Two academics have published an article in 2019 about Turkish efforts to use soft power influence over the past decade in order to establish a hegemonic position in the Muslim world. According to the article:
May 6, 2019 Since the early 2010s, the AKP has been deploying numerous tactics including mobilization within diaspora communities–Turkish and non-Turkish alike, network-building among pro-Erdoğan intellectuals in different Muslim communities, and “counter-hegemonic” knowledge production. If a cunning rhetoric of combatting Islamophobia constitutes the discursive backbone of these multiple tactics, the Arab Spring and the de facto disintegration of Saudi Arabia’s decades-long coalition with Sunni Islamists through the Muslim World League (MWL) initiative (est. 1962) has provided Turkey with the opportunity structure to claim a hegemonic position within the Muslim world. Recent soaring academic and public interest in the topic validates this assertion. The debate has so far mostly focused on those who are now seen as the “usual suspects”: the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and its European extension DITIB, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), and humanitarian NGOs with close ties to AKP officials. For sure, such a focus on government institutions and related organizations implementing this new religion–foreign policy nexus is timely and important. Yet, it overlooks the wide of range of soft-power strategies that Ankara deploys in accordance with the main premise of its new foreign policy outlook, that is, public diplomacy.
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The article analyzes the many means Turkey uses to gain influence: intellectually through the SETA Foundation think tank, through educational organizations such as the Maarif Foundation, through cultural organizations, and via its media such as TRTWorld. The article also highlights Turkey’s new attempts to influence not only the Turkish diaspora, as it had previously, but also other Muslims in the West, including through mobilizing against Islamophobia. The article also observes that Turkey has become a safe haven for the Muslim Brotherhood.
A 2011 report authored by the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) editor had already concluded that since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational influence network covered by the GIOR. That report also detailed Turkish President Erdogan’s ideological ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood, ties which date back to Erdogan’s affiliation in the 1970s with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). The close cooperation between Turkey and the Global Muslim Brotherhood was accentuated by Turkey’s general foreign policy shift during the so-called Arab Spring when the AKP government-backed Islamist movements in the Middle East and presented itself as a model of Islamist governance. Following the crackdown on the Brotherhood in several Arab countries, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members fled to Turkey. According to some estimates, currently more than 20,000 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members are residing in Turkey. Other GIOR/GMBDW reporting on the relationship between Turkey and the GMB has included:
- In January 2021, the GIOR reported that a senior AKP representative had co-founded the Center for Turkish-British Understanding (CTBU) in London together with a senior leader of the Cordoba Foundation, a UK Muslim Brotherhood group.
- In October 2020, the GIOR reported that several representatives of the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a US Muslim Brotherhood-dominated umbrella group, were received at the Turkish Presidential Complex in Ankara.
- In July 2017, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch (GMBDW) reported that a senior leader of the Diyanet was appointed as an official member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the theological arm of the Council of European Muslims, the umbrella body for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.