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Turkey vs. Europe — why the escalation?

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Published: Updated:

“Is it in the interest of Turkey to strain relations with Europe?”, was the title of an article posted on a Turkish-affairs WhatsApp group. A member commented: “Yes, it is in our best interest to make Turks aware that the West is an enemy of Muslims and therefore Erdogan must succeed so we could resist and defeat them.”

Another replied: “Turkey should not gather so many enemies. We need to be patient in dealing with provocations. Time is in our favor because the arrival of extreme right-wing movements to power in Europe is a sign of its ruin. The Turkish Renaissance Project is progressing successfully and is the hope of Arabs and Muslims.”

A third commented: “Good politics is to seize opportunities in the fine area between friendships and enmities … to mediate between moderation and antagonism. This is a stage in history of high competitiveness among arrogant superpowers … and every error has a hefty price.”

I answered the first commentator who thought escalation was useful: Yours is a jihadist, not a political speech. What is the difference between that and the logic of ISIS? Turkey needs to reconcile with the whole world — not just with Israel and Iran — in order to continue its Renaissance Project.

Reconciling with Moscow

By the way, if Europe is any devil, Russia is definitely not an angel. Still, Turkey has reconciled with Moscow despite its Syrian war crimes in cooperation with Iran, Israel, Hezbollah and Bashar regime. If we recall the tone of hostility after the downing of the Russian fighter jet and the Ship of Liberty incident, we’d find it similar to the speech against Europe, today. In time, interests and new realities changed that tone, and made former enemies good friends.

Wise leaders do not burn bridges with partners, or bypass logic, sense and sensibility to excite public emotions, and ride their waves for personal gains or electoral victories. There might come a time when you need to change tracks, return back or eat your words.

The clash between a Muslim nation and Christian countries is fueling religious differences, hateful rhetoric and racism, beside recalling Euro-Ottoman enmity

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

And lets not forget the hefty price paid by the European Muslim communities, in general, and Turkish, in particular, as a result of such escalation. The clash between a Muslim nation and Christian countries is fueling religious differences, hateful rhetoric and racism, beside recalling Euro-Ottoman enmity. When we put this in the context of the ISIS terror attacks and the rise of the extreme right in the West, the escalation is evoking the wounds and justifying the stands of the religious and nationalist parties hostile to Islam and Muslims.

We urgently need to return to the pre-Al-Qaeda era, when the world was more open to Islam and Muslim communities, accepting their religious activities and respecting their human and national rights. As if all losses in this regard was not enough, here we are risking the their remaining rights of citizenship and residence.

I do not know the rationale behind the recent escalation with Europe, and whether the purpose of inflaming Turkish nationalism is to gain more votes in favor of the new constitution, or for other reason. But I fear for the future of Turkey, its security, stability and rise.

Political rallies

I also cannot comprehend the insistence on holding political rallies led by Turkish ministers in foreign countries without the consent of their authorities. Would Turkey accept if, say, Iran organized its presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkish cities for the Iranian community led by Iranian ministers without official invitation or approval? And what the response would be if Iran didn’t take no for an answer and called Turkey dictatorial?

Others respect our sovereign rights as much as we respect theirs. The world needs to close ranks to face the political, security and cultural dangers that threaten us all; to build bridges of cooperation, development; and to raise the spirit of tolerance and brotherhood. The escalation of conflicts and disputes in all directions, especially with partners and allies, does not serve us or help our cause.

Dear Turkey: How about going back to the “zero problems” strategy? It certainly makes more sense (and bring higher returns) than the politics of “problem escalation.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 28, 2017.
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Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter: @kbatarfi

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.