Turkey's president, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), and top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez (center), think Islamic State jihadists do the same damage as people like Stéphane Charbonnier (right), the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo.
There is hardly anything surprising in the way Turkey's Islamist leaders and their officials in the clergy diagnose jihadist terror: Blame it on everyone except the terrorists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the inventor of the theory that "there is no Islamic terror," recently warned that "rising racism and enmity against Islam in Europe[an] and other countries" will cause great tragedies -- like the Paris attacks.
Put in another way, Erdogan is telling the free world that Muslims will kill even more people "à la Paris" if they face Islamophobia in the non-Muslim countries they have chosen to attack. This reasoning, in simple order of logic, means that Muslims will not kill innocent civilians in terror attacks if they do NOT face Islamophobia. That is not a convincing argument. Erdogan did not tell anyone whether the jihadists killed more than 100 people in Ankara last October because Muslims face Islamophobia in Turkey.
In Mr. Erdogan's thinking, there is one -- and only one -- culprit behind how jihadists cruelly visited Ankara, the Sinai skies, Beirut, Paris and San Bernardino in about the span of a month last year: Erdogan's worst regional nemesis, Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.
Erdogan willingly ignores that jihadist terror, targeting "infidels," existed long before Assad came to power, and it will exist with or without Assad ruling Syria. Forget non-Muslim "infidels," in fact. Muslims had the habit of slaughtering "infidel" Muslims for centuries when there was not a country called Syria or any "Islamophobia." It is simply too manipulative to claim that the Shiite and Sunnis will stop bombing each other's mosques because Syria is not ruled by Assad, but instead by a Muslim Brother of Erdogan.
Erdogan is saying ordinary Muslims can potentially become terrorists if they feel offended. So easily?
The president's other diagnosis (and prescription) to fight terror is that "Islam and Muslims should not be insulted because of what the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant does." He is right that 1.5 billion or so Muslims cannot be held accountable for whatever evil a few thousand jihadists do. But he is wrong that euphemizing [Sunni] Islam in the free world will stop the terrorism committed by those few thousand radicals. In fact, by threatening the free world that there may be more terror attacks if non-terrorist Muslims feel offended, President Erdogan is essentially saying that even non-terrorist Muslims have the potential to become terrorists if they happen to feel offended. So easily? And, if yes, why? How come other offended people do not become terrorists?
More recently, Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez joined in the childish propaganda that puts the blame for terror on people and things other than the terrorists. "Today," Professor Gormez said, "the damage caused [by] the [Islamic State] networks, distant from any belief, reason and wisdom, who engrave the name [of God] on their so-called flags is no less than the [damage caused by] cartoons [of the Prophet Mohammed] -- intolerable by any means -- by the pioneers of Islamophobia."
In this thinking, the men of Islamic State, who have the habit of beheading people and cheerfully releasing their videos, of raping "slave" women and of mass-killings in Muslims lands, do the same damage as people who just draw cartoons. And, in this thinking, cartoonists are as evil as the jihadists who killed them in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris a year ago, or as evil as the other jihadists who killed over 130 people in the French capital in just one evening.
Pro-Sunni supremacists, such as the Turkish president and his top cleric, do not understand that cartoons do not kill people. But some of their friends do kill people. Just as Erdogan's presidential jet left Riyadh, the Saudi capital, after a lucrative state visit, the Saudis decided to execute a Shiite cleric on charges of "terrorism," adding more fuel to the sectarian war in the Middle East.
Erdogan is wrong. And so is his chief cleric. Muslim terrorists of this or that sect tend to kill each other in Muslim countries, not in non-Muslim lands. The main lack of logic seems to be that innocent people are attacked repeatedly by Muslims, so they become suspicious of Muslims; this suspicion is then called Islamophobia -- but it does not come out of thin air. It is the same Muslim terrorists of this or that sect who bomb each other's mosques in Muslim countries, not in non-Muslim lands. It is not the "Islamophobes" who kill Muslims and others.
At the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005, Spain's President Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero proposed an initiative that went down in the world-politics wastebasket: "The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations." The initiative would galvanize international efforts against extremism, would forge international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and all other niceties. It would defuse tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds.
This author has lost count of the death toll from Islamist extremism since then. Any idea who was the co-sponsor of the UN initiative? A clue: It was the Turkish "sultan," who thinks that there is no such a thing as Islamic terror and argues that Islamophobia is to blame for any terror -- not Islamic extremism, of course.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.