Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded in a speech Wednesday that the United Nations and international community establish March 15 as “International Solidarity Day Against Islamophobia.”
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is openly Islamist and has endeavored to tear down the walls between mosque and state in a country established by a radical secularist, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood, which the American government has considered branding a terrorist organization, and faced repeated accusations of aiding the Islamic State.
Erdogan has also enacted a global persecution campaign against Muslims belonging to the Hizmet movement, founded by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, and branded the group a terrorist organization. His government has largely remained silent in the face of the Chinese government building concentration camps to house at least 1 million Turkic Muslims, where they face murder, rape, torture, forced sterilization, and other horrors.
“Those who claim defending democracy and human rights play ostrich when it comes to Muslims, and migrants are abused in their own lands,” Erdogan said in his remarks Wednesday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Erdogan was speaking at an event organized by a subcommittee of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Erdogan chose the March 15 date to commemorate those killed in a terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand this year.
He went on to accuse the West of “spoiling” Israel and the Israeli people of “looting” Jerusalem.
Erdogan has attempted to brand himself the leader of the Muslim world, maintaining close but tense relations with the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia, who boast leadership of the Shiite and Sunni wings of Islam, respectively. As part of his campaign, Erdogan has embraced combatting “Islamophobia,” or the alleged hatred of Muslims for their faith, as a pet project. In 2013, Turkey hosted an “International Conference on Islamophobia: Law & Media,” in which speakers condemned the Western “exploitation … of freedom of speech” to criticize Islam.
More recently, Erdogan used the Christchurch, New Zealand, attack as a bludgeon to threaten the deaths of Australians and New Zealanders in a repeat of the battle of Gallipoli, one of the deadliest events in the histories of those countries.
“Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandparents,” Erdogan said following the attacks, addressing the Anglophone countries of Oceania.
Erdogan blamed “Islamophobia” for the New Zealand attack.
“Just as humanity fought against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust disaster, it should fight against rising Islamophobia in the same determined fashion,” Erdogan said at an emergency OIC meeting he called following the attack. “Right now we are facing Islamophobia and Muslim hatred.”
Two months later, the Turkish government used “Islamophobia” to argue that President Donald Trump should not brand the Muslim Brotherhood, a global political organization championing a global Islamic government, a terrorist organization.
“This move also will increase Islamophobia in Europe and America and will strengthen the hands of extreme rightists and Islam’s enemies in another part of the World,” AKP leader Omer Celik said.
In contrast, Erdogan has used his platform at the United Nations to refer to Hizmet, the Gülen organization, as a terrorist group. The Turkish government blames Gülen for the July 15, 2016, failed attempt at a coup against the president and has demanded Gülen’s extradition from Pennsylvania, though American officials have repeatedly insisted that Erdogan has not provided sufficient evidence to link Hizmet to the attacks. While The FBI has raided several Hizmet charter schools on charges of financial improprieties, the group has not been believably linked to any terrorist attack on the planet.
Erdogan has repeatedly been tied to groups who boast about their terrorist activities like the Islamic State. Turkish journalists have uncovered troves of evidence that Ankara under Erdogan has been permissive with ISIS jihadists entering and exiting through the Syrian border. Journalists tied to Erdogan have instead claimed, like the Iranian regime, that ISIS is an American fabrication.
In the face of arguably the largest genocide campaign against Muslims in history – against Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, China – Erdogan has recently said little. A decade ago, Erdogan accused China of “genocide” against the Uyghurs, who are ethnic Turks. In the past two years, however, China has escalated its repression, building concentration camps where survivors say they are forced to eat pork and memorize communist propaganda songs meant to worship dictator Xi Jinping. Accusations of rape, murder, organ harvesting, and torture of upwards of a million people have mounted in the past year.
“It is a fact that the residents of various ethnic groups in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are living happily under China’s development and prosperity,” Chinese state media quotes Erdogan as saying during a visit to China in July. The change of heart appears to have occurred early this year when Beijing threatened to cut economic ties with Ankara if criticisms of the Uyghur situation continued.
Erdogan’s office later claimed that his remarks in Beijing were “mistranslated;” Chinese media never corrected them, nor did Turkey offer an alternative translation.