Turkey cannot be serious about fighting Islamist extremism. In the first place, Turkey's leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, does not believe "Islamic terror" exists.
More recently, Erdogan even fabricated an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]: "Deas." He simply took the terror organization's Arabic acronym, Daesh, took out the word "Islamic" from, it and created "Deas." Last week, the Turkish military HQ and Foreign Ministry started to refer to ISIL as "Deas" on their web pages.
The Paris attacks have, once again, unmasked the Turkish leaders' stubborn Islamist ideologies. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rushed to Paris to march with world leaders in protest of the attacks. But once again, his words left millions puzzled. Islam, Davutoglu said, is the "most fundamental element of the European continent." Furthermore, in a not-so-hidden euphemism for the Islamic lands, Davutoglu reminded that the terrorists who attacked the satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris "did not grow up in Muslim countries; instead they grew up in Paris."
Turkish politicians are not shy about going as far as to claim that the Paris attack could be a non-Muslim conspiracy to fuel Islamophobia in the Western world. A member of parliament from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] has claimed that the attack was "staged like a movie scene." Ali Sahin sent a series of tweets saying the lack of traffic in the Paris street during the attack was "thought-provoking" and that it seemed "as if it was a movie scene." He also claimed that the "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is greater) rallying cry of the assailants was "a fabricated mise-en-page [layout]," apparently mixing up the French phrase "mise-en-scène."
Turkey's Islamic clergy is far from having a pro-democracy, liberal mindset, with apparently no interest in offering a less-Islamist, more liberal, alternative to the Turks. Take, for instance, Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez. Speaking to a press conference in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Gormez said that the use of Islamic symbols by the perpetrators of the attack is a sign of "a perception manipulation." In other words, Professor Gormez thinks it was a "false flag" operation: someone else carried out the attacks and put the blame on Muslims.
Turkish MP Ali Sahin (left) claims the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris was "staged like a movie scene." Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez (right), thinks someone else carried out the Paris attacks and put the blame on Muslims.
In 2012, as part of efforts to fight Islamophobia and boost interfaith dialogue, Gormez visited Denmark, home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who then (and probably even to this day) was living under police protection, because he had drawn "blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad" seven years earlier. Prior to that visit, this author made a suggestion to Gormez: "Mr. Gormez, since you are visiting Denmark with the purpose of fighting Islamophobia, perhaps you can do a great service for your objective. Denmark is a small country, and Arhus is not too far away from Copenhagen. So, Mr. Gormez, you can always go to Arhus and visit Mr. Westergaard and start your interfaith dialogue. I am sure Mr. Westergaard and his heavy police protection would welcome you ... But can you do it, Mr. Gormez?" Of course, he did not visit Westergaard.
The government institute that Gormez heads, the Religious Affairs Directorate (or Diyanet in Turkish), enjoys a huge budget (including funds to buy a $400,000, chauffeur-driven Mercedes for Gormez) to eradicate misunderstandings and false knowledge about Islam. When the Islamist extremists in Paris were probably putting the final touches on their gruesome plan, Diyanet was busy issuing fatwas and publishing a religious calendar for three million or so desks and walls in offices and homes.
For instance, Diyanet recently issued a fatwa that urges Muslims who have tattoos to repent if they are unable to erase them. Another fatwa was mentioned in Diyanet's 2015 calendar. "Do not keep pet dogs at home ... Prophet Mohammed once said: 'Angels do not visit homes where there are dogs and paintings.'"
It is perfectly normal that the social fiber cannot remain sterile and sane as the dominant state ideology, and official Islamic teachings, feature such absurdity. Abdurrahman Dilipak, a columnist for the pro-government, Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper wrote:
"Now cry, Paris!... These people [who perpetrated the Paris attacks] have nothing to lose. There are many young ones who want to take revenge on those who condemned them to a life full of sins; many young ones who want to take revenge instead of committing suicide."
Yeni Akit also ran a story that said the "anti-terror" march in Paris this week turned into a show of terrorists. The newspaper deliberately put the word terror inside quotation marks in a sign that it does not agree the Paris attacks were acts of terror. And the march had turned into a "show of terrorists" because protesters had waved pro-Kurdish flags as well as flags of the "terrorist state Israel."
Yeni Akit is not a marginal newspaper. One of its staff often is invited to Erdogan's or Davutolu's private jet during flights to foreign countries, a privilege enjoyed by only a handful of lucky journalists.
This is Turkey's own fight against radical Islamist terror, which it claims does not exist. Everything will be fine if Turks stopped sporting tattoos or keeping pet dogs at their homes, while journalists who are Erdogan's protégés keep on shouting: "Now cry, Paris!"
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.