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Turkey’s affiliations are swinging from West to East.

Turkey’s affiliations under the leadership of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a devout Muslim — are swinging from West to East. This is good news for the Arab world as Ankara is a major political and military player on the international stage with substantial clout. In recent times, Turkey has thawed the freeze with Syria by signing a slew of economic, cultural, social and strategic cooperation agreements and is mulling over lifting visa restrictions for Syrian and Lebanese nationals.

At the same time, Turkey is reaching out to Armenia by setting up a commission to study the World War I conflict that robbed the lives of over a million Ottoman-Armenians. Last October, Ankara and Yerevan signed protocols designed to establish ties that would result in the reopening of their border but the main sticking point is Armenia’s insistence that Turkey and the international community officially recognize the Armenian genocide. Turkey has always resisted that damning label and always insisted that those who died were casualties of conflict.

Simultaneously, the Erdogan government is cementing relations with Russia with trade and energy agreements; Russia currently supplies around 65 percent of Turkey’s natural gas requirements and may assist Turkey with the construction of a nuclear energy plant. This new closeness has resulted in plans to extend cooperation to the South Caucasus — traditionally within Russia’s sphere of influence — as well as visa-free travel for the citizens of both nations.

Likewise, Ankara currently enjoys good relations with Tehran. Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held talks in Ankara with Prime Minister Erdogan involving the transportation of Iranian natural gas to Europe via Turkey, establishing a joint refinery, jointly constructing industrial centers and increasing bilateral trade from $10 billion annually to $30 billion. The Turkish minister of state said Turkey is keen to begin a “golden age” in Turkish-Iranian ties. While Turkey is against nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, it backs Iran’s right to nuclear energy and does not support anti-Iranian sanctions.

But there the love fest ends. Ankara’s relations with some of its traditional allies are strained to say the least.

Its important strategic alliance with Washington, which culminated in America’s Incirlik Air base was shaken when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Turkey was against the Iraq war from the get-go and blames it for strengthening Kurdish secessionist ambitions. And when, in 2007, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a resolution in favor of Armenia’s stance on the alleged “genocide,” Turkey temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Washington.

However, for its part, the US government tends to tread softly with Turkey in light of its NATO role as a strong eastern bulwark and its hosting of Incirlik which was a crucial asset during the Cold War and the 1991 Gulf War. Turkey’s importance to Washington was reflected by President Barack Obama’s official visit, last April — criticized within some US circles as blessing a country embarked on establishing a powerful Islamic bloc contrary to American interests. The US has also fervently backed Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, which has been somewhat of an annoyance to European countries that are vehemently opposed. Linda Heard
—AN

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The media plays a significant role in manufacturing Islamophobia within western societies

The media plays a significant role in manufacturing Islamophobia within western societies by manipulating and shaping an individuals opinion on anything and everything.  It presents us with distorted images of Islam and that in turn conjures stereotypes and prejudice.

For people who are sceptical about the notion of ‘Islamophobia’, a study was conducted in the US where  the public were asked to write down, with as little thought and as much honesty as possible, all the words that come to mind when you think of the words “Islam” or Muslim”.

Most people gave an almost routine set of answers.  The names and events they thought of tended to be associated with violence, e.g., Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, Palestinian suicide bombers.  The ideas and practices were associated with oppression, e.g., Jihad, veiling, Islamic law. And the places were limited to the Middle East, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran.  Of course some answers escaped the pattern, e.g., the Qur’an, pilgrimage to Mecca, Muhammad Ali, but these were relatively few.  When asked about their answers, many responded unfortunate as such associations may be, Muslims and Islam feature prominently in many of the world’s conflicts and injustices, and this they conclude says something about their religion.  Judging from the portrayals of Muslims and Islam in Western media, it’s hard to argue with them.

In September 2005, the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Postem, published 12 depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.  Awareness of the cartoons became widespread and a global protest soon grew, typified by peaceful gatherings of thousands of protestors in many places.  Unfortunately some Muslim’s reacted violently.

Islamophobia is even presented in popular films such as Hollywood blockbusters and children’s cartoons.  A report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission argues that films such as Aladdin and East is East have contributed to demonizing Muslims as dangerous and violent.  For example, in Aladdin, rather than presenting the Arab culture and Islamic religion in a positive way, it is associated with harsh punishments and oppressive practices.  In the British film East is East, a mixed raced Anglo-Pakistani family is presented struggling with their traditional background forced upon them by their father.  The representation of the Muslim husband is of a polygamous wife beater.


Sadly, media outlets consistently overlook the voices of moderation that come from the majority of Muslims.  When violence flared in 2006 over the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, very few of America’s frontline newspapers reported the condemnation of the violence issued immediately by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the most important Islamic organisations In the US and only one of many that decried the attacks.  In another instance the year before, a Connecticut newspaper ran an editorial decrying the lack of public statements by Muslim leaders against the then recent terrorist attacks in London.  The state chapter of CAIR wrote back asking why the newspaper had not mentioned its own denunciation of the violence, which the group had sent the newspaper.  In fact, since this event, a great variety and number of Muslim leaders in the US and abroad condemned the attacks but received little coverage by the American media.

The media is always quick to stereotype Muslims as terrorists by linking the news to religion when Muslims have done something wrong.  But does the media link crimes carried out by Westerners to religion?

The answer is no.  The Columbine High School shooters religions were not disclosed, nor are the religions of any Western perpetrators.  The media believes that any Muslim who commits a crime is doing so in the name of Islam and therefore feels the need to disclose his religious views.

Because Muslims seldom appear in news reports or other media sources except as perpetrators of violence, supposedly in the name of Islam, many Westerners understandably conclude that all Muslim’s act from inherently religious motivations and that Islam is dangerous. Muslims become two-dimensional, existing only as Muslims, seemingly never sharing identities or interests with non-Muslims.  However, Westerners engage with Muslims in thousands of ways every day: a student and her classmates, a banker and his customer, a homeowner and her neighbours.  The globalised world we inhabit makes possible increasingly intimate connections between distant individuals with increasing speed.  So why, despite all this contact, do domestic news and entertainment sources seldom mention the terms “Muslim” or “Islam” except in the context of conflict, violence and bloodshed?? By: Ismail Farooki. Cambridge –England

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