Column: The specters of Islam haunt Europe

Yasin AktayBY: Yasin Aktay*

Karl Marx starts his “Communist Manifesto” with the line, “A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.”

In the first half of the 19th century, there was an atmosphere in which the fear of communism was haunting the whole of Europe – even though this was not real – and everyone was waiting for communism as they would Godot.

Fears should not be underestimated. They can have the mysterious power to create their own reality in so much that the measures taken to overcome these fears turn into oracles that validate themselves. Pharaoh’s nightmare of the inevitable ending was what actually dethroned him. In order to overcome his fear, he decided to have all the Israelite male infants murdered, thus this desperate strategy prepared his end. After Marx explains how all powers, from the pope to the tsar, from Metternich to Guizot and from French radicals to German police intelligence, merged in a holy alliance to fight this specter, he explains and justifies his writing of the manifesto about Communism and its becoming a specter.

On the centenary of his death, renowned French poststructuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida published a book with a reference to Marx in the title: “Spectres of Marx.” He emphasizes specter in plural in the title. He explains how, like everything else, Marx, too, has different manifestations in postmodern Europe, but continues saying that even after the Berlin Wall was brought down and the socialist bloc fell apart, Marx’s specters still haunt Europe today. He, of course, put emphasis on the irony this has within it.

How did Marx’s specters haunt Europe during those years? Why were they roaming around? Who took them seriously? To be honest, it does not really matter anymore. A Europe, which had expelled the specters of communism to a vast extent, in the euphoria of victory, rather, was at the climax of the pleasure of espousing humanity rights, which it embezzled as European values.

Yet now, real specters are haunting Europe They are roaming around and leaving real effects on people. The specters of a nation’s male children who were murdered and illegally buried into history during the Battle of Gallipoli and the Turkish War of Independence: the specters of Turks and Muslims.

If Europe has any conscience left, it has started to feel that the day has come in which it must pay for all the people it murdered in the regions it atrociously exploited and humiliated. Therefore, all the old European powers have come about again in the hope of uniting against Islam, which they thought they had previously killed. But while they unite against these specters, they become disjointed because of the rush they are in. They now drop all the humanitarian values they once pertly embezzled and stomp all over them. In relation to the specters of Islam, Europe is dashing toward the far right, starting from the countries that respected humanitarian values the most. The most important topic during the European elections in recent years has been Turkey and other foreigners, meaning Muslims. Those who pledge to close the doors and take measures against them have an increase in their number of votes.

Xenophobia, hostility toward Turkey and Islam, and bigotry are the values that are on the rise during European elections. Is this the end of Europe or the face Europe has hidden under its heavy make up? We do not know. But this specter is nothing like the specter of communism that Marx wrote of.

When you look at it, Europe has always united over and gained an identity through a fear of Islam and Turks. According to a view, the first parliament-like experience in Europe was done by the feudal lords and the Church as a measure against Muslims.

Europe had thought that it had killed the Turks and Islam at the end of World War I, and was thus relieved. Today it hears the footsteps of that power it thought it had killed, and is possessed with the fear. It is reacting in such a way that it has put all its standards and rules aside and is supposedly fighting against a ghost, a specter that it sees.

First Germany banned Turkey’s ministers and deputies from holding rallies in Germany. With this step, it revealed the hollowness of the discourse it used on the freedom of speech of ordinary people. This was followed by the Netherlands taking the same steps but in a more extreme way. Both countries have made the same mistakes they once accused Turkey of making, and have lost.

They tout freedom of speech, and yet they have restricted the freedom of speech of ministers, let alone of ordinary people. They tout the right to meetings and demonstrations, but in a hypocritical, fascist manner they prevented ministers from exercising these rights to meet. They claimed Turkey’s decision to declare a state of emergency after the coup attempt as “deviating from democracy.” This despite that Turkey has lost thousands of lives to terrorism over the years and had not declared a country-wide state of emergency until after the coup attempt. The Netherlands declared a something resembling a “state of emergency” to prevent a peaceful demonstration from taking place.

It is not possible to rationally explain the Netherlands’ decision to prevent Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish Consulate.

Quite simply, something weird is happening in Europe, and this cannot be explained through logic, strategy or politics. This is an action that would be expected from someone who thought they had seen a ghost.

The European Union is being wasted despite everything, and it is not so bad an idea after all.