For anyone who wants to see the glass half
full, a perfect quote could be from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech
that she delivered in a joint press conference on Feb. 2 in Ankara with her
host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
She said the two countries have pledged to
each other for “closer cooperation” in the fight against terror.
For anyone who wants to see the picture a
bit more clearly; the leaders’ exchange of words over the definition of terror
could be worth a look.
Right before her words about stepping up cooperation
against terror, Merkel also used the expression “Islamist terror,” along with
“all other types” including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Erdogan objected to that and said to
international media, “The expression of Islamist terror disturbs us Muslims
“The original meaning of Islam is peace, as
I explained to Merkel [during the meeting]. If we bring the words of Islam and
terror together because of DAESH [the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant – ISIL]
it would upset Muslims. As a Muslim president, I cannot accept that,” he said.
Erdogan also underlined that it was only
Turkey that carried out the “biggest fight against DAESH” as opposed to “only
words by others.”
It was a tense moment, but Merkel did not
step back. “In Germany we give much importance to freedom of religion. There is
a difference between the terms Islamic and Islamist,” she said.
She was giving reference to a debate
currently ongoing in Western politics about the use of the adjectives “Islamic”
and “Islamist,” which was also an issue during election debates between U.S.
President Donald Trump and his rival Hillary Clinton.
Generally speaking, the adjective “Islamic”
is used to define a faith, culture and a way of life, whereas “Islamist” is
used to define a political line with the ultimate target of the domination of
Islamic Sharia law as a political system. Erdogan, like many other Muslims, has
been opposing to the use of the term because of his concern that ordinary men
would not care too much about the linguistic difference and develop
It seems that we might observe, in the
future, a similar exchange of words that would reveal the differing
perspectives of NATO members in the fight against terror.
An exclusive story by Reuters on Feb. 2
reported that the Trump administration “wants to revamp and rename a U.S.
government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it
focuses solely on Islamist extremism.” It reported that the program “Countering
Violent Extremism,” or CVE, could be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism”
or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” also excluding groups of white
supremacists, who also carry out fatal acts of terror. The story said that
reactions from within Muslim groups have already started in the U.S.
That could add up to problems in the
anti-terror fight between the U.S. and Turkey, which is already at odds because
of the U.S.’s support in the fight against ISIL in Syria to the Syrian Kurdish
Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syria branch of the PKK, an
organization that was designated as terrorist also by the U.S. more than twenty
years ago. There is also the issue of the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, an
Islamist preacher living in the U.S. and accused of masterminding the July 2016
coup attempt in Turkey, thus designated as the leader of a terrorist network by
Turkey. The issue of Gülenist soldiers allegedly seeking refuge from Germany
was also discussed in yesterday’s meeting between Merkel and Erdogan.
Erdogan last week said he wanted to speak
to Trump on serious matters regarding terrorism and the Middle East, and
diplomatic sources have said that a phone conversation between the two could be
It is not clear whether the definition of
terror would be discussed between Trump and Erdogan when they talk, but it
seems that the Western alliance might be heading toward crossroads in the