In the past few days, the German, Dutch and Swedish authorities have cancelled public rallies for their Turkish citizens on the grounds that they constitute a security threat. In Germany and Holland, the situation was very clear as senior Turkish officials, including ministers, were denied entry or deported. Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Policies, for example, was detained by the Dutch police and then deported. Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya claims that she witnessed “inhumane treatment” by the authorities.
The rallies had been organised to garner support amongst Turkish voters living in Europe for a referendum to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the West, Erdogan is seen as “arrogant” and “authoritarian” despite the fact that his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has freed Turkey from military rule, reformed the military institutions and restructured the security services, intelligence apparatus and Special Forces.
Under Erdogan’s AK Party, Turkey has passed through several democratic elections smoothly, political pluralism has a meaning in the country and the role of civil society has clearly widened. The era of military coups has become history, as the failure of last year’s coup attempt demonstrated, with civil institutions supported by the people putting down an internationally-backed uprising; hundreds of generals and senior officers have since been imprisoned.
However, the West still insists that it does not host electoral campaigns for a “dictator” who is planning to concentrate power in his own hands. This has been made very clear in the remarks of European leaders. Compare this with the comments of such leaders in the wake of the AK Party’s 2015 election victory; Arab writer Mohamed Amari found that they all welcomed the election result and congratulated the Turks on the success of their free, democratic process. They were, however, clearly unhappy about Erdogan and his party being in control.
Put very simply, it is obvious that the West does not want Muslims — labelled “Islamists” — to rule Turkey, which was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, the historic Caliphate defeated in the First World War and destroyed altogether in 1924. It is no secret that the West was behind the removal of the Ottoman Sultans, backing Mustafa Kamal Ataturk to “modernise” Turkey by removing Islam from Turkish life; Western clothing was promoted and the Arabic script was replaced by adapted Roman letters for the Turkish language.
Western leaders have for decades been working to undermine any attempt at Islamic unity and this has been very clear in the ongoing campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the ironies of what looks very much like a war against the movement is that America’s joy at the murder of Hassan Al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, opened the eyes and mind of a senior Egyptian official in the ministry of culture to the group and the whole idea of Islamic unity. Sayyid Qutb was on a sabbatical tour of the US in 1949 when this happened and said that he was surprised to see the Americans celebrating the murder of a Muslim figure.
The Muslim world, especially the Middle East, has been witnessing an Islamic awakening after trying many different “isms”, including Marxism, capitalism and secularism. Correspondingly, the West has increased its efforts to demonise Islam and Muslims. Although the Muslim Brotherhood promotes democracy and not violence, and Turkey’s ruling AK Party is moderate and democratically-minded, they are regularly mentioned in the same breath by Western critics as the most extreme “Islamic” groups which have actually carried out more atrocities against Muslims than against non-Muslims.
In a 2005 speech, the then US President George W Bush made it clear that he does not want to see Islamists get together or lead their states because they would build an Islamic empire. “The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses,” he claimed, “enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” His idea of “moderate governments” are those dictatorships and absolute monarchies which accede to Western demands.
President Bush referred to Muslims as terrorists and expressed the real fear of the West: “With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.” Even though this is far from what the vast majority of Muslims are seeking to do, it displays the Islamophobia in his thoughts and actions.
Bush’s words were more or less echoed by Britain’s Tony Blair and his Home Office Minister Charles Clarke; America’s Dick Cheney, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others also expressed such fears. All of these leaders want to keep the Muslims disunited so that they cannot re-establish the Caliphate, a word which has been mentioned by many.
So what is the Caliphate? “A united political leadership of the Muslim world,” explains one source, “which was destroyed in 1924 after about 1,350 years. Following the death of Prophet Muhammad, caliphs were appointed to the leadership of the Muslims. In the ensuing centuries, the centre and nature of this power moved around, resting in Istanbul at the time of its destruction. In its dynamic period, the Islamic caliphate was at the heart of a great civilisation, leading the world in science, philosophy, law, maths and astronomy.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has been saying since it was founded that its main and long-term goal is reviving the Caliphate, insisting that this is the best way for Muslims to return to their prosperous ages in the field of science as one of the most civilised of nations. It is a historical fact that when Muslims were united under one political entity they were often the most developed Ummah in many different fields of human activity. This, I would suggest, is why the West does not want Muslims to be re-united ever again; why there is so much enmity against the likes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose moderate Islam is still too much for the West to bear.
Erdogan does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation and adopts an Islamic ideology which is very close to the movement’s, so the West does not like him. If he had been an ardent secularist he would be supported by the West even if he ruled Turkey with an iron fist for decades. We just have to look at how the West supports undemocratic dictators across the Arab world to know the truth of this.
The West does not defend democracy; it claims that Erdogan is leading Turkey to authoritarianism and dictatorship. If it is really concerned about democracy, though, why does it maintain such strong relations with the tyrannical regimes in Egypt, the Gulf States and many other countries? Why does it turn a blind eye to the atrocious human rights record of the Egyptian regime, for example, which came to power through a military coup against the democratically-elected president? Instead of condemning the regime in Cairo, its leader is feted in Western capitals and given ample funds and weapons to keep his people subdued enough not to think about electing a Muslim Brotherhood president ever again. The West doesn’t really support any democracy in the Muslim world, least of all in Turkey; it is only interested in making sure that Muslims are and remain disunited.
NOTE: This page was updated at 14:11 UTC on 17 June 2020 to remove a quote incorrectly attributed to Lord Curzon.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.