Turkey’s ‘mysticism’ shows a softer stance on Syria
Why is Turkey’s foreign minister so worried by an attack on a tomb that hasn’t happened yet, and not that alarmed by the killing of thousands of Syrian people?
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was quoted as saying on Friday that his country will intervene to protect the Ottoman-period Süleyman Shah Tomb, which is located close to the Turkish border in the Syrian province of Aleppo.
The 25 Turkish soldiers protecting the tomb are on high alert after warnings by the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “Turkey will respond to whoever attacks the shrine, be it the Syrian regime or extremist groups,” Davutoğlu said.
It is not an easy task to put Davutoğlu’s statement within a political context: defending shrines is a matter that lies at the heart of mysticism or sophism, which have no place in politics.
Davutoğlu’s statement is an indication that his country is inclining to the same mystic narrative on Syria that it has abhorred of Iran, Shiite Hezbollah and the Iraqi Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, which said its participation in the Syria war was to defend the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab on the southern outskirts of Damascus.
It is as if the Süleyman Shah Tomb, which commemorates the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is now Turkey’s only stake in SyriaRaed Omari
What the top Turkish diplomat said about the Ottoman tomb also indicates Turkey's shy political detachment in the ongoing Syrian war. It is as if the Süleyman Shah Tomb, which commemorates the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is now Turkey’s only stake in Syria.
But once more, I have to admit it is not easy to pinpoint the political implications of Davutoğlu’s statements. It is however pathetic to see Turkey, which presents itself to the world as a modern industrial state, inclining to such a bizarre narrative on a key issue like Syria. Even from a purely Islamic point of view, there is no justification for such a rationale.
Putting politics aside – as is right to do when it comes to the talk about shrines – much can be said about Davutoğlu’s remarks from an Islamic point of view. Not least because of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stance as an Islamist leader of a nation said to be re-embracing Islam over secularism during his reign.
Under the Justice and Development Party’s rule, Turkey is said to be entering a new Ottoman era, with some seeing Erdoğan as presenting himself as the embodiment of a new Sultan of an Islamic Ottoman Empire.
Although Erdoğan’s Turkey is widely regarded in the Arab World as the resurrection of “neo-Ottoman imperialism”, what matters most in Davutoğlu’s statement is the Islamic context in regard to Erdoğan.
Hearing Davutoğlu’s press remarks, I was preoccupied with the well-documented saying of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] that “Destroying the Kaaba stone by stone, is less evil than killing a single Muslim.”
So why is Davutoğlu startled by an attack on a shrine that hasn’t happened yet, and not that alarmed by the killing of the Syrian people both Muslim and non-Muslim?Raed Omari
So why is Davutoğlu startled by an attack on a shrine that hasn’t happened yet, and not that alarmed by the killing of the Syrian people both Muslim and non-Muslim? For under Islam, humanity has supremacy over shrines, buildings and places.
Assuming that the acts of Erdoğan’s government stem from Islam, one wonders why it has not displayed that daring stance in leveling a military intervention when Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque in Homs was under systematic destruction and heavy shelling by Syrian government forces? Let the Turks disagree with me – Khalid ibn al-Walid is more valuable to Muslims than Süleyman Shah.
Reluctance and detachment
Given this mysticism, Turkey’s stance on Syria can be said to have undergone a considerable change – from eagerness and boldness at the beginning of the crisis, to reluctance and detachment lately.
Erdoğan, who was outspoken in the beginning of the Syrian crisis and who has once issued a bold threat of retaliation to the Syrian government in 2012 for shooting down a military jet, has unmistakably softened his posture on Syria.
The culmination of Turkey changing its public posture on Syria came with the Turkish President Abdullah Gül urging the government to re-calibrate its Syrian diplomacy and security policies in the face of the realities.
Given the unquestionable regional influence of Turkey, much political and diplomatic effort had been expected from Ankara to push for an end to the Syrian crisis. But contrary to hopes, this has been met with Turkey reconsidering its overall policy on Syria.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via [email protected], or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2