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A New Gaddafi: Harsh Criticism Against Erdogan Following Bizarre Claims About America

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been under heavy criticism from a number of prominent Arab writers and journalists after recently claiming that Muslim sailors, not Christopher Columbus, had discovered the Americas.

Erdogan, who has been in power in Turkey for more than a decade, stirred up controversy on Saturday when he claimed that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Columbus.

Under the headline “Erdogan’s Sad Search for Past Glories”, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, wrote in the influential al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper (Arabic link):

By repeating the same kind of tales as Libya’s late Muammar Gaddafi, Erdoğan has gone from successfully overseeing a renaissance of his country’s fortunes to joining the ranks of political jesters and swindlers, all for the sake of satisfying an idle audience through taking credit for other people’s achievements.

Erdogan’s remarks were widely criticized also by Arab Twitter users. “Erdogan is becoming more and more Gaddafi in his speech,” wrote one user (Arabic link). Another one said the statement was a result of “drug addiction” by the Turkish leader. A photo posted on the Internet showed Erdogan standing beside an ISIS flag.

Opposition activists in Turkey and various Arab intellectuals often describe Erdogan as an imperialist figure who wants to establish a new Ottoman Empire. Curtis R. Ryan, a professor of political science at Appalachian State University, wrote recently for the Project on Middle East Political Science, “Turkey had in a mere three years gone from regional superstar to its earlier image as the former imperial power attempting once again to intrude upon Arab affairs.”

[Photo: valeriy osipov / Flickr]