In a speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel and called for Islamic unity among the “brothers and sisters” to confront the West and conspiracies against Islamic countries. Turkey’s ruler insinuated that Turkey was a victim of “terrorist attacks” because of its “principled stance” against “oppression in Jerusalem.”
Ankara claimed it is the “lone voice” standing up for Palestinians today. Turkey has warm relations with Hamas. The Hamas member Saleh Arouri arrived in Turkey on Sunday. He has been accused of involvement in kidnapping, murder and other forms of terrorism in 2014. Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas also came to Turkey with Arouri and Moussa Abu Marzouk and others as part of a large delegation. Ankara has asked NATO to condemn terrorism but hosts Hamas.
Erdogan claimed that Israel was making the “situation in Jerusalem and Palestine” worse every day. He said that Israel doesn’t recognize justice, law, rights or humanity and that this “deepens the crisis in the region against Muslims.” Turkey is seeking to champion Islamic countries aganst Israel, Ankara claimed. “We will never stop defending the rights of the Palestinians and standing in solidarity with all the oppressed.” Turkey is involved in an expanding military campaign and occupation of northern Syria that has caused more than 150,000 people to flee Afrin in 2018, and 200,000 to flee areas near Tel Abyad in recent months. Turkey doesn’t see those people as oppressed, according to the speech.
Turkey’s leader claimed that the country wants to “better protect children, women, elderly and disabled against western threats.” In this part of the speech he stressed conservative, far-right and family value themes, arguing that the West was attacking the concept of the family. “The more we protect our family structure,” Turkey’s leader said, indicating that
“We will never stop defending the rights of the Palestinians and standing in solidarity with all the oppressed,” he said.
Erdogan said that the imperialist approach of divide, disintegrate and rule continues in Islamic countries.
“The better we protect children, women, elderly and disabled against western threats, the more we protect our family structure,” he said, arguing that western imperialists were seeking to divide and rule the Islamic world, according to Anadolu’s version of the speech. Erdogan also claimed that Muslims are one quarter of the world but are isolated and that Muslims must unite to push their political influence and “cultural prowess” to bring Islamic civilization to its “rightful place.”
Recently Erdogan inaugurated a mosque in the UK to showcase his devotion to these causes.
Hurriyet reported that Erdogan said Muslim countries should work together to fight poverty, but it was a challenge, “which means 350 million brothers and sisters are trying to hold onto life at the poverty level.” Erdogan then said that the wealthiest Muslim country, probably one of those that is in the Gulf, is 200 times richer than the poorest. He encouraged more Islamic charity. Turkey is a key ally of Qatar, a country that may need to give more charity than it has been. Qatar has been accused of exploiting workers and paying low wages to poor foreigners who come to work construction but lack basic rights in Doha.
Erdogan’s speech was a way for Ankara to cement itself as a global champion of Islamic causes. Recently Turkey has spoken out about Kashmir and Muslims in China and has also sought to rally countries around Jerusalem to oppose US President Donald Trump’s policies and Israel’s policies.
So far Turkey’s attempt to become a new global Islamic leader has not materialized. Turkey nevertheless tries to work with Malaysia, Pakistan and some other countries that are becoming more nationalist, far-right and conservative, seeking to create a front of political Islam, often linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, as part of a larger agenda. Turkey’s current ruling party sees itself as an economic model for other countries and seeks to expand its power in Syria, Iraq, and other countries, while working with Iran and Russia.