Archive for the ‘Turkey’s constitutional referendum’ category

The Identity Crisis Fueling European Muslim Radicalization

June 7, 2017

The Identity Crisis Fueling European Muslim Radicalization, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, June 7, 2017

When tanks entered the streets of Istanbul and Ankara last summer in an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government, people swarmed the streets to fight them off. At the urging of their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they pushed back against the coup, some waving Turkish flags, others waving guns. “What else would you do?” A friend in Istanbul asked me some months later. “When your government and your country are attacked, you fight back. It’s to be expected.”

Less expected, however, were the crowds of Turkish-Europeans who also took to the streets in cities like Rotterdam, where dozens demonstrated on the city’s Erasmus Bridge, waving Turkish flags and, in some cases, crying out “Allahu Akbar.” For many non-Turkish Europeans, the action felt almost threatening: Were these people Turkish or European? Could they reasonably be both? Or did they represent a fifth column, aiming to overtake Europe from within?

In Holland, members of Leefbaar Rotterdam (Livable Rotterdam), the populist political party founded by the late Pim Fortuyn, determined to address the issue head-on. They held a public panel discussion last week to debate the question of who these demonstrators were: traitors? Dual citizens with torn allegiances? Could they be true to both their Turkish heritage and to the Dutch culture in which they were born and raised?

Left unspoken were the more pressing questions, the ones the non-Turks really meant: do Dutch Turks identify more with the Islamist policies and values of Erdogan and his regime, or with the secular Enlightenment, the democratic culture of the West? What, after all, to think of the fact that the vast majority of European Turks voted for Erdogan in the November 2015 elections, and again voted against democracy in Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which gave him virtually limitless powers until 2029?

While this particular debate took place in Rotterdam, once the home of the Renaissance humanist Erasmus, these questions have hovered over all of Europe since the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid and, even more, the 2005 attacks in London – and not only about the Turks, but about Muslim immigrants in general.

With Europe facing a near-continual onslaught of Islamist terrorist attacks often perpetrated by homegrown extremists, those questions feel more urgent than ever.

But both the issue and its urgency are far more complex than a matter of allegiance. For many second- and third-generation immigrant youth, especially those from Turkey and Morocco, it is also a matter of identity. As dark-skinned immigrants with names like Fatima and Mohammed, they are often discriminated against in their home countries. The values of their families and their religious leaders do not always mesh with the values of their communities and governments. But when they visit their cousins and grandparents in Anatolia and rural Morocco, they find they don’t fit in there, either.

Many counterterrorism experts maintain that this situation makes Muslim European youth especially vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment by terror groups. As Belgian-Palestinian jihad expert Montasser AIDe’emeh has noted of Belgian Moroccan extremists such as the Paris and Brussels attackers, “The Islamic State is giving them what the Belgian government can’t give them – identity, structure. They don’t feel Moroccan or Belgian. They don’t feel part of either society.” And speaking to PBS’s Judy Woodruff, Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, observed that “the cause [of radicalization] is ultimately a conflict of identity. It is about second- or third-generation descendants of Muslim immigrants no longer feeling at home in their parents’ or grandparents’ culture, at the same time not being accepted into European societies.”

If this is true, then what to make of the Turkish-European dual citizens choosing, as most have, to support Erdogan’s Islamist policies while living in the liberal West? Are they integrated, assimilated, into the cultures in which they live, as most insisted during the Rotterdam debate? Or are they rather true to the norms of a Turkey that is becoming increasingly religious, turning increasingly eastward, and to a president who is gradually unraveling the secular Western vision of the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk?

At the same time, does waving the Turkish flag when the country is attacked mean they are not actually Dutch? Should Dutch Jews not fly the flag of Israel, or Dutch-Americans have left their stars and stripes at home after 9/11?

“It’s more than just flags,” Ebru Umar, a Dutch-Turkish journalist who moderated last week’s event, explained in an e-mail. “The flags symbolize who they are…. They claim to be soldiers of Erdogan.” Hence, she said, “the people [demonstrating] on the [Erasmus] bridge were and are seen as not integrated. Ask them and they’ll answer they are integrated. And [yet] they tell you of course they adore Erdogan.” Indeed, she noted, they even stated it at the debate: “‘You can’t ask a child whom they love more: mum or dad.'”

It is a false equivalency, however. This is not about loving one parent more than another, but about accepting one of two opposing sets of values: those of secular democracies, or those of Islamist theocracies. There is no combining the two. There is no compromise.

