Turkish and Palestinian flags fluttered like angry birds in a crowd of thousands of people chanting “Allahu Akbar!” and “Down with Israel!”
The chants grew more exuberant as the hulking, bearded man on the speaker’s platform assured them that “God willing, we will liberate Jerusalem together.”
The speaker was Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and his audience was Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, gathered for its annual meeting Dec. 27 at a convention hall in Konya, the hometown of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Turkish prime minister introduced the Hamas leader and then took a seat in the front row, cheering and clapping for the radical Islamist statements being made by Meshaal.
“As Turkey for centuries was the main defender of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, likewise with you are the center of the Muslim Umma (Muslim nation) which will carry on the mission of liberating Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque,” Meshaal told the crowd in an address that received almost no major media coverage. “Know this, that strong Turkey is the strength of Palestine and of Jerusalem. Turkey is the strength that represents all Muslims.”
Hamas, which leads nearly 2 million Palestinians in Israel’s Gaza Strip, remains a designated terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and functions as an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
So when the Hamas leader appears, unannounced, as the keynote speak at an official political event in Turkey, a member of NATO and an important U.S. ally, that’s a big deal.
“Essentially Hamas is playing to the nationalistic fervor in Turkey and Turkey is using Hamas to gain favor throughout the Islamic world so it really is a mutually beneficial relationship,” says Joel Richardson, author of the New York Times-best-selling “Islamic Antichrist” and director of the recently released documentary film, “End Times Eyewitness.”
Opinions are mixed among Middle East analysts as to whether Turkey’s top leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu, are true Islamists or just using the rhetoric of radical Islamism to gain influence throughout an increasingly radicalized region.
Elmira Bayrasli, the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a fellow at the World Policy Institute, is among those who seems to think Erdogan is not a die-hard Islamist but is moving in that direction to curry favor with his base of support.
“Beset by domestic crises, Mr. Erdogan has turned his focus toward his core constituency, a largely conservative, anti-Western population in the heartland,” Bayrasli wrote in a New York Times column earlier this year. “In doing so he has reverted to a tactic that has resonated with them: aggression.”
Turkey broke off its once-friendly relationship with Israel in 2010 and then Erdogan turned on his former ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. WND has reported a series of stories documenting Turkey’s double-edged policy toward ISIS as it plays both sides of the war against the Islamic State. Erdogan also supported the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt, a move that eventually backfired as the Brotherhood was later tossed out of power by Egypt’s military.
Richardson, who spent weeks in the Middle East interviewing Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders for his documentary, believes Turkey’s government deserves close scrutiny as signs point to an even more dramatic change in not just style but substance.
Want to learn more about how the powers are lining up across the Middle East and what the Bible has to say about the region’s future? Check out Joel Richardson’s new documentary, “End-Times Eyewitness” and new book “When A Jew Rules the World.”
Richardson believes Turkey has undergone a “soft revolution” as Erdogan has gradually steered the country closer to Islamic values and away from the West. This represented a break with Turkey’s more secular past, but Erdogan’s changes still did not attract anywhere near the amount of media attention that was seen in Egypt, Libya or Tunisia, the revolutions of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Turkey was touted in the West as the model for other regimes in the Middle East seeking a “middle ground” between Islamism and Western secularism.
But the convention held Dec. 27, with thousands of Turks shouting Islamic slogans in support of Meshaal, leader of a terrorist organization, is just the latest evidence that a wake-up call might be in order for Western policy makers in Washington and Europe, Richardson said.
Watch video clip below of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal addressing members of the Turkish AKP Party on Dec. 27 in Konya, Turkey. The entire speech can be viewed at Shoebat.com.
“In light of the fact that everyone starts shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Turkey, which is fairly rare and you would only hear that from devout Muslims, it would seem there really is some strong Islamist tendencies going on,” he said. “But the bottom line is everyone should be concerned. About 10 years ago, even five years ago, the U.S. was still casting Turkey as the moderate secular model and among America’s greatest allies in the whole Middle East.”
Flying under the radar
While the changes taking place in Turkey may not have captured the attention of major TV networks like those in Iran following the 1979 “student” revolution or Egypt’s Cairo demonstrations, they are no less profound, Richardson said.
“The world looks on and they see the leaders of Iran after the Islamic revolution of 1979 and everyone says ‘well that’s a radical regime’ that needs to be marginalized and put under sanctions, but the revolution in Turkey and its ramifications are no less dramatic and we’re only now beginning to realize it was a soft revolution and it crept in and it’s to the point now where the prime minister of the nation is shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (to Hamas),” he said.
