“Erdoğan becomes increasingly similar to Muslim Brotherhood leader Banna” — from Ahval

14 Sep

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been increasingly adopting political tactics and rhetoric similar to Hassan al-Banna, the leader of the world’s largest Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, according to regional analysts.

“Erdoğan uses a very typical Banna rhetoric. If you decode his speeches, you will hear what the Brotherhood is saying about the West and Israel,” Gökhan Bacık, an expert on Islam and politics in the modern Middle East, told Ahval in a podcast.

Bacık said both leaders also have a similar attitude regarding domestic policies, what they say to their followers and their pragmatic stance.

Erdoğan has a long history to the Brotherhood, a pan-Islamist religious, political and social movement Banna founded in Egypt in 1928. Erdoğan had close proximity with the organisation’s ideology and practices since he was one of the most trusted political cadets of Necmettin Erbakan, the most influential figure of Islamism in Turkey. The Brotherhood’s branches in the Gulf supported Erbakan and Turkish Islamists when they faced repression from Turkey’s secular establishment more than two decades ago.

“The historical roots are the same, as well as the ideological closeness in political and religious interpretation, and finally, self-interest as political opportunism,” Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on the movement, told Ahval. He said that Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) became the biggest backer of the Brotherhood in the world.

However, the relationship between Erdoğan and the Brotherhood has not always been friendly. The Islamist movement took a negative view of Erdoğan leaving Erbakan’s shadow and founding the AKP in 2001.

“They were grapes, and now they have become wine,” the Brotherhood had said about Erdoğan and his colleagues’ defection, tacitly saying that they had become akin to a prohibited beverage – impure.

But circumstances changed with Erdoğan’s successive election victories, which secured his grip on power. The AKP government’s support for the Brotherhood abroad changed dramatically as the Arab Spring protests grew, and Ankara sought to fund ideologically similar groups that were linked to the movement.

Following its failure in the Arab Spring, the current Brotherhood is led mostly by a diaspora living exile in Turkey, where dozens of the movement’s most powerful and influential figures reside.

The majority of some 30,000 Egyptian people living in Turkey are loyal to the Brotherhood movement, according to a report by the Century Foundation, a U.S. think tank. These Brotherhood leaders, followers and their relatives live a comfortable life, under the protection of the Erdoğan administration.

The AKP’s foreign policy has been defined by promoting a pro-Brotherhood position, rather than national interests in recent years. This ideological attitude has been stubbornly maintained, despite the cost of confrontation with neighbouring countries.

Under the AKP’s first years in the power, Turkey has increased trade in the Muslim world eightfold, hosted dozens of international Islamic events, restored Ottoman-era relics across the Middle East and cancelled visa requirements and developed high-level cooperation with many Muslim states.

However, Turkey lost most, if not all, of its warm relations with Arab Muslim states in the Middle East and North Africa region – including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Syria – in the Arab Spring’s aftermath. Erdoğan has clearly taken on the role as the Brotherhood’s main guarantor and supported local branches in these countries, openly or indirectly.

Mohammad Morsi, a Brotherhood-affliated Egyptian politician, won the Cairo elections in 2012, but remained in office for 12 months until being toppled by a coup led by General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013.

Ever since that event, the AKP government has followed a harsh anti-Egypt policy and became the protagonist of the Brotherhood’s struggle against Sisi.

In war-torn Libya, the AKP government from the beginning has supported the Government of National Accord in Tripoli through Brotherhood-linked organisations that back the GNA.

Meanwhile, in Libya, Ankara has politically supported the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli through Brotherhood-linked groups since the beginning of the country’s second civil war, which started in 2014.

And now Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France and Russia have manoeuvred to counter Ankara in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Erdoğan’s embrace of Hamas makes ideological sense. The Palestinian Islamist movement emerged in 1987 as a rival to the secular, left-leaning Palestine Liberation Organisation, drawing inspiration from the Brotherhood in neighbouring Egypt, the Financial Times reported this week. The group is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the European Union and the United States.

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