The hideous massacre of 76 young Norwegians seems to confirm the average Turk’s worst stereotypes about Europe. It is xenophobic, racist, steeped in a feeling of cultural superiority, prone to Christian fundamentalism, and prone to violence against Muslims and immigrants. The 237 references to the Ottoman Empire and republican Turkey in Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page “manifesto”, 2083: An European Declaration of Independence, do not help either.
According to Today’s Zaman (thanks to journalist and analyst Firdevs Robinson for alerting me!), the mass murderer was “obsessed with Turkey”, discussing at length its 19th and 20th century history, (not least the modernisation reforms of the Tanzimat period!). His ranting prose portrays Turks as genocidal invaders of the Old Continent that threatened to re-Islamise it once again, as they undo the doomed experiment in secularisation pioneered by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the interwar period. Current Prime Minister Erdoğan, along with his predecessors Necmettin Erbakan and Adnan Menderes, is seen as the principal protagonists of this story. What is more, according to Breivik, the Turkey of the AK Party is bringing Shariah law back, while fostering fundamentalism in Bosnia and Kosovo, closer to the European heartland. The history of Anatolia and the Balkans is conceived by the self-proclaimed Knight Templar as an uninterrupted conflict between Christians and Muslims.
The scary news is that such an understanding is well-rooted in the discourse of the radical right, that is gaining ground in Europe. But what I personally find ironic is that many of Breivik’s arguments resonate also with the thoughts of Turkish nationalists. Those of them who fall within the secularist camp, or at least many amongst them, would definitely agree that the AKP is leading the country down the slippery slope to an Islamic state. That was a key adage in the campaign to prevent Abdullah Gül from winning the presidency back in 2007. And, let’s not forget, “[t]he EU is deliberately destroying the cultural traditions of member states by flooding them with immigrants and eradicating native traditions.” In a similar vein, Turkey’s own EU-phobes see the 27-strong bloc as conspiring to tear apart the country’s territorial integrity by empowering ethnic and religious minorities. Yesterday a court in Istanbul sentenced the ultra-nationalist Ogün Samast to 23 years in prison for murdering Hrant Dink, an eminent Turkish-Armenian journalist and activist, for his public stand on 1915. It is therefore another irony that the Norway murderer was calling for the implementation of the Treaty of Sèvres, the bogeyman of every Turkish xenophobe. He should have been perceptive enough not to antagonise but actually reach out to his kindred souls and fellow travelers within Turkey.
I guess the general observation here is that radicalisms mirror, mimic and feed one another. Reading readers’ comments in Today’s Zaman one is struck how Breivik’s pronouncements on the extermination and expulsion of Armenians and Greeks from what is today Turkey unleash familiar anger, rage and exasperation. It is a vicious circle where exclusionary rhetoric and ethno-religious stereotyping from the EU brings out the worst instincts and fears in Turkey in response, as well as in other Muslim-majority countries. Surely this is not a recipe for finding common ground so that we can jointly tackle difficult and divisive historical issues. And what is worst, the Norwegian tragedy might entrench a feeling of self-righteousness in Turkey that then prevents it from dealing with its own bitter memories.
27th July 2011 at 03:07pm
Ibrahim Kalin, advisor to PM Erdogan, comments on Norway attacks and Islamophobia in Europe:
Breivik’s obsession with Balkan history: http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/07/norway-killings
26th September 2011 at 02:09pm
What’s more, Breivik, the AK Party turkish back to Sharia law, and at the same time promote fundamentalism in Bosnia and Kosovo, the region closest to the nucleus. History of Anatolia and the Balkans, is conceived by the so-called Knight Templar as the ongoing conflict between Christians and Muslims.
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