July 12, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10707

Mixed Reactions Among Arab And Muslim Commentators To Turkey's Sudden Approval Of Sweden's NATO Membership Bid

July 12, 2023
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 10707

Turkey's recent decision to support Sweden's application to join NATO, which came mere hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proposed that the European Union grant Turkey EU membership in exchange for Turkey's support of Sweden's NATO membership, has elicited a range of responses among Arab and Muslim commentators. While Erdoğan's supporters have commended him for promoting Turkey's global interests and underscoring its importance, critics have accused him of insincerity regarding his condemnation of Sweden over the Quran burning incidents.

This report will highlight the discussion surrounding Turkey's sudden change in stance and examine the responses from both Erdoğan's supporters and his detractors.

Using the hashtag "Erdoğan the deceiver," Syrian writer and political analyst Ghassan Yousef tweeted on July 11, 2023: "It appears that #Erdoğan has received a price for his agreement on Sweden's NATO membership and the release of Ukrainian prisoners to Zelensky. U.S. National Security Advisor #Jake_Sullivan confirms support for Turkey's accession to the European Union and President #Joe_Biden's endorsement of a plan to deliver 'F-16' fighters to Ankara."[1]

However, Dr. Sam Yousef, a U.S.-based academic and researcher with over 177,000 Twitter followers, holds a contrasting view. On July 11, he expressed his opinion by stating: "Erdoğan's approval of Sweden's accession to NATO, a country that allows the burning of the Quran under the protection of its police without respecting the sentiments of 2 billion Muslims, is more than enough to explain the phase we are living in!"[2]

Al-Jazeera Net Turkey reporter Ibrahim Alulabi has a different view. On July 10, he wrote on Twitter: "Erdoğan's late approval of NATO's request, in the form of referring the request to parliament, signifies the occurrence of a deal. Some media outlets have started leaking its details, which consist of commitments from Sweden to support Turkey's demands regarding its accession to the European Union and other shared issues with the Union.

The NATO Secretary-General also stated that they will appoint, for the first time, a joint coordinator to combat terrorism. It is not likely that the compensation Turkey received is significant enough to give the green light after a year of abstention. However, it is once again a policy on the edge of the abyss."[3]

Saudi Islamist writer and Erdoğan supporter Ahmad bin Rashid Bin Saeed believes that Sweden's prime minister "surrendered in the presence of the Sultan." In a tweet posted on July 10, he wrote: "'I am pleased to shake hands with Erdoğan, and we will cooperate with Turkey on broader levels, not just for NATO.' This is how the Prime Minister of Sweden, Olaf Kristersson, expressed his joy at meeting President Erdoğan in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on Monday, in the presence of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Surrendering in the presence of the Sultan."[4]

In contrast, writer Jamal Abdel Aziz Atamimi argues that President Erdoğan has surrendered and provides five reasons to support his viewpoint. On July 11, he wrote to his 58,000  Twitter followers: "Erdoğan has surrendered. 1) Agreed to Ukraine's accession to NATO; 2) Lifted his objection to Sweden's membership; 3) Allowed Ukraine to reclaim 'Azov leaders'; 4) Permitted France to monitor the nuclear reactor being built by Russia in Turkey; 5) Sold drones to Ukraine."

Danish Imam Mundhir Abdallah, one of Erdoğan's staunch critics, remarked that he had anticipated Erdoğan's approval of Sweden's NATO bid. Abdallah also accused Erdoğan of disregarding Sweden's disrespect towards Islamic sanctities. He tweeted on July 11: "Once again, Turkish approval for Sweden's accession to NATO did not contradict what we expected, and we are not surprised by it. Erdoğan, as usual, managed to exploit the issue for electoral purposes and traded it until the last moment! As for the timing, it came after the Swedish prime minister's meeting with President Biden. Thus, Turkish rulers prove their detachment from the Ummah and their lack of concern for the humiliations it faces in its sanctities and sacred places. This is the situation with all Muslim rulers. The situation will remain as such, with a separation between the people and the rulers, until the Ummah can regain its stolen sovereignty, pledge allegiance to a Caliph who represents it, upholds its religion, and defends its sanctities."[5]

