer a model for Islamic world, expert says

Turkey has moved far away from its former position as a model country for the Islamic world and the Arab states, a professor from Zagazig University in Egypt has said.

In an exclusive interview with the Cihan news agency, Hoda Mohammed Darwish, the dean of the Institute of Asian Studies and an expert in Islamic movements in Turkey, said she had written many articles depicting Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as a model for the Arab and Islamic worlds but now felt great disappointment over recent developments in Turkey.

“The AK Party which I mentioned in my articles isn't this current AK Party. The Turkey that we saw as an example is not today's Turkey. We are shocked,” the Egyptian expert said.

Darwish said Turkey used to be an example for Arab and Islamic states, especially in the fields of human right and democracy, but that a sudden change had taken place both in the AK Party and Turkey. “Suddenly, both the AK Party and Turkey have changed. They have also changed toward Egypt. … Turkey is now a stranger to us,” Darwish said.

Turkey's response to the Egyptian coup of last year was seen by Egyptians as one of the most negative. Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador and scaled back its diplomatic relations with Turkey to the level of a chargé d'affaires on Nov. 23, due to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks backing ousted leader Mohammed Morsi. Ankara responded in kind, declaring Egypt's ambassador to Turkey persona non grata. Although Turkish President Abdullah Gül congratulated President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi -- the former military chief who is believed to have played a key role in the ousting of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president -- after Sisi was elected, Erdoğan said in a speech to EU ambassadors in Ankara that congratulating Sisi has no meaning to Turkey as it is unable to congratulate a coup regime.

Darwish also mentioned Erdoğan's use of language, saying that the Turkish prime minister -- who recently announced his candidacy for the presidency -- is employing “aggressive rhetoric both inside and outside Turkey.” The Egyptian academic further said that Arab nations no longer see in the Turkish prime minister the Erdoğan who they saw as a model and used to praise. “There is now a different Erdoğan,” she said.

Darwish also stated that she could not understand the reason behind Erdoğan's harsh criticism of the faith-based Hizmet movement inspired by US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

“These days, everyone talks about Islam; however, who practices Islamic norms? Who opened schools around the world? Do we need to punish him [Gülen] for all this? Should we punish him for providing these services?” Darwish said, expressing her uneasiness over recent moves targeting the Hizmet movement.

Darwish also warned that the escalating violence in Turkey's immediate neighbors could also cross Turkey's borders.

“If something bad happens in a neighboring country, there is a real possibility that others may also be affected. These developments won't bring happiness to any country. Turkey needs to be careful about partitions. … These clashes in Syria and Iraq may spill over into Turkey,” Darwish said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 07 July 2014, Monday