Islamic nations including Turkey and Saudi Arabia are competing to woo Indian Muslims as ultranationalists keep the Muslims of India hostage to the troubled legacy of partition. Recently, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkey was ‘the only country that can lead the Muslim world’. And that also includes the Muslims of India.
This is an effort to expand the global reach of Turkish political Islam. Experts say securing the allegiance of Indian Muslims would be an important as well as a symbolic move for Erdogan’s ambitions to portray himself as the de-facto leader of all Muslims worldwide. Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s rivalry also plays a part.
According to James Dorsey, a Muslim World Expert, Erdogan’s efforts to create inroads into the Indian Muslim community is facilitated by the Hindu nationalism which has no doubt mounted anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia. Dorsey says the Turkish leader “is competing for Indian Muslim hearts and minds with a continued flow of Saudi funds to multiple Salafi organizations.”
This also includes charities, educational institutions and political organizations. And most recently, India’s controversial televangelist, Zakir Naik told a crowd in Istanbul, “one among the few Muslim leaders who appreciate, have the guts to support Islam openly is the president of this country, President Erdogan. You are lucky to have a president like Erdogan.” And obviously, this didn’t go down well with Saudi Arabia, whose King Salman had, two years ago, awarded the preacher with the King Faisal International Prize for his ‘service to Islam’.
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Experts say that Erdogan seems to be fixated on the idea of ‘reestablishing the caliphate’; once upon a time, Turkey was under the Ottoman rule. In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman claimed that Turkey and its President Erdogan are trying to build a new ‘Ottoman Caliphate’. And then there was Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey. The two countries have not been eye-to-eye on issues since the ousting of Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Besides, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are wary of India and Iran relations. Chabahar port is the heart of India and Iran relations. Turkey and Saudi Arabia don’t Iran to influence the Indian Shiites. This is something to be waited upon and watched. Iran will definitely appease India as its moderate Islam is dear compared to Saudi Arabia’s and Turkey’s Islam.
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