Only Turkey can lead Muslim world, says Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has talked up his country’s credentials as a leader for the world’s estimated 1.8 billion Muslims, calling Turkey “the only country that can lead the Muslim world,” Islamist pro-Erdoğan newspaper Yeni Şafak reported on Tuesday.

“Turkey, with its cultural wealth, accretion of history and geographical location, has hosted diverse faiths in peace for centuries, and is the only country that can lead the Muslim world,” Yeni Şafak quoted Erdoğan as saying during a meeting with Turkish provincial religious officials.

The Ottoman Empire once ruled large swathes of the world’s predominantly Muslim regions from its capital in Constantinople, the city now called Istanbul, and was known during certain periods as a safe haven for diverse religious groups.

The Ottoman sultans laid claim to the title of Caliph of Muslims, though the Caliphate was abolished by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in March 1924.

In recent years, Erdoğan’s administration has taken a more active role in engaging with Muslim countries, and the Turkish president led the 59 member states of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in protest against Israel’s killing of Palestinian activists this year as the OIC’s rotating term president.

However, Turkey’s relations with important OIC members including Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been soured in recent years by disputes over Turkey’s support for the political Islamist group the Muslim Brothers, and for its support of Qatar, another state Saudi Arabia and its allies have accused of supporting the group.

Its most recent spat with Saudi Arabia has come after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after entering his country's consulate in Istanbul this month. Turkey says it has uncovered evidence the journalist was killed by a hit team sent by Riyadh.