Which is what makes these questions so very critical right now – not just for the Dutch, but for all Europeans, as they confront a complex, existential dilemma. Should they continue to alienate the growing population of young Muslims, and should those same young Muslims continue to resist assimilation, they will together be laying out the welcome mat for recruiters for jihad. But should Europe instead accept the Islamist leanings of those same Muslim youth, it will soon discover there was a fifth column after all – a movement to Islamize the West. And it will have succeeded.

The end of Turkish democracy

April 19, 2017

The end of Turkish democracy, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, Kurdistan Independence Referendum and Why It Matters so Much in the Fight Against Radical Islam. — DM)

I made my first visit to Turkey 13 years ago. With the 2001 attacks on the United States still a vivid memory, Turkey struck me as a hopeful place. The people were friendly. The food was good. Istanbul was vibrant and cosmopolitan. This was not a Muslim country but rather a Muslim-majority country, a distinction made repeatedly and with pride. Turks, I was told, understood the importance of separating mosque and state.

Those who campaigned for a “no” vote had limited access to media and in some instances were prevented from holding rallies. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party complained of unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters — more than the margin of Erdogan’s victory.

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On the grounds of the Turkish Embassy facing Massachusetts Avenue in Washington is a statue of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, father of the Republic of Turkey, the nation-state he built from the rubble of the defeated Ottoman Empire and Islamic caliphate.

He is wearing a three-piece suit that would look stylish today, although he is steely-eyed in a way peculiar to early 20th century revolutionaries. He appears to be gazing into the future — a future in which Turkey would be modern, prosperous, secular and democratic.

If truth in advertising applied to governments, that statue would now be removed.

In a referendum on Sunday, Turkish voters were asked to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. To no one’s great surprise, it was announced that they did, albeit by a narrow margin of 51.2% approving to 48.8% opposing, according to the state-run news agency. People in rural areas mostly voted yes, people in the cities — including Istanbul where Erdogan was once mayor — mostly voted no. But a win is a win and Erdogan has won.

I made my first visit to Turkey 13 years ago. With the 2001 attacks on the United States still a vivid memory, Turkey struck me as a hopeful place. The people were friendly. The food was good. Istanbul was vibrant and cosmopolitan. This was not a Muslim country but rather a Muslim-majority country, a distinction made repeatedly and with pride. Turks, I was told, understood the importance of separating mosque and state.

A NATO member, Turkey appeared to be the one sturdy bridge between the Middle East and Europe. It maintained cordial relations with Israel, too. While no Jeffersonian democracy, Turks had been going to the polls on a fairly regular basis for decades. Surely democratic habits were being acquired and democratic institutions were being built. A persuasive argument could be made that this was the direction history was taking throughout the Middle East and perhaps the world.

Sunday’s referendum contradicts that thesis. For a decade, Erdogan has been slowly concentrating power in his own hands. After a failed coup last summer — it’s unclear who launched it or why — he went full throttle, firing or arresting more than 140,000 military officers, academics, judges and civil servants, shutting more than 150 media outlets, and jailing journalists who dared criticize him.

The new referendum will significantly diminish whatever checks and balances the legislature and judiciary have left. And the rules on term limits will be adjusted so that the 63-year-old Erdogan can remain in the new 1,150-room presidential palace until 2029 or longer. In democratic societies, presidents do not serve for so many years. In the Ottoman Empire, sultans occasionally did.

Can we be confident that the announced results of the referendum are accurate? Those who campaigned for a “no” vote had limited access to media and in some instances were prevented from holding rallies. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party complained of unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters — more than the margin of Erdogan’s victory.

In Cermik, a town in northeastern Turkey, two members of the opposition CHP party were reportedly killed and two ballot observers were wounded as they were trying to prevent “ballot stuffing.” On Monday, European election monitors said the vote “fell short” of international standards.

Erdogan quickly fired back.

“The crusader mentality in the West and its servants at home have attacked us,” he told a crowd at Ankara’s airport. That is not the kind of language you expect to hear from the leader of a secular country. It is the kind of language you expect to hear from an Islamist demagogue.

Erdogan claims he will use the additional powers he is being granted to solve Turkey’s not insignificant problems, including political and economic instability, the strain caused by the refugees pouring in from Syria, and unrest among Turkey’s Kurdish minority, estimated at up to 20% of the country’s 80 million people.

What I think we can more realistically expect is for Turkey to become less free, less democratic, and less secular. Already we’ve seen Erdogan closing churches and detaining Christian clergymen. He has implied that only Muslims, not Christians, should be helped to rebuild their ancient communities in and around Mosul in Iraq, where he has sent Turkish troops, uninvited by the Iraqi government.

