Germany has a well-known period in its history where it gave in to a dictator. Things didn’t work out so well for a lot of people.
Now there’s another dictator exerting his influence, apparently.
This time, the dictator is from Turkey.
New York Times bestselling author and Christian evangelist Joel Richardson blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for approving a criminal probe against German comedian Jan Böhmermann.
The satirist’s supposed crime is reading a satirical poem about Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Richardson, who highlights the plight of Middle Eastern Christians in his new documentary “Global Jesus Revolution,” said Merkel is serving the interests of one of the most dangerous people in the world.
“It’s no longer a secret that Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan, who for years was viewed as a great ally of the United States, is little more than a typical Middle Eastern dictator,” Richardson said. “Several years ago, while being interviewed for Glenn Beck’s ‘Rumors of War: Part II’ documentary film, I made the bold statement that in Erdogan, we have an emerging Adolf Hitler of the Middle East. Modern developments are increasingly validating those comments and predictions. Few will question that in the AKP party of Turkey, we have an increasingly dangerous emerging form of Islamist fascism.”
Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has challenged the secular foundation of modern Turkey. In addition, Erdogan is building a cult of personality around his own leadership, something Richardson identifies as a Turkish tradition of celebrating “exalted leadership like the sultans of their past.”
The parallels with Turkey’s imperial past go beyond questions of style, as some government officials have publicly spoken about re-establishing the power the country enjoyed when it was the heart of the Ottoman Empire.
However, Turkey’s dreams of expansion are complicated by a continuing struggle with the Kurds in the country’s southeast.
The Turkish military’s campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is so fierce, it sometimes spills over into Syria. Adding to the confusion, terrorist threats from the Islamic State have destabilized the country, leading to American diplomatic and military personnel being evacuated from some cities.
The Turkish government has responded to the increasing chaos with a crackdown on dissent.
Erdogan’s repression even extends to his fellow Islamists. Deutsche Welle reports more than 2,000 people were rounded up last weekend in an operation targeting anyone linked to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in the United States and is accused of using his empire of media outlets, businesses and Muslim charities to inspire opposition to Erdogan.
According to the ranking system from the World Press Freedom Index, Turkey has less free speech than Zimbabwe and may imprison more journalists than any nation in the world.
The New York Times reported in March more than 1,800 criminal cases were opened against Turkish citizens accused of “insulting” Erdogan. In one case, a citizen was accused of comparing Erdogan to the character Gollum from Lord of the Rings, leading to an absurd investigation in which lawyers argued about whether the fictional character was inherently evil.
Now, such questionable legal proceedings have found a home in Germany.
“The sad irony of this particular situation is that because a German citizen made a short film casting the Turkish president as hypersensitive to criticism, he is now being prosecuted, only validating his point,” said Richardson. “The canary in the coal mine of any emerging dictatorship is always the government oppression of the press and free speech. As journalists across Turkey have been imprisoned and news organizations have been taken over by the government, this is the first time that the president has actually pursued legal action against the citizen of a foreign nation.”
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But Erdogan’s fury may backfire, as his attempts at censorship could inspire further mockery.
The Spectator, a well-known magazine in the United Kingdom, has created a contest with a £1,000 prize for whoever can create the most offensive poem mocking the Turkish president. And even left wing media outlets which have largely supported Angela Merkel because of her approach to welcoming refugees have condemned her actions to protect Erdogan. The New York Times slammed Merkel for legitimizing what it called Erdogan’s “authoritarian drive.”
Yet even as Erdogan struggles to maintain his position at home, he’s flaunting his strength abroad. The Turkish president contemptuously dismissed criticism from the European Union earlier this week, denouncing a European Parliament report criticizing him as “provocative.”
“The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union,” he said scornfully.
And Erdogan’s leverage over Europe and especially Germany is a direct result of Angela Merkel’s decision to initially accept refugees from the Middle East. Now overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis, Merkel and other European leaders have been forced to cut a deal with Turkey in order to staunch the human tide she inadvertently unleashed. As a result, Merkel cannot afford to ignore Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses.
Germany is often regarded as the economic and political superpower of the European Union. But Richardson argued Germany is now weaker than Turkey in geopolitical terms.
“The fact that the German government is allowing this to take place is shameful,” he charged. “It is also evidence of the weakness of Germany and the European Union at large. Turkey has emerged not just a regional, but a global power player. Unfortunately, as I have been saying for years, it is going to get far worse.”
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