“Progress of Turkey, influence detrimental to France”

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PARIS
A documentary by journalist Caroline Roux, Erdogan: The Sultan Who Defies Europe, was broadcast Tuesday evening on the French public channel France 5 as part of a special edition of the program C dans l’air.

It was presented by Axel de Tarle and Caroline Roux.

In the documentary which evoked the recent tensions between France and Turkey, the French journalist interviewed experts on Turkey. She also interviewed French President Emmanuel Macron as well as former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Faced with the many unfounded accusations leveled against Turkey in the two-hour program, Ali Onaner, the Turkish ambassador in Paris was only entitled to 78 seconds of response time.

The Anadolu Agency and its journalists, slandered several times in the documentary, were never questioned or contacted by the journalist.

During a debate that followed the documentary, journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet also spoke.

The Anadolu Agency interviewed the journalist of the French daily L’Opinion on the tensions observed in recent years between France and Turkey, allies within NATO. Merchet also answered questions from the Anadolu Agency on the direction of public debates in France on Islam and Muslims.

Franco-Turkish geopolitical tensions contain the psychological dimension of France

Asked about the causes of the tensions between France and Turkey, Merchet said: “There are two dimensions” which interact directly or indirectly in relations between Turkey and France.

“A geopolitical problem and a domestic political problem: the two are cumulative, complement each other,” he added.

“There is a geopolitical problem between France and Turkey in Syria and Libya, also in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh, as well as the question of French support for Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey and France have come face to face “on the issue of exclusive economic zones (EEZs), noted the French journalist, citing various geopolitical conflicts where France and Turkey support opposing camps .

“These problems must be resolved through discussion, dialogue, except that France’s posture on these issues is in decline. […] probably because of his political mistakes, ”said Merchet, citing the conflicts in Syria and Libya as examples.

“Against this, Turkey is progressing and gaining influence in these regions, in a way that is detrimental to France: it disappoints France, which is retreating, is being sidelined,” he added.

“First of all, there is a psychological dimension of French leaders [Macron and his predecessors] which can be explained by a geopolitical decline of France within the framework of the geopolitical decline of the West; and in the French case, things are hardening, intensifying, centralizing in Turkey, ”he said.

“France is in retreat, Turkey is in a more ‘conquering’ posture, even if I don’t like the term. In Syria, in the Caucasus, we [France] are put aside, in Libya in Africa we withdraw, we lose. In Europe, it is Germany who decides more and more, so France is complex, ”said the French journalist.

The real reason for French or European tensions with Turkey is that Turkey is a Muslim country

“The second problem concerns the question of Islam: there is a difficulty in approaching this question in a calm and healthy manner in France, in particular through the bill on separatism, or the false debate on Islamo-leftism. (or Islamo-leftism in French) ”, notes Merchet.

The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) condemned the misuse of the term Islamo-leftism by French politicians.

“Islamogauchism, a political slogan used in public debate, does not correspond to any scientific reality. This term, with ill-defined outlines, is the subject of many public positions, forums, or petitions, often passionate. The CNRS strongly condemns those who try to take advantage of it to call into question academic freedoms, essential to the scientific process and the advancement of knowledge, or to stigmatize certain scientific communities ”, declared the CNRS in February.

“Discours des Mureaux, cartoons on the prophet Muhammad; the whole context of which the former Manuel Valls, guest of the show, was the most extreme representative, a very radical secularism and very hostile to Islam and Muslims: this creates another atmosphere, “noted the journalist, describing in his own words what could be called Islamophobia. “We blame Muslims, not for what they do, but for what they are, that is, Muslims,” ​​he said.

“The declaration made in 2005 by Nicolas Sarkozy, who became French president two years later:” If Turkey were in Europe, it would be known “. This means that a large country like Turkey has no place in Europe, whereas for example Cyprus, which is in the Middle East and close to Syria, is part of the European Union ”, noted the journalist. .

“The question is Islam: the only real reason for tension with Turkey is not the question of human rights in which, for example, Egypt, supported by France, is much more severe, but the ‘Islam. One of the problems lies in the fact that the Turks are Muslims, it is written in the unconscious of some Europeans, it poses a problem. In addition, it is not a former European colony, so there is no familiarity like we have with Moroccans or Algerians for example. these Muslim imperial powers like Turkey and Iran, ”Merchet said, adding that there is a historical international context fueling fear in Europe towards Muslims.

“Between 2011 and 2021, we are witnessing a rise in anxiety in Europe with regard to Islam, in particular because of the terrorist attacks, the Arab revolutions which did not unfold as planned, particularly in Syria, Libya and Yemen. added the migratory wave of 2015. All this changed the climate, the perception of the facts, and consequently, contributed to cause a strong tension and a hardening in our executive, but also a hardening of the Turkish executive, after the he failed 2016 coup in particular, since then Turkey’s posture has become a bit aggressive. It must be admitted that there are growing wrongs and tensions on both sides. There is a right of the French executive, but also Turkish: a nationalism which rises on both sides, ”he said.

Islam in France: a novelty poorly accepted by the French

Asked about the domestic policy of French President Emmanuel Macron and his government, Merchet first expressed his position on the “law to consolidate republican principles”. The bill, the main aspects of which were presented in President Macron’s speech at Les Mureaux, was debated in the National Assembly in January, then adopted at first reading in the National Assembly on February 16.

The much-criticized bill will be considered by the Senate from March 30.

“The law on separatism, but which is no longer called that and angers the Catholic Church and a lot of people, is still totally stupid. Today, there is something new: 10% of the French population is Muslim. There are very sharp tensions on The Turkish president has thus become the symbol of a conquering Islam which frightens the French. I am well aware that my position based on reason, that is to say not to live with fear, but in a thoughtful way, it is very much in the minority in France ”, lamented the journalist, evoking the ambiguity or even the ambivalence of the decisions of the French president.

The French journalist said he was thinking of two things at the same time. “For example in his speech at Les Mureaux, but sometimes you have to choose: in this case, it is not possible to choose two things at the same time. Macron says “white” and “black” at the same time, it cannot hold, “said Merchet, who however believes that geopolitics is not a privileged interest of French citizens.

“I think that geopolitics are of little interest to the French, I think that the French are asking more questions about health and the economic crisis, about employment, about their children’s studies, etc. and that geopolitics is far from being one of their priorities, ”he added.

French perception of national identity

Asked about the reason for the many debates in France on Islam for several years, the journalist sees it as an expression of the French perception of national identity.

“In the debates relating to Islam in particular, there is something which refers to the French identity: the affirmation of the French identity is different from that of the British where one can be Scottish, Welsh, Irish, English and also different religions. In France, we are witnessing an ideologization of French identity: today, you must not be a Muslim, this idea structures the imagination, rather to the right, of French national identity, ”according to Merchet.

“Since the Revolution, there has been this idea, which is more left-wing, that the Republic does not coexist with religion. The Revolution of 1789 was built against the Church and the Republic was built against Catholicism. Catholicism in Islam of this stigma: If we were Catholics, we could not be a good Republican. It stems from a French obsession with religion, ”he noted.

“We need to be more inspired and closer to the Anglo-Saxons who have a more liberal approach, particularly in matters of ideological and religious freedom,” Merchet concluded.

* Writing by Felix Tih in Ankara
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