Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assertive remarks about American Muslims at a conference organized by a Turkish government-financed association in New York on Sunday were censored by his office on the Turkish Presidency’s official website. A Nordic Monitor study has revealed that the English edition of the official site that translated Erdoğan’s speech from the Turkish edition did not include some statements that American officials might not like.
Addressing only a few American guests and mainly party members who came from Turkey with his official delegation at an event organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC) to promote a book he wrote, Erdoğan devoted much of his speech to prejudices against Muslims and claimed that the “virus of Islamophobia” is more destructive, more lethal and more insidious than COVID-19.
As Nordic Monitor reported yesterday, Erdoğan spoke about a huge religious compound built by Turkey in Lanham, Maryland, in 2016 at a cost of $110 million. The center is run by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) and has hosted many US Muslim figures including members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Diyanet Center of America, which we launched in 2016, continues to host joint activities [with US Muslims]. We didn’t build it only for Turks, we did it for all Muslims,” Erdoğan said. However, these statements were not included in the English translation on the official site.
In his speech on Sunday Erdoğan also mentioned the newly built 36-story Turkish House, located just opposite the United Nations building in New York. The opening of the high rise, which caused quite a stir in domestic politics, was even described by some party members as the most successful event in the 500-year history of Turkish foreign policy. Erdoğan announced that the building would not only serve Turkish citizens but all US Muslims.
“God willing, we will open our Turkish House opposite the United Nations [headquarters]. This monument of glory will serve as a home not only for our citizens but also for the US Muslim community. Inshallah, your new and united address will be this building,” he said.
As in the Diyanet complex, the opening of this new building was not included in the English translation. That Erdoğan attaches great importance to it and showed it off by hosting foreign guests there were not included in the English news story.
Other untranslated remarks are those in which he quoted from the Qur’an that do not carry any political message, encouraging people by saying that the pandemic will eventually end. Reminding that Allah gives the good news in the Qur’an that “there is an absolute ease behind every difficulty,” Erdoğan said that” as people who believe that behind every night there is light and behind every evil there is goodness and that with the grace of Allah, this calamity will be overcome as well.” Those who read the English version of Erdoğan’s speech on the official site did not encounter these lines, either.
During his visits to America in past years, Erdoğan attended events organized by American Muslims and gave enthusiastic speeches like a kind of caliph. This year’s trip to the States saw less religious emphasis. One of the reasons was, firstly, that the Muslim Brotherhood, which Erdoğan used to reach many American Muslims, was declared a terrorist organization in the US. Secondly, the behavior of a caliph was not appropriate at this point in time given the fact that Biden is in office. However, Erdoğan did not neglect to come together in a modest meeting with American Muslims, the majority of whom were Turks.
Meanwhile, a noteworthy development took place before Erdoğan departed the US yesterday. The pro-Erdoğan TASC withdrew from a declaration it signed with a little-known Jewish organization two days earlier that was described as the Erdoğan government’s nod to Israel.
According to the declaration, TASC and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce (OJC) aimed to “cooperate for the common good of Turkish Americans and Jewish Americans and to support relations between our homeland the United States and our respective motherlands, Turkey and Israel” through initiatives such as the Abraham Accords, a series of US brokered agreements in 2020 aimed at normalizing relations between Israel some Arab states. Erdoğan had previously described this as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
In a short message on Twitter, TASC announced that due to the lack of proper consensus, it was withdrawing from the Joint TASC-OJC Declaration.