Ankara assuming leadership for Turks in Europe, says sociologist Göle

Ankara has for many years assumed a leadership function for Turks living abroad, exerting considerable soft power on many citizens of Turkish in Europe in the absence of inclusionary policies for Muslims in the countries they live in, said French-Turkish sociologist Nilufer Gole in an interview with Germany-based portal Qantara.

Stressing that many European countries have failed to integrate their Muslim and Turkish citizens, Göle noted this has served to deepen social polarisation in Europe, which is home to an estimated 25.8 million Muslims, roughly 5 percent of the continent’s population. 

In 2010, the Turkish government began to pursue a transnational strategy, Göle explained, adding that "In recent years, the Turkish model has taken an ethno-national turn, using Islam as a political instrument. These days we refer to it as "Sunnification". How consistently the European Turks follow this model depends on how accepted they feel in the societies of the countries in which they live. The greater the degree of exclusion, the greater their openness to this ideology.’’

The difficulties in creating a synthesis between Muslim citizens and their European homelands is bringing mutual extremism to Europe, according to the sociologist who maintains that on the one hand, neo-populists are envisioning homogenous societies which exclude foreigners and on the other hand, the success of movements like Milli Gorus, a Turkish-origin political Islamic organisation operating within the Turkish diaspora in Europe, is on the rise.

Göle points to the case of Arsenal footballer Mesüt Ozil's case as being symptomatic of Turks in Europe. Özil quit the German national team after being criticised in Germany for meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, citing racism.

"A successful German-Turkish public figure wants to be recognised as a German without having to give up his roots. His story shows how difficult it is in Europe to have different identities and affiliations, even if this is the case with many people – take the Jews, for instance. If we ask these people to give up their origins and in return assume the strong national identity of the country in which they live, this will lead to forced assimilation,’’ Göle said.

Europe is in need of new forms citizenship that do not require the abandonment of one’s roots, she stressed in the interview.