Reports continue to pop up in Middle East publications that Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is seen within his ruling AK Party as more than just a president.
Consider the following reports out of Turkey:
- A billboard has appeared in the Gölbaşı district of Adıyaman province inviting people to attend a “holy birthday” event to celebrate Erdoğan’s birthday. The negative reaction this billboard received on social media stems from the fact that such an event is usually held to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The billboard was an invitation to “a program of unity and togetherness organized on the occasion of the birthday of our president.” The event was organized by the Gölbaşı Municipality, reported Today’s Zaman, a secular Turkish newspaper. No government officials or supporters have objected to the billboard or the statements.
- AK Party Bursa deputy Hüseyin Şahin said touching Erdoğan is a form of prayer, while AK Party Düzce deputy Fevai Arslan said Erdoğan has “all the attributes” of God.
- Last year during a political rally, as a woman fainted, Erdogan gestured to the crowd to carry the woman up to the platform, where he touched her, causing her to shake out of her spell, shouting, “Allah Akbar!” The headline at Vocativ.com read: “Prime Minister ‘heals’ sick woman on campaign trail.” (Watch video of the “healing” here.)
A March 30 article for Al Monitor by columnist Mustafa Akyol notes that devotion to Erdogan or “Erdoganism” is “morphing into an ideology unto itself, disillusioning veterans of Turkey’s Islamist movement.”
Akyol, whose articles also appear in the International New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, wrote:
“Pro-Erdogan propaganda, to which almost half the Turkish media is now fully devoted, has taken the shape of a cult of personality, which is also not a typical Islamist phenomenon. A recent book, ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The Sun of the Age,’ proudly refers to him as ‘an idol for our youth,’ which would sound bizarre, if not heretical, to the average Islamist. In 2011, an AKP deputy declared, ‘Even touching Erdogan is a form of worship,’ and in 2014 another AKP deputy proclaimed that Erdogan ‘carries all the attributes of Allah in himself.’ Such views, heretical from a traditional Islamic perspective, were criticized and ridiculed by Erdogan’s opponents, but he conspicuously said nothing.”
Voice crying in the wilderness
Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and director of the documentary film “End Times Eyewitness,” does not believe Erdogan is the Antichrist. But he has been warning for years that something is going on in Turkey worth watching, and that this country of 78 million people and home to the region’s largest army could ultimately be more dangerous than ISIS or even Iran. In short, it is fertile ground for an antichrist figure to rise up and lead a large portion of the world’s 1.5 million Muslims.
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It should be remembered that the death toll caused by ISIS, which has shocked the world with its brutality toward Christians and other religious minorities, is still miniscule compared to the genocidal feats of the Ottoman Empire, which slaughtered 1.5 million Armenian Christians and another million or so Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Protestant Christians. The 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide is being commemorated on April 24.
More than four years ago, while being interviewed for Glenn Beck’s documentary, “Rumors of War Part 2,” Richardson made the statement that in Erdogan, “We have the modern-day Adolf Hitler of the Middle East emerging right before our eyes.”
This seemed like an extreme statement to make at the time. But in light of recent developments, Richardson’s assessment of Erdogan now appears less controversial.
“He is a megalomaniacal dictator of the worst stripe, in a nation where nationalism is a religion, and that celebrates excessive exalted leadership like their Sultans of the past,” Richardson told WND.
It is nearly impossible for most Americans to grasp the degree of nationalism that exists in Turkey, he said.
That’s why he tried to provide a taste of the leader-worship during a rally he filmed for “End Times Eyewitness.” Richardson gives viewers of this documentary a front-row seat at an AKP rally in which a sea of adoring fans wave flags and chant songs to exult their leader, Erdogan.
“When we look back at the Nazi rallies, we recoil at the way Germans had an almost religious devotion to their nation and to their leader, Adolf Hitler,” Richardson says. “Although there is a strong contingency of those who do not support Erdogan in Turkey, for those of the AK party who do, their support for him is nearly religious.”
Man of the hour?
Not only is Erdogan the embodiment of Turkish success over the past decade, but more importantly, he is the embodiment of Turkey’s future aspirations, specifically at a time when many Muslims believe Islam is rising up to take its rightful place in the world.
It remains to be seen whether Erdogan’s god-like appeal among his own party in Turkey will translate beyond his borders. Right now he is just one of several international Muslim leaders competing for influence among the wider “uma” of Muslim believers. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leaver of the ISIS caliphate, would surely have something to say about who leads the restored Ottoman Empire.
“As so much of the Muslim world now believes that we are on the very cusp of the messianic age or the age of the Mahdi, Erdogan is looked to (by his followers) as the chosen one, poised to lead the Turks into a position of exalted leadership over the Islamic community, and thus the world,” Richardson said. “In the eyes of many religious Turks, Erdogan is the one who will forever enshrine the Turkish people as divinely ones, the race called by Allah to lead the world.”
Some Christian prophecy watchers, such as Walid Shoebat, believe Erdogan is essentially claiming to be God by not rebuking those who have anointed him with such lofty status.
Richardson doesn’t go this far.
“This isn’t really true, although he is most certainly pushing the boundaries of orthodox Islam and upsetting some imams in the process,” he said. “In the same way that President Obama imbibed upon and played up the messianic devotion that swirled around him during his candidacy, so also is Erdogan playing the Mahdi card.”
The similarities between Nazi Germany and present-day Turkey can be seen in numerous ways.
It is plainly evident in the philosophy of Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who is the architect of the Islamist party of Turkey’s rise to success over the past decade.
In his 2001 book, “Strategic Depth,” Davutoglu draws upon the political philosophy of German Karl Haushofer, who popularized the idea of Lebensraum, or living space, a phrase employed by Germany during the 1920s and 1930s to emphasize the need to expand its borders into Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and beyond.
Davutoglu believes the nations established after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire are artificial Western creations.
“Turkey must reclaim these nations in order to carve out its own Lebensraum – a phrase he uses unapologetically throughout his book,” Richardson said. “Davutoglu argues that reclaiming the nations that comprise the former Ottoman Empire is an act of saving them. He believes it would bring about the cultural and economic unification of the Islamic world, which Turkey will lead into the messianic era.”
And every messianic era needs a messiah.
“In the imagination of many Turks, Erdogan is the man to fill this role,” Richardson said.
“In the years ahead, the world must keep its eyes on the profoundly dangerous combination of Islamism and messianic nationalism that has arisen in Turkey,” he said. “Never before have we seen a moment where so many dangerous trends are all emerging at the same time.”