Idolizing foreign leaders

It is neither strange nor new for many Arabs to support a foreign or regional leader for various reasons. There have been Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein and others. There is current enthusiasm over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Arabs who support such leaders were socialist and pan-Arabist behind Abdel Nasser, Islamist behind Khomeini, Baathist and pan-Arabist behind Saddam, and Islamist behind Erdogan. Some Arabs support foreign leaders as a silent protest against their own governments, about which they dare not speak out.

Dreamers and desperate Arabs were dragged 40 years ago behind Khomeini when he raised the slogan of liberating Palestine and confronting the West. Saddam did the same, as is Erdogan. They wrongly think these figures will fight their battles. No one will fight for them or liberate Palestine.

Some Arabs support foreign leaders as a silent protest against their own governments, about which they dare not speak out. They wrongly think these figures will fight their battles

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Erdogan may not even liberate the Syrian city of Aleppo, not because he does not want to, but because the battle exceeds his capabilities and would only be waged if Turkish national security was in great danger. Some of these leaders were victims of their own popularity, failing to deliver on their grand promises. For example, Abdel Nasser vowed to change Arab regimes and liberate Palestine, but in the end he lost everything.

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Arabs who idolize Erdogan are more dangerous to him than his rivals. He is elected, he has real popularity in his country, and his economic successes are undoubted. The Islam he preaches is moderate and has nothing to do with the Islam of his Arab fans, neither in intellect nor implementation.

Since they do not understand these details, they draw a different picture of Erdogan, one that is closer to the extremist sheikhs of the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan. In the end they will be shocked and disappointed, and will look for another leader to idolize.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 21, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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