Sweden made headlines in Türkiye again this week by permitting yet another Quran burning under police protection on the first day of Qurban Bayram, also known as Eid al-Adha. That heinous act took place near a mosque in Stockholm, as had another burning in January, and had absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression. Quite the contrary, it was a hate crime targeting Muslims and an obvious act of provocation.
Before addressing what that development means for the West’s relations with Muslims, let us touch upon the relations between Türkiye and Sweden. The Turkish government has criticized the Swedes for allowing members of two terrorist organizations, the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), to organize, raise funds and hold demonstrations on Swedish soil. Accordingly, Ankara expects Stockholm to keep its promises regarding the fight against terrorism before approving Sweden’s NATO membership. Having failed to make due progress on that front, the Swedish authorities have been allowing PKK demonstrations and Quran burnings under police protection. In truth, both were either reckless or acts of provocation and raised questions about Sweden’s commitment to NATO membership altogether.
The Islamophobic dimension of that heinous act was no less concerning. Indeed, Europe’s problematic approach to Muslim values against the backdrop of worsening Islamophobia attests to the contemporary crisis of Western civilization. It suggests that the West’s double standards on counterterrorism measures, refugees, war criminals and the environment spill over to the question of values.
The reason why hardly anyone believes in the West’s discourse on liberties, democracy and human rights anymore is that Westerners allow themselves to engage in the same acts that they would condemn others for committing. Moreover, the question of respecting the values of others remains an area where the West faces a crisis yet insists on making impositions on others.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been among the most vocal leaders regarding such contradictions in recent years. The Muslim world responded to the latest Quran burning, starting with Morocco. Yet, the Turkish leader’s following comment was most noteworthy: “Sooner or later, we will teach the Western embodiments of vanity that insulting the values of Muslims is not freedom of thought.”
Teaching the West
Erdoğan’s emphasis on “teaching” the West reflects his self-confidence. It is no secret that he used the same tone in public speeches regarding Türkiye’s national interest and the problem of injustice in the international arena. As a matter of fact, it is possible to argue that African leaders appreciated and viewed their Turkish counterpart’s commitment to “teaching” Westerners as an example. Let us recall that French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly been reminded of his country’s colonialist past and insistence on looking down on other nations in his trips to Africa. It is no secret that Erdoğan’s challenge to Western arrogance frustrates some Europeans. Hence the Western media’s Orientalist depictions of the Turkish president.
In truth, the world is transforming, undermining the Western-centric and unfair order as humanity searches for a new order. Furthermore, Western values are no longer considered “universal” as in the past. Western leaders facilitated that change through unfair practices, occupations and double standards.
It is certainly ironic that Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a mosque and made the following statement in response to the heinous act in Stockholm: “The Quran is sacred for Muslims and should be sacred for others. We know that other countries act differently. They disrespect the religious sentiments of people and say that it is not a crime. In our country, that is a crime under the Constitution and the penal code.”
The increasing frequency of Quran burnings shows that the West (and particularly Europe) must overhaul its policy toward Muslims. Placing Muslims within the context of terrorism (e.g., 9/11, al-Qaida and Daesh) gave rise to a prejudice that Europeans must overcome. The endorsement of attacks against Islam’s sacred elements in the name of “liberty” would only encourage the birth of new anti-Western movements among Muslims. To stop this race to the bottom, which fuels Islamophobia in the West, requires realizing that one can learn from other civilizations, cultures and nations by treating them as one’s equals. It is to abandon vanity. That is the way to analyze Erdoğan’s warning.
In this article
- Anti-Turkish Sentiment | Anti-Turkism | Turkophobia | Turkish Fear
- Daily Sabah
- Emmanuel Macron
- Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)
- Finland and Sweden Applications to Join NATO
- Freedom of Speech | Freedom of Expression
- French President
- Giorgia Meloni
- Hate Crime
- Islamophobia in Europe
- Islamophobia in Sweden
- Kurdistan Workers' Party Terrorist Organization (PKK)
- Quran Desecration
- Racism in Europe
- Rasmus Paludan
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- Rising Racism
- Russian President
- Salwan Momika
- Stram Kurs (Hard Line)
- Sweden-PKK/PYD/YPG/SDF Relations
- Turkish President
- Vladimir Putin
- Western World