If Turks celebrated Thanksgiving, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters would be giving thanks for U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump.
Against the backdrop of the president-elect’s intemperate rhetoric about Islam, enthusiasm for Trump seems odd in a country with a population that is 99.8 percent Muslim, and where the ruling Islamist political party aspires to make Turkey a leading Muslim power. During the campaign, Erdogan, on at least one occasion, did criticize Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, demanding that the GOP candidate’s name be removed from Trump-branded property in Istanbul, as he “has no tolerance for Muslims in America.” Still, on November 9, Turkish newspapers that faithfully reflect Erdogan’s views were sanguine about Trump’s victory. Somehow, the candidate who once promised to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the United States — then, after an avalanche of criticism, fell back on subjecting them to “extreme vetting” — and is now reportedly considering the idea of registering all Muslim immigrants and non-immigrants in America would usher in a new, positive era in U.S.-Turkey relations.
So what do Erdogan and his supporters like about Trump? What do they see in him that has made them declare, as one Turkish newspaper wrote, that “Turkey is optimistic about starting with a clean slate” for U.S.-Turkish relations?