Turkish President Erdogan Writes Washington Post Op-ed on Christchurch, Rails Against Islamophobia

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, at a rally in Istanbul, late Tuesday, March 19, 2019, ahead of local elections scheduled for March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
JOHN HAYWARD

The Washington Post on Tuesday allowed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the world’s leading authoritarian jailers of journalists, to write an op-ed about the Christchurch shooting.

In the piece, Erdogan praised Turkey’s ostensible hospitality to minority groups and railed against widespread “Islamophobia” in the Western world.

Erdogan’s thesis was that the Christchurch killer is exactly the same as the Islamic State – an anodyne observation in the sense that both used violence to achieve their fanatic political ends, but utterly absurd when considering the size and influence of ISIS versus the homicidal maniac in New Zealand.

Western media seems oddly reluctant to label Christchurch killer Brenton Harrison Tarrant a “lone wolf” the way they always refer to ISIS terrorists in Western countries, even when they work in groups, but at this stage of the investigation he appears to be a much better example of the concept. The Islamic State carved a (happily short-lived) terror state from conquered territory in two separate nations, recruited tens of thousands of foreign soldiers into its army, and inspired terrorist attacks around the world. The differences between ISIS and Tarrant are profound, although a cynic might note they share an enthusiasm for attacking mosques.

After touting his credentials as an enemy of terrorism and denouncing Tarrant for attempting to loop Christianity into his twisted ideology the same way ISIS claims Islamic authority, Erdogan got down to business and blamed Western “Islamophobia and xenophobia” for motivating the killer:

After attacks by the Islamic State, there was no shortage of Western politicians and commentators blaming the most deplorable acts of terrorism on Islam and Muslims — people whose opinions are very much aligned with the Australian senator Fraser Anning. At the time, we objected to the association of our faith with terrorism, and pledged to disallow any attempt by terrorists to hijack our religion. Unfortunately, Islamophobia and xenophobia, among other practices incompatible with liberal values, were met with silence in Europe and other parts of the Western world. We cannot afford to allow this again. If the world wants to prevent future assaults similar to the one in New Zealand, it must start by establishing that what happened was the product of a coordinated smear campaign.

It should go without saying that the Turkish people won’t just abandon their centuries-old homeland because the terrorists demand it. Nor will we ever let deranged murderers talk us into targeting any religious community, nation or group. Heir to the Ottoman Empire, which was a member of the European family of nations for centuries, Turkey joined the alliance against terrorism immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Having joined NATO more than 60 years ago, we consider it our strategic goal to become a full member of the European Union. By the same token, we will continue to cooperate with our friends and allies in the fight against all terrorist groups.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, the West has certain responsibilities. Western societies and governments must reject the normalization of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, which has been on the rise in recent years. It is crucial to establish that such twisted ideologies, such as anti-Semitism, amount to crimes against humanity. Moreover, we must shed light on all aspects of what happened and fully understand how the terrorist became radicalized and his links to terrorist groups to prevent future tragedies. Finally, all Western leaders must learn from the courage, leadership and sincerity of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to embrace Muslims living in their respective countries.

Fraser Anning is the Queensland senator who blamed Muslim immigration for creating the social pressures that led to the Christchurch shooting. Condemnation of Anning was immediate and widespread, but Erdogan deplorably claimed there is “no shortage of Western politicians and commentators” who share his views.

In other words, Erdogan followed his denunciation of those who blame Islam for the horrors of ISIS and other terrorist groups by blaming Western society for the Christchurch killer. The Washington Post saw fit to give op-ed space to a despot who mercilessly abuses journalists, ethnic minorities, and religious groups to maintain his own power. He used it to whitewash his own appalling record on human rights and lecture civilized nations about intolerance. Ask a Kurd about Erdogan’s love of ethnic minorities, ask an Armenian about the multicultural joys of the Ottoman Empire, and ask a follower of Hizmet about his devotion to religious pluralism.

Erdogan tossed his parting bouquet to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the same time New Zealanders were responding with outrage to Erdogan’s deeply offensive and belligerent comparison of the Christchurch shooting to the Anzac campaign of World War One – a speech he concluded by claiming Tarrant is a footsoldier in an organized Western attack on Islam and threatening to kill New Zealanders if they provoke him: “Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandparents.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an immediate apology from Erdogan and summoned the Turkish ambassador to warn that Australia’s diplomatic relationship with Turkey might be reconsidered if he refuses. Ardern announced on Wednesday that she is sending her foreign minister, Winston Peters, to Ankara to “confront” Erdogan in person.

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