The leaders of over 50 countries participated in a well-publicised march last Sunday in Paris. It was called a march “for the Republic” to stress “condemnation of violence and terrorism” in solidarity with the French people and President Francois Hollande.
A number of Arab leaders, along with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, participated in the demonstration. Davutoglu tweeted in French shortly before departing for Paris, saying that he was going to participate in order to send the message that “terrorism has no religion.”
Although it was called “the march against terrorism”, in very broad terms, it was also a march in support of the freedom to mock religious beliefs, especially (in the context of Paris) Islam, Muslims and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As such, Davutoğlu’s participation, and that of the other leaders of Muslim countries, was unacceptable, regardless of their attempted justification. They could have boycotted the march, at the very least, because offensive cartoons of the Prophet were displayed during the event. That is what the Moroccan delegation did. Our leaders could also have settled for paying their respects at the Elysee Palace and expressing their solidarity with the French people so that they would not have to walk side by side with the war criminal and biggest state-terrorist in the world, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Government circles in Turkey say that the Turkish delegation went to Paris in order to confirm the country’s support for European Muslim communities, which are being targeted by extremists. In a press conference held at the Turkish Embassy in Paris, Davutoğlu urged the leaders participating in the march to express the same condemnation and anger against the spread of Islamophobia, which is growing across Europe.
Public opinion in Turkey is divided regarding Davutoğlu and his delegation’s participation in the Paris march. Back in Turkey after visiting the French and German capitals, the Turkish prime minister spoke to the Justice and Development Party parliamentary bloc in which he responded to the criticism of his Paris visit. It was, he insisted, intended to show that terrorism cannot be linked to Islam and that the terrorist attacks hurt Islam more than anything else. He added that a similar march will be organised in solidarity with the mosques that are being attacked.
It looks as if Ankara decided to go to Paris without hesitation following the Charlie Hebdo attack; the government did not want to be accused of supporting terrorism by staying away. There is a fierce media campaign in Turkey accusing the government of dragging its feet in the fight against terrorism. It is also because there are those who, cynically, took the opportunity to try to link the Charlie Hebdo killings to the Turkish government’s policies and positions, through hints, insinuations and the power of suggestion.
In going to Paris, Davutoğlu took into account Western sensitivity at the expense of the feelings of Muslims around the world. It may seem, at first glance, to have been pragmatic to save the Turkish government from embarrassment but, in fact, it was a backward step that contradicts the slogans and ideas promoted by “new Turkey”.
Davutoğlu’s call for action against terrorism aimed at Palestinians, Syrians and others, as well as his call for a similar march in solidarity with the mosques being attacked by far-right extremists, will not change much in reality. Unfortunately, nor will it ease the intensity of the attacks and provocations targeting Muslims. This is obvious by the fact that Charlie Hebdo has published more cartoons allegedly of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in its first issue since the murderous attack. This makes a mockery of the Muslim leaders who participated in the Paris march.
Now, with Charlie Hebdo continuing its insults, those leaders must send a message to the world that is even stronger than the message they sent by participating in the march. They must insist that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a red line and that insulting and mocking him under the pretext of freedom of speech is unacceptable in a civilised world.
Translated from Arabi21, 14 January, 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.