In a press conference held by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel back in February this year, the chancellor used the term "Islamist terror." President Erdoğan took the opportunity to openly address the topic by completely rejecting the term and emphasizing how the use of "Islam" alongside "terror" offends millions of Muslims around the world. This was a significant moment for every Muslim. For the first time, the association of Islam and terror was denounced at the highest level with international media broadcasting live.
Interestingly, in an age when the public walks on eggshells to avoid offending members of any faith or race, especially in Western countries where it is a criminal act, the surprised reaction to Muslims who are offended by terms like "Islamist terror" or discriminatory policies should raise questions about the Western world's commitment to values such as equality, diversity and non-discrimination.
VICTIM OF NEGATIVE IMAGE
It is crystal clear that Muslims are suffering just as much — if not more — from the acts of terrorists defining themselves as Muslims or by the enigmatic barbaric entity in Syria that claims to have an Islamic identity. The number of Syrians and Iraqis who have been killed by this barbaric entity in Syria and displaced due to its atrocities has reached millions. In addition to its atrocities in certain Western countries, this organization has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks in Muslim countries, such as Turkey. As a result, Muslims have been hit from both sides, first as the victims of the violence, and also as the victims of the negative Muslim image that has been spread worldwide. After taking all of this into consideration, it is interesting that the term "Islamist terror" is still persistently being used by Western politicians and media, making it hard to claim no ill will.
BAN AGAINST CERTAIN AIRLINES
The recent electronics ban introduced by the U.S. and the U.K. on flights from a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey and Muslim-owned companies, should be considered relative to the previously mentioned issues. This move is not only a further step toward alienating, offending and hurting Muslims, but it is a move toward marginalizing the countries in question. However, the above context is not the only one that should be taken into consideration when looking at the efforts being made to profile Islam as a faith that induces violence. The analysis made by Dr. Deepa Kumar in this regard is also relevant and worth considering. In her work titled "Constructing Muslim Enemy from Crusades to 9/11," she discusses how Islamophobia is not about Islam but rather politics. According to Dr. Kumar, the image of a "Muslim enemy" has been constructed at pivotal historical moments in order to serve political and economic interests. Dr. Kumar explained that the construction of Islamophobia goes back to the late 11th century, claiming that it was constructed by the church and European rulers who feared that Islam challenged their morally corrupt political power over the people during the Dark Ages, as well as their opposition of Islamic freedoms, such as women's right to divorce, remarry, inheritance and education.
Considering that the Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines (THY) are among the top 10 leading airlines in the world, and that they are all subject to these electronic bans, the move does raise questions as to whether security is truly the main motivation.
Turkey is one of the countries that is expected to be hit the hardest by the bans due to Istanbul being a transit point for people travelling from Asia and Africa to the U.S. and European countries. Adding this to the fact that THY was chosen as "Europe's Best Airline" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016, raises further questions about the ban's real purpose. Compounded with this, it becomes harder not to pay attention to the arguments that Dr. Kumar has made given the fact that the world's largest airport is currently under construction in Istanbul. When this airport becomes operational in February 2018, Istanbul's transit capacity is expected to rise significantly.
Those who have traveled from Istanbul's airports know that the security checks are extremely thorough, which raises questions about the motivation for including Turkey in this ban. Despite the number of internal and external issues affecting Turkey over the last decade, Turkey is ranked among the top 10 economies in Europe and among the top 20 economies in the world. Projects such as Istanbul New Airport, which will be the world's largest airport, aim to significantly boost Turkey's economy. The fact that these bans are being issued almost a year before the Istanbul New Airport becomes operative further consolidate the views that the bans are potentially economically motivated in Turkey's case. THY has been very quick to counter these bans by explaining that it will offer free Wi-Fi and iPads on its flights. Additionally, the head of Airline Association, Alexandre de Juniac, has stated that the British and U.S. in-flight bans on laptops and tablets in are not acceptable as long term solutions, while also raising questions about the short-term effectiveness of these bans.
Unfortunately, instead of collaborating with all of these countries to identify and address the potential security deficits in their airports, both the U.S. and the U.K. have unilaterally decided to issue bans affecting a number of countries that they call partners. It will be interesting to see whether this pattern of taking unilateral actions will continue. Regardless of the motivation behind the migrant, visa, electronics and the European Courts of Justice's hijab bans, the majority of the Muslims around the world feel that the atrocities of some lunatics are being used to profile Islam as a faith of violence, generalize all Muslims and Muslim countries as unsafe, provide arguments for the rise of far-right and ultra-nationalist parties in the West, provide a base and justification for all these bans and reinforce anti-Islam sentiments. So, as discussed above, Muslims end up being both the victims of the violence carried out by the terrorists as well as the victims of the resulting policies and hatred.
DIRTY WAR OF PERCEPTION
All these further validate the claims that there is an ongoing dirty war of perception management for political and economic interests, and that this is all being done in a covert and indirect manner in order to disguise the main goals while innocent people suffer.
If Western politicians are sincere about promoting peace, they must take an honest and sincere stand that does not alienate, stigmatize, offend and hurt millions of Muslims around the world, but rather target the core issue and underlying problems. This requires close collaboration with countries that are affected the most by terrorism in region, such as Turkey, which has so far failed due to interests taking priority. The alternative is clearly not in the best interest of humanity as a whole.
* Analyst at Strategic Thinking Institute, Ankara
* Researcher in Media Studies at Westminster University