He appears to expect Turks living in Europe not to assimilate or even integrate but to remain loyal to Turkey and, of course, to him. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, he dispatched envoys to campaign in the large Turkish communities of the Netherlands and Germany. When local officials turned them away he leveled accusations of Islamophobia and even Nazism.

“Those who treat me, my ministers, my deputies with disrespect will pay the price for their actions,” he threatened. That is not the way leaders of NATO nations generally address one another.

Many Turks regard the referendum as illegitimate. It’s possible that Erdogan will feel the need to make peace with them. On the other hand, he may feel the need to make them submit.

More than a quarter of a century ago, when he was Istanbul’s mayor, Erdogan quipped that democracy was “like a streetcar. When you reach your destination you get off.”

In other words, he sees liberal democracy not as the best way to organize a government but only as a means to an end. If that’s correct, April 2017 marks the failure of Turkey’s democratic experiment. An Islamist, neo-Ottoman and neo-imperialist experiment began instead. It should surprise no one if a statue of Erdogan replaces that of Kemal Ataturk on Massachusetts Avenue.

Dr. Jasser discusses Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan & his Islamist policies 04.17.2017

April 19, 2017

Dr Jasser discusses Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan & his Islamist policies 04.17.2017, AIFD via NewsMax and YouTube, April 18, 2017

 

A yes and no victory for Erdogan

April 18, 2017

A yes and no victory for Erdogan, Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, April 18, 2017

The “Yes” camp won Turkey’s national referendum. “Camp,” because Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not just a president/dictator/sultan, but because his obedient supporters always grant the leader the desired majority, even if only by a slim margin. Erdogan’s victory, however, which gives him a presidency with the authority of a sultan (sans constitutional restraints), paradoxically displayed his limitations. If he wants to remain in power for many more years (until 2029), he will have to reinvent himself, because his opposition also appears to be quite large. Therefore, both camps can see the election result from the other direction: “Yes and No,” remember?

We can, of course, discuss the “Yes” camp’s miniscule margin of victory until we’re blue in the face, along with the forgeries, the appeals, the fact that Turkey is splintered in two and the danger Erdogan poses to democracy — but that is nothing new. After all, Erdogan “only” received 51.7% of the vote in the presidential elections, and his Justice and Development Party won 49.5% of the parliamentary votes in November 2015 — which distinctly indicates a trend.

This time, too, the numbers should come as no surprise. Erdogan will always manage to secure the tiniest of majorities for any “holy” goal he wants to sell to his people. Such was the case this week. While he sought 60% of the votes and the opposition hoped his scheme would fail, anyone following developments in Turkey knows perfectly well that if Erdogan wakes up tomorrow morning and declares the sun is green and the stars are square, at least 50.01% of the population will say “amen.” This could be the greatest political victory for the man who wishes to never resign.

Turkey said “yes” to changing its system of government. This means the country will move toward a presidential regime similar to the one in the United States, only without the checks and balances provided by the justice system, the legislative branch, the police and the media. Everyone will be subject to the sultan’s authority. They say people today yearn for the good old days? Erdogan is making dreams come true.

On the other hand, we must remember that Erdogan wanted a resounding majority, even if he knew it would be hard to achieve.

The attempted coup against him last year undermined his self-confidence and personal safety, but not his ambitions. To the very end he had to wage a serious campaign, which included considerable efforts in hostile Kurdish areas. Surprising support from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, citing patriotic motivations, still wasn’t enough to assure him the victory.

A nose for the street

Erdogan, a political animal, has a nose for the street. He knew the Kurds and Kemalists were against him, as was the climate in the large cities. In Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya — he lost.

But he won in those distant, rural places where journalists and pundits do not go — “deep Turkey.” In those places, where Erdogan holds sway, people vote from the gut and from the mosque. While he perhaps goes to elections with an eye toward the past, the voters go to the voting stations looking to the future. For the sultan, this is food for thought.

Naturally, many people are now positing an unlawful referendum; unstamped ballots that were counted; a threatening pre-election atmosphere; country-wide states of emergency; and last summer’s failed coup as factors that influenced the final outcome of the vote. A “No” vote is considered as a type of religious affront at best; at worst as belonging to the terrorist network headed by the exiled Fethullah Gulen; or, heaven forbid, as sympathetic to Islamic State. Erdogan sold the referendum more or less in the following way: “Yes” means stability, “No” means sympathy for terror. And yet, almost half the population voted “No.”

Now the question remains: What does the referendum result mean, if the appeals fail? Erdogan will take an increasingly harsher tone. He will expand his authoritarian powers, but this time he will do so within the law. After defeating the press, the police, the army and the legal system, the time has come to change the government system. The prime minister will be become a relic of history, while President Erdogan enters the pantheon, living and breathing and at the height of his rule.

