In 2005, the Turkish prime minister at the time, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, became the co-chairs of a United Nations-sponsored global effort that went by the fancy name "Alliance of Civilizations." Twelve years later, Zapatero is a retired politician, the Western world faces different flavors of Islamist-to-jihadist threats and Erdogan is at war with Western civilization.
Erdogan, who was labelled as the most virulent anti-Israeli leader in the world, once likened Israel's operations in Gaza to Hitler's: ("Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.") Recently, Erdogan said that today's German practices -- presumably Germany's blocking Turkish politicians speaking at German rallies to support Erdogan's upcoming referendum in Turkey -- are "not different from the Nazi practices of the past." In another speech, he complained that "Nazism is alive in the West." For Erdogan, the Dutch are "spineless and ignoble" and "remnants of the Nazi past and fascists;" and the Netherlands, which lost more than 200,000 of its citizens during the German occupation in WWII, is a "banana republic."
To the European Union, which Turkey theoretically aspires to join, he said: "If there are any Nazis, it is you who are the Nazis".
Ironically, the Turkish ire against the West, in a recent row between several European capitals and Ankara (over Erdogan's ambitions to hold political rallies across Europe to address millions of Turkish expats), reveals the unmistakable and deep-rooted anti-Semitism among Erdogan's fans. Hundreds of Turkish protesters in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam hurled stones at the police and shouted "Allahu akbar" -- Arabic for "Allah is the greatest." Then, some in the crowd, in a protest that was exclusively a dispute between Turkey and the Netherlands, shouted "cancer Jews".
"We saw again that the word 'Jew' and 'homo' are curse words in these groups," said Esther Voet, the editor-in-chief of the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad.
Someone tweeted an embarrassing curse at François Hollande, the French president, mistaking his name for his nationality.
A gangster, who shot at a night club, defended himself by saying that he actually wanted to shoot at the Dutch consulate building.
For the lighter side of the Turkish ire, in another Dutch protest, Erdogan's fans cut, skewered and squeezed oranges -- orange is the color of the Dutch royal family. The Turkish Association of Red Meat Producers "deported" 40 Dutch Holstein cows back to Holland. In a similar move, a member of a district city council in Istanbul said that he would butcher a cow that came from the Netherlands in retaliation against the Dutch.
One could simply laugh and ignore the way the Turks express their anger at the Dutch, who deported an uninvited Turkish minister who intended to make a speech to the Turkish community in the Netherlands.
The official rhetoric in Ankara, however, unveils the irreversible incompatibility between the democratic cultures of Europe and Turkey. For Erdogan, "the spirit of fascism is running wild" in Europe. According to his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Europe is "heading toward an abyss". And it is not just the rhetoric.
Hundreds of Turkish expatriates in Germany attend a political rally, addressed by Turkey's Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic, in March 2016. (Image Source: Deutsche Welle video screenshot)
Not quite knowing where best to direct its anti-Western campaign Turkey blocked some military training and other work with NATO-partner countries, thereby obstructing NATO's 2017 rolling program of cooperation with non-EU countries. "This is childishly hostile," said one NATO state diplomat in Ankara.
Meanwhile, Turkey, instead of embracing Europe as an ally and future partner, seems to think that it can tame Europe by blackmailing it. Erdogan threatened to terminate a controversial agreement with the EU, sealed in March 2016 to stem the flow of tens of thousands of refugees from Turkey to Europe in return for financial aid and visa-free travel for Turks. The EU could "forget about the deal," Erdogan said half a year ago. Echoing Erdogan's threat, his interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, threatened the EU that the rich club would be shocked "if Ankara were to send 15,000 refugees to it every month. Minister Soylu said that he would "blow the minds" of EU leaders by sparking a fresh refugee crisis.
Part of the inflammatory anti-Western Turkish rhetoric and exploits may be aiming at luring an increasingly isolated and nationalistic voter base ahead of a critical referendum on April 16 that aims significantly to broaden Erdogan's presidential powers. But it is also about the fact that Erdogan views and portrays himself as the global champion of an opaque "Muslim cause," under Turkish [read: Erdogan's] caliphate-like leadership against the "hostile" West. As Islamists know that they cannot defeat the West by using hard power, it is about "soft jihad".
It was not without a reason that Turkey's Foreign Minister Cavusoglu did not talk about a "dispute," or a "diplomatic crisis," or "negotiations for a solution." He did talk about "religious wars."
"Soon religious wars will break out in Europe," he said. "That's the way it's going". But how do Turkish (and other) Islamists think they can win future religious wars? How do they think their primary warfare instrument, soft power, would work for an ultimate Islamic victory over an "infidel" civilization?
Erdogan has the answer: He urged Muslims across Europe to have big families to "fight the injustices of the West." And not just that:
"Go live in better neighbourhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you".
Islamists like Erdogan do not dream of "conquering" infidel lands with fighter jets and tanks and bombs. In this "war of religion" their primary weaponry is demographic change in favor of Muslims.
It is time to recall the poem Erdogan recited at a public rally back in 1999: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers".
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.