It is ancient political wisdom that when politicians identify the political adversary on the outside, it also allows them to divert attention from problems in domestic politics. Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan is acting by this motto in the current dispute between Paris and Ankara over Mohammed cartoons. But French President Emmanuel Macron partially does that too.
Not to be misunderstood, at least since Donald Trump’s election as president of the US four years ago, it is more urgent than ever for politicians in the liberal West to push the boundaries of populists and autocrats at the top of friends and less. friendly states.
Viewed in this way, Macron could hardly remain inactive after Erdogan publicly mocked him last weekend. Macron had to be examined for his mental state, Erdogan had explained.
Erdogan’s tirades follow a simple pattern. Even before the Corona crisis, the country on the Bosporus was plagued by an economic crisis with high inflation rates and enormous youth unemployment. The situation has since deteriorated. Although Erdogan can barely create new jobs with his politics, he now presents himself as the foremost defender of the faith for the Muslim world.
On Monday, Erdogan turned the escalation screw a bit further and called for a boycott of French goods. This is especially effective in the media; the actual damage to the French economy is likely to be limited.
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The Turkish head of state had previously been offended when Macron declared at the state ceremony for decapitated teacher Samuel Paty last Wednesday that France would not do without caricatures and drawings “even if others would withdraw from it”.
Paty had shown Mohammed cartoons from the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in a lesson on freedom of speech. Certainly given the taboo zones in the classroom demanded by a minority of Muslim parents – which, incidentally, do not only exist in France – Macron’s demand for the right to freedom of expression – yes, including blasphemy – remains correct.
The Turkish gas research vessel “Oruc Reis” is currently sailing again in the Eastern Mediterranean. Photo: dpa
It is also correct when Macron tries to replace the Turkish head of state given his regional claims to power. Unlike Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron is among those in the EU who are calling for sanctions against Turkey over Turkey’s gas exploration and drilling operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. The region isn’t the only international hotspot where Erdogan fires – Libya and the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus are also among them.
Failure in French Domestic Politics
However, the dispute with Erdogan also offers Macron an opportunity to divert attention from all the undesirable developments in French domestic policy, which were again noted after the Islamist terrorist act against the teacher Samuel Paty.
Since taking office in 2017, Macron has failed to break the typically French vicious circle: the economic exclusion of many Muslims in France leads to frustration and makes young people especially vulnerable to Islamism. The corona crisis has reinforced this development. On the side of non-Muslims, polemic is increasing. Growing communitarianism is deplored – a social isolation of Muslims.
Pointless dispute over halal departments in supermarkets
Macron, then, may be absolutely right when France, if the corona pandemic and the ever-frightening number of new infections give it time at all, is handling the diplomatic dispute between Paris and Ankara.
Rather, the question is why Macron allowed members of the government like Home Secretary Gérald Darmanin to continue in the days following the murder of Samuel Paty: As if there were no more important issue, Darmanin was critical of the halal departments in French supermarkets.
At the Elysée Palace, Macron’s official residence, there are legitimate concerns that Erdogan will intensify his efforts in the future to directly incite Muslims living in France with his tirades. However, the effective antidote does not lie in an escalation of the “war of words” between Paris and Ankara. But rather to understand the beautiful French word “égalité” for all young people when it comes to their future prospects.