Erdoğan vs. Macron: who's benefiting?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused European politicians of Islamophobia and described them as "links in the chain of the Nazis". He said that Muslims in Europe were subject to a lynching campaign comparable to the persecution of Jews before the Second World War. Just a few days before, he had attacked Macron in response to the latter's statement after the murder of teacher Samuel Paty that Islam was in crisis. Observers reflect on the motives, victims and beneficiaries in this dispute.

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Népszava (HU) /

Populists among themselves

Both Erdoğan and Macron have an interest in making a big deal of the conflict, complains Népszava:

“It's better [for Erdoğan and others] to turn the people against Macron, so that they don't turn against their own political leaders. Macron needn't worry about that - he can present himself as a defender of secularism. ... Nevertheless, this artificial dispute also has its victims: French Muslims who have integrated themselves or want to do so. Macron's statements could result in a loss of social prestige for them. But far worse harm has been done to them by Erdoğan and others who have given Europe's right-wing extremists more ammunition, even though this is not about the clash between the Christian and Islamic worlds. ... In reality this is a clash between populists who fuel conflicts in order to capitalise on them politically.”

Kurier (AT) /

"Sultan" of all people swinging religious club

The Turkish president needs to clean up his own backyard first, the Kurier fumes:

“Of course, Erdoğan is taking advantage of the West-bashing on the nationalist home front. The fact that he is once again weaponising religion is becoming unbearable. This from a man who continues to deny the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians, who converted the Hagia Sophia, a former cathedral, from a museum into a mosque, and who harasses the last remaining Christians in Turkey in countless ways. In France, on the other hand, every Muslim is free to practice their faith. It is quite natural for action to be taken against Islamists at the same time.” (UA) /

Where's the criticism of China?

Accusing France of Islamophobia yet remaining silent on the oppression of Muslim minorities in China exposes double standards, points out:

“Erdoğan, Kadyrov, and many other politicians and 'spiritual leaders' are hurling criticism and abuse at Macron. Increasingly, the Islamic world is demanding a boycott of French products. But Xi Jinping has been undermining Islam in Xinjiang for years. Thousands of Muslims are locked up in concentration camps, humiliated and beaten for their beliefs. But even those who are free are monitored in a way that's more reminiscent of George Orwell. Yet there are no mass protests in the Muslim world against Xi's policies. He's not cursed by heads of state, his photo isn't being burned in the streets.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Blind spots on both sides

Avvenire warns against black-and-white thinking:

“There are two facets here: Islamic nihilism, which has raised the bar for cruelty in the world, and anti-Muslim racism. ... Those who hold the reins of a world without perspective and orientation cannot look at one of these facets and ignore the other, as Islamic nihilists do. Nor can anti-Muslim racism, based on a long history of conquest and colonialism, be used as a means to combat Islamic nihilism. ... It is not too late for more careful and clearer reflection, in order to present the Islamic issue and the crisis of Islam as just one of the facets of a global crisis that can only worsen if it is not addressed.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Those who don't know history believe anything

Erdoğan is no doubt hoping that Muslim listeners will find this comparison plausible - and many do, historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia complains in Corriere della Sera:

“How can people in Islamic countries really believe that in today's Europe there's a sort of pogrom against millions of Muslims, that millions of Muslims are being discriminated against by legislation like the Nuremberg Laws and will perhaps soon be taken to concentration camps? ... They can because people in Islamic countries, or at least the vast majority, really know nothing or almost nothing about what has really happened in Europe in the last century. Most of all, they don't know anything about the Shoah.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Europeans need their scapegoats

The current exchange of blows is not taking place in a vacuum, Milliyet comments:

“In the history of Europe there's a tradition of xenophobia. For centuries the Jews were the target. Who can forget the Inquisition? This was followed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. ... And now Europe is turning against itself, or at least it has chosen to target the Muslims in its own countries as unwanted migrants. This applies not only to France. In Germany, too, the radical right attacks Muslims as soon as it is strong enough to do so. ... In Austria the situation is obvious. In light of this, there are deeply rooted sociological, political and religious reasons for the conflict - even if it primarily revolves around certain statements by President Erdoğan and harsh words from Macron.”

Karar (TR) /

Set a good example instead

Turkey shouldn't get involved in the dispute, Karar insists:

“The correct attitude would be to set a good example instead and offer solutions to the problems. The reputation of the Diyanet [Directorate of Religious Affairs] is tarnished, nevertheless we have very distinguished scholars in theology, sociology and political science. We need to research Islamophobia. ... And we must research the propensity of Islamic societies to violence, fanaticism and Salafism. ... Turkey must shine by presenting academic research and a vision of partnership or coexistence based on this research. ... This also includes engaging in dialogue with the many circles and institutions in the West that are not Islamophobic, and which even recognise that Islamophobia is a totalitarian attitude - and who therefore stand up for democracy.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Target Turkey's Achilles heel

The thing to do is strip Erdoğan's Islam-nationalist project of its financial backing, the business paper Les Echos suggests:

“Erdoğan's Turkey is a military colossus with feet of clay, or rather with an Achilles heel: its economy, which corresponds to just a third of France's GDP. This is the area to target, before it's too late. Joe Biden's probable - and hoped-for - victory in the US presidential election will help. Unlike Donald Trump, who has numerous private interests in Turkey (the Trump Towers in Istanbul), Biden is not an opponent of the European Union and has Turkey in his sights, especially since Ankara decided to buy Russian S-400 missiles. ... The key to the survival of Erdoğan's regime, however, is in the hands of the economy, and in particular global financial institutions and Western companies.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Protector of Muslims is preparing for war

Macron's announcement that he will crack down harder on Islamists exposes new lines of conflict, Ria Novosti comments:

“One can argue about the usefulness and effectiveness of the announced measures, but by current Western standards they are harsh. On the other hand, on the international stage Erdoğan is presenting himself ever more loudly as the protector of all the Muslims on the planet. He's interpreting Europe's current stance as a war against Islam.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Erdoğan likes to play the victim

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suspects that the Turkish president's tirade is just a tactic:

“Erdoğan is all too happy to play the victim and accuse Europe of racism against Muslims. Not a word about the crimes committed in the name of Islam by self-proclaimed 'God's warriors'. But these are not people who are just particularly religious and perhaps cannot get along with the secular world, but killers, many with a criminal past, who dress up their deeds in religious clothing. ... Macron is right to call for action against the enemies of free society. The authoritarian-Islamic Erdoğan naturally sees an anti-Muslim culture war in free self-assertion. His ranting and raving about it fulfils a political purpose.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Muslims believe they are under Christian occupation

Naftemporiki adopts the arguments typically used by Islamophobes and right-wing extremists and makes its case using unproven figures:

“In the 21st century more than 70 million Muslims are living in Europe, including Russia and European Turkey. Around 18 million of them live in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. ... The first thing newborns learn is that they live 'under Christian occupation'. ... In France and Belgium, this type of 'catechism' has reached incredible proportions, as demonstrated by the number of young people who have traveled to Syria and elsewhere in the past five years with other mercenaries of the Islamic State, to fight the 'unbelievers'.”

El País (ES) /

EU must not let this pass

Brussels should show Turkey where the boundaries lie, El País advises:

“The dispute is not only bilateral. In addition to the issue in the Mediterranean, Erdoğan has adopted an aggressive foreign policy which is causing all kinds of friction. ... The Islamic-nationalist dialectic that led him to sharply criticise Macron's legislation against the jihadist ideology in France and to slip into the role of protector of the faith, to which he is not entitled, joins a long list of problematic points. The EU should demonstrate a firm stance vis-à-vis a series of attitudes that are unacceptable.”