How Erdogan’s Victory Might Be Europe’s Defeat

April 17, 2017

How Erdogan’s Victory Might Be Europe’s Defeat, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, April 17, 2017

American-Turks, however, showed the greatest resistance, with 83 percent voting “no.” Still, some prominent Islamist voices spoke out in support of Erdogan, including former Muslim American Society president and political activist Esam Omeish, who celebrated the referendum results on his Facebook page with a photo of himself holding a Turkish flag that reads “evet,” or “yes.”

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Over lunch in Istanbul last week, a friend and I spoke about the upcoming Turkish referendum. “Many European Turks are likely to vote ‘yes,'” I cautioned my friend, whom I knew was planning to vote ‘no,’ or against the measure to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unlimited powers. A “yes” vote, by contrast, would end the democratic parliamentary government established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic, and in the eyes of most Western leaders, establish Erdogan as the Muslim world’s newest dictator.

My friend was visibly angered. “Then let them, with all their rights and freedoms, come here to live,” she retorted. “How dare they think that they can take these rights from us when we are the ones who have to live with the result?”

The outcome of Sunday’s referendum showed a Turkey split almost exactly in half, with 51 percent “yes” and just under 49 percent voting “no.”

Or did it?

It is too soon to make a full analysis of the vote results – which some rights groups have already contested – but one thing was immediately made clear: the vast majority of Turks living throughout Europe voted in support of Erdogan’s rule, even as the majority of those living in major Turkish cities – Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul – voted against it. If only the votes of Turks living in the country had been counted, would the results have been the same? Or would they show that Turkey’s residents support a secular, Western democracy while Europe’s Turks do not?

If my friends in Istanbul who voted “no” woke this morning afraid for their country’s future, so, too, should my friends in much of Europe. In the Netherlands, for instance, a whopping 71 percent of Dutch-Turks who participated in the vote chose “yes.” As the results of the referendum became known, thousands descended on the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam, waving Turkish flags and celebrating the victory of an Islamist leader who had pledged to “raise a new, religious generation,” end secular education, and who has imprisoned countless journalists, writers, artists, and others who have dared to criticize him.

It was not only in Holland. According to the Daily Sabah, 75 percent of Belgian Turks who voted opted for “yes,” as did 73 percent in Austria, 65 percent in France, and 63 percent in Germany. Only Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom showed majorities with “no” votes. And of these three, Sweden is effectively the only member of the EU.

 

American-Turks, however, showed the greatest resistance, with 83 percent voting “no.” Still, some prominent Islamist voices spoke out in support of Erdogan, including former Muslim American Society president and political activist Esam Omeish, who celebrated the referendum results on his Facebook page with a photo of himself holding a Turkish flag that reads “evet,” or “yes.”

In Europe, some have argued, as did “Volkan,” a pseudonym for the owner of the popular DutchTurks.nl blog, that the results were self-inflicted, the result of having antagonized Turkey and Erdogan in recent months. Holland, for instance, refused entry to pro-Erdogan officials seeking to campaign on his behalf. Germany, where rallies were similarly blocked, has also been outspoken in its criticism of Erdogan’s imprisonment of a German-Turkish journalist.

But such explanations do not account for the results in Austria and France, or for the similar outcome of the November 2015 election, in which majorities in Germany, the Netherlands, and France all voted for Erdogan‘s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

What I did not tell my friend, as we sat watching the sunlight dance over the Bosphorus, was that the European Turks who were voting to change the Turkish Constitution, who were effectively choosing to establish a more fundamentalist, Islamist Turkey in place of the secular, Western democracy that has been in place since 1923, have no interest in the “freedoms” that she spoke of. That they have them in Europe is meaningless: they don’t want them. They don’t want them in Turkey, where they come from; and they don’t want them in Europe, where they now live. Not for themselves. And not for anybody else.

Indeed, as the IPT noted after the November 2015 elections, of the 4.6 million Turks living in Europe, a majority seems to prefer to live in an Islamic state, and not a secular one.

This is the frightening lesson that Europe must learn from the results of the April 16 referendum. While its leaders now confer about the “proper” response to Erdogan in his new role and what they expect of him as the leader of a clearly-divided country, they might also consider their response to his supporters who are not just Turkish citizens, but Europe’s own. How to reckon with Europeans who choose against European norms and values, who actively vote against the separation of church and state, who seek a more Islamized society? What does this say about the failure of integration? More, what does it say – or threaten – about Europe’s potential future? And what can be done to save it?