We visited Moscow to discuss both how to improve relations among the members of the International Muslim Work Council (MAIB), which is based in Moscow, and how to contribute to Turkish-Russian relations during the ongoing cross-cultural exchange year between Turkey and Russia. Since one of our most heated topics was Turkish-Russian relations, I would like to share some observations from our visit to Moscow.
First, Russia has become accustomed to living under the Western embargo. By turning the economic sanctions into an opportunity and establishing a legitimate existence outside the Western world, Russians have stood united against the embargo.
Second, Russia hosts numerous people from different races and ethnicities. It is a culturally colorful country. Tatars, Bashkirs, Azeris, Chechens, Circassians and half of the people from the Caucasus live in Russia. These are Muslims who come from former Soviet countries, such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Being the descendants of Anatolian Turks, these people are naturally interested in Turkey. During our visit, they persistently asked about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We already know the image of Erdoğan among the Muslims of the Middle East as a Muslim political leader who challenges the ongoing injustices of the world. After the yoke of two long centuries of Western colonization, Middle Eastern Muslims feel contempt for Western arrogance and thus applaud Erdoğan i challenging hegemonic Western discourse.
During my travels in Morocco, a 17-year old girl philosophically found four reasons for their love of President Erdoğan, namely that he is a strong political leader, a Muslim leader, his cause is also the Palestinian cause and among all the leaders of Muslim countries, he is the only leader who stands strong against the West.
Today, Erdoğan is a global political image who has been supported by Muslims living in different corners of the world. "The issue of Erdogan" has been for a while an issue of the global system. His global popularity derives not only from support from Muslims but also from the fear of the Western leaders who seem anxious about the spread of Erdoğan's stance among other Muslim leaders. To protect their own political image, they aim to degrade Erdoğan's global image.
Regarding young Muslims that we met in Moscow, it is exhilarating to observe that they both emphasized their love for their own presidents and declared Erdogan their "father."
The political discourse that the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has adopted against Erdoğan has always been hurtful and corrosive, but never constructive. In fact, we can easily detect surprising similarities among the political discourses of opposition political parties, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and Western powers. The unity of their objective seems to draw them together.
Now, the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) executives must take this two-level game into consideration when they represent a political leader who has become the hope of Muslims all around the world. Instead of pursuing petty political interests, they must adopt a global political conscience over the fate of Muslims in the world.
In some sense, leadership is the gift of Allah. Yet, a leader can realize himself or herself only if his or her political advisers act sincerely, openly and transparently. This is a heavy responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the AK Party's higher executives.
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