If you were an ordinary Turkish citizen living in Turkey and getting your news from mainstream Turkish sources, you would have heard nothing about Samuel Paty.
The Turkish journalist Burcu Karakaş searched through the database of the Anadolu Agency (AA), the state news agency, to see what the agency had reported about the gruesome beheading of the French teacher Samuel Paty. She tweeted what she found: nothing. The main state news agency apparently did not consider this shocking murder, which shook most of the planet in the last ten days, worth reporting about.
This strange instinct by the AA’s editors seems to have been the standard for the entire mainstream media universe of Turkey, which has remained silent about the story.
Following the beheading of the French teacher, which was driven by religious fundamentalism, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to intensify the fight against radical Islamism. Mosques and Muslim community centers came under immediate scrutiny. This, on the other hand, immediately turned into breaking news for all of the mainstream outlets in Turkey. Of course, none of the outlets reported this as a reaction to the killing, but as simply another showcase of the blatant Islamophobia in the West.
Turkish authorities did not address Paty’s death for more than ten days, during which President Erdoğan condemned Macron’s comments and suggested that the French President needed "some sort of mental treatment.”
Many analysts and political actors — including Erdoğan — aim to portray this chain of events as an illustration of a contemporary clash of civilizations, as if the beheading of a human being and harsh comments about religious fundamentalism from the French President are somehow the opposing paradigms that just represent different value systems and views of the world. This narrative has a strong understanding among Erdoğan’s base, which hypnotically accepts everything from their leader. The media outlets they follow are also strictly in line with the narrative, so the base does not know what happened to Samuel Paty. This frequently fanatical base does not even know that a teacher, a human being, was beheaded in a proclaimed defense of religious pride. All the base knows is that its beloved leader and protector once again stood at its defense from another attack by the hypocritical West. This time, it just so happened to be against France.
Pro-government pundits joined the widespread effort to protect Islam from another attack, and blame this again on the simple premise that “Christians simply hate Muslims and have the ultimate goal of destroying Islam.” Like they are under some sort of command, these “analyses” flooded mainstream media following Erdoğan’s remarks.
Following this incident, this group of unsolicited “defenders of Islam” used another event in their ongoing narratives. The Mevlana Mosque in Berlin was raided by the German police a couple of days ago due to allegations of financial fraud. Turkish authorities immediately condemned the operation and without waiting for the evidence, again put it in the context of an “Islamophobic tsunami in the West.”
On the other hand, the German daily newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel, reported that a group of people related to the mosque fraudulently applied for coronavirus relief emergency aid in the amount of 70,000 euros. According to the newspaper, 7,000 euros in cash was seized from the mosque during the raid as well as computer equipment and documents.
The events in France and in Berlin are actually examples of gruesome crime and alleged financial fraud. Hiring a killer for a beheading or embezzling state funds are both very illegal in the entire civilized world, including Muslim countries.
The false premise that we are somehow witnessing examples of some clash of civilizations in both of these cases cannot be accepted by any civilized human being. In both cases, this is nothing more than an exhibition of the most barbaric use of deadly force and an alleged financial crime. There is not a single system of values in today’s world that advocates for either of these acts.
Portraying what should be a very simple choice concerning a struggle against genuine evil and crime as a clash of civilizations could help Erdoğan consolidate power in Turkey and possibly shift attention from the real problems of a troubled economy and declining quality of life. However, sooner or later, this misrepresentation of a shocking event and purposeful neglect as some kind of division between good and evil and light and darkness, in which everyone must take a side, could cost Turkish state and society dearly in the long run.