But it seems the U.S. is slow to react to fundamental changes in the Middle East, even slower perhaps when the changes are taking place within the culture and society of one of its own allies.
“Turkey is a member of NATO, so imagine if Great Britain was saying ‘we’re going to lead an invasion of Israel.’ If that’s the case it’s time for the West to rise up and kick Turkey out of the NATO,” Richardson said. “We might as well just allow ISIS to join NATO.”
Also complicating the relationship is that Turkey, with the help of the West, has built the largest and perhaps best-equipped army in the Middle East.
When Vice President Joe Biden suggested several months ago that Turkey was aiding ISIS, Erdogan became furious, prompting Biden to quickly back up from his statement and offer an apology.
Richardson said there appears to be no conversation or debate going on in the U.S. about whether the country should make a foreign policy shift away from Turkey.
“No. That’s the thing because we’re weak. We’re weak in the Middle East,” he said. “We’ve got our backs against the wall and we need Turkey. The fact that Biden apologized for suggesting in a statement that Turkey was supporting ISIS, this administration is clearly scared of Turkey.”
Richardson led a film crew that covered an Erdogan rally in Ankara last year, and he experienced some of the same chilling mixture of raw nationalism and Islamic fervor as seen in Konya on Dec. 27.
Watch video below of political rally filmed by Joel Richardson’s crew in Turkey:
“It truly felt like a Nazi rally,” Richardson said. “I took a whole segment to interview different leaders that highlight the Islamist takeover of Turkey and that was one of the big news stories that the West is barely paying attention to but needs to understand.
“The prime minister is the number-two man and he’s shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ to the idea of them leading an invasion of Israel and taking Jerusalem,” Richardson added. “Now, if anyone is doubting an Islamic takeover and Turkey is now emerging as a radical Islamic nation and they have the largest army in the region then they have their head in the sand. I’ve been saying this but everyone continues to function as if they’ve got their head in the sand.”
Antichrist in the making?
Richardson said he gets a lot of questions from readers and viewers of his three books and film about whether Erdogan might be the antichrist foretold by the biblical prophets.
He said that while it is quite possible that the biblical antichrist could rise from the area of modern-day Turkey, Iraq or Syria, he does not believe Erdogan fits the role.
“There will be a series of wars and there will, out of the ashes of those wars, emerge a leader that the Bible calls Antichrist,” he said. “So while these guys I don’t’ think fit the specific criteria they do fit some of the satanic lust for the control of the Temple Mount, which represents the throne of David and the future seat of the throne of Jesus Messiah.”
Richardson said the fact that Turkey is emerging as the champion of Hamas is profound.
“It has the largest army in the region and Hamas is simply the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, so Turkey is setting itself up as the head of the radical Sunni Muslim world with ideological and financial support from Saudi Arabia. But now Turkey is emerging as the champion, the ones to take Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood across the goal line and fulfill their dream of a regional caliphate in the Middle East.”
Richardson believes Turkey is using ISIS as a proxy to take out Assad in Syria and the Kurds in northern Iraq, clearing the way for the re-emergence of a Turkish-led caliphate in the region. Religious leaders in Turkey have long dreamed of a resuscitated Ottoman Empire.
“It comes not only from their Islamic fervor but also Turkish nationalism,” Richardson said.
Nationalism is considered a taboo among Islamic purists such as al-Qaida-inspired al-Nusra and ISIS.
“And that’s why Turkey is hiding behind ISIS,” Richardson said.
Borrowing Nazi-inspired philosophy
Davutoglu is considered the architect of Erdogan’s foreign policy and the intellectual energy behind the Turkish government.
Davutoglu wrote a book he called “Strategic Depth,” in 2001, a year before the Justice and Development Party or AKP came to power. This tome draws upon geopolitical thinkers such as the German Karl Haushofer, who popularized the term “Lebensraum” or “living space,” the same words used by German Nazis during the 1920s and 1930s as they prepared the German people for the idea of expanding the nation’s borders.
“Haushofer was one of the primary philosophers Hitler appealed to and Davutoglu appeals to the same guy as the basis for this neo-Ottoman philosophy he’s been articulating,” Richardson said. “This prime minister is a deeply ideological philosopher, a Turkish nationalist and an Islamist.”
Like President Obama, Davutoglu cut his political teeth as a college professor.
“Both are deeply ideological,” he said. “One is an Islamist the other, Obama, is a radical Marxist.”