U.S.-based Egyptian writer Ayat Orabi, who has over 661,000  followers on Twitter, took it a step further by mocking Erdoğan's supporters. She expressed her expectation that they would find ways to rationalize his change in stance regarding Sweden. On July 10, she wrote: "What is the opinion of the defenders of the Caliph (Erdoğan) today after Turkey's approval of Sweden's accession to NATO? Expect a brigade of justifiers to come forward, praising Erdoğan's approval of Sweden. This is the same Sweden, the criminal country that allows the burning of the Quran under the protection of its police without respecting the sentiments of two billion Muslims. Of course, these people will not shy away from describing Erdoğan as a cunning fox because he agreed to Sweden's membership in exchange for Turkey's membership. They will claim that Erdoğan, through this approval, will force America to approve Turkey's acquisition of F-16 aircraft, and other pre-packaged justifications to deceive Muslims."[6]

Erdoğan's short-lived proposal, linking the granting of EU membership to Turkey with the approval of Sweden's NATO membership bid, was highly praised by his supporters as a clever move. On July 10, Mauritanian professor Muhammad Al-Mokhtar Al-Shinqiti, based in Qatar, posted a tweet to his 883,000  followers, stating: "Erdoğan's linking of Sweden's accession to NATO with Turkey's potential membership in the European Union is a brilliant maneuver that has put the Western powers in a dilemma. They are faced with either allowing Turkey's EU membership, to which they are reluctant, or ceasing their pressure on Turkey to seek their assistance in containing Russia in a war where Turkey has no stake."[7]

Along the same line, on July 10, Abdullah Al-Umari, an Istanbul-based Saudi businessman  with more than 33,000  followers on Twitter wrote in praise of Erdoğan's statement: "What was previously understood as an insinuation has now become a clear statement! If they reject Turkey's accession to the European Union, it becomes an excuse for Turkey to refuse Sweden's accession. And if they open the door for Turkey, it will immensely boost its economy and have a significant impact on the European economy as well."[8]

Similarly, Turkish political activist Muhamed Erdoğan, who has 264,000  Twitter followers, wrote in Arabic on July 10: "Erdoğan: Sweden's entry into NATO is contingent upon Turkey's accession to the European Union (in addition to previous conditions). Following Erdoğan's statement, the response came from the NATO Secretary-General, who said: 'We support Turkey's entry into the European Union.' Afterward, a statement came from Germany: 'Sweden's entry into NATO is unrelated to Turkey's accession to the European Union.' Just a moment ago, a statement came from the United States: 'We support Turkey's entry into the European Union.' Erdoğan is playing with the nerves of the West, seeking multiple things in exchange for one thing."[9]

Some commentators, such as Taji Mustafa, the London-based and member of the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir, have questioned Turkey's intention to join the EU. Mustafa wrote on July 10: "Why would #Turkey still want to join the EU? Is EU members' disdain for, [and poor] treatment of Muslims and even hatred of Islam not apparent to you?"[10]

While others have expressed their confusion regarding Turkey's sudden change of stance towards Sweden. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati professor of Political Science with over 318,000 Twitter followers, wrote on July 11: "I have not heard or read a reasonable and acceptable explanation for Turkey's sudden, rapid, and wise turnaround from rejecting to accepting Sweden's membership in NATO, except that everything has a price, and America has a price for everything."[11]

Characterizing the relationship between Erdoğan and his supporters, Egyptian-American writer Magdi Khalil describes Erdoğan as "fortunate," being consistently praised for his stances and facing minimal criticism when he changes his positions. He wrote on July 11: "Erdoğan is fortunate to have gullible Islamists. He raises his voice in outrage against Sweden for burning the Quran and hosting Kurdish groups, threatening and vowing to prevent their entry into NATO, and the Islamists cheer for him. Then he makes a complete 180-degree turn and announces Turkey's approval of Sweden's entry into NATO, and the Islamists cheer for him and his Islamic genius as well!!! He raises the rhetoric against Israel and the Islamists cheer for him, then he completely changes his tune, and the Islamists fall silent as well!!!!"[12]


[1], July 11, 2023.

[2], July 11, 2023.

[3], July 10, 2023.

[4], July 10, 2023.

[5], July 11, 2023.

[6], July 10, 2023.

[7], July 10, 2023.

[8], July 10, 2023.

[9]ğan/status/1678400219636015109, July 10, 2023.

[10], July 10, 2023.

[11], July 11, 2023.

[12], July 11, 2023.

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