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RECOMMENDED READING: “A Muslim Counter-Hegemony?: Turkey’s Soft Power Strategies and Islamophobia”

February 16th, 2021 11:31

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.

Read the rest here.

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.