How my message was distorted by a Western ‘journalist’

February 15, 2013, Friday/ 17:30:00/ İHSAN YILMAZ

A while ago, I was contacted by a Western “journalist.” She wrote explaining that she wanted to ask me some questions about the Fazıl Say case. I replied to her questions by email. I failed to ask her to send the excerpts from my responses that she was going to use. She did not offer to send these, either, and did not even send the piece to me even after it was published. After a few weeks, I asked for the publication and she sent me a link to a website.

When she initially contacted me, I checked her website, which asserted that she writes pieces for Foreign Policy, Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, The New Republic, etc., so I thought that a proper journalist wanted a genuine interview with me. But the agonizing result suggests that I was simply used for her anti-Islam, anti-Justice and Development Party (AKP) activism endeavor. I am now sure about this, since she has refused to acknowledge that she did not reflect my intended message in her piece, but rather twisted it to fit her purpose. I tried to explain to her several times what I wrote, but she insisted on her distortion. It became obvious that I had encountered someone who was not aware of political science literature, was confusing concepts and was not be able to differentiate between intentions and actual policy implementations. I am not sure, but it seemed to me that to her, anything that included Islam in it would be terrible in the first place and thus there was not any need to examine the nuances.

She claimed in her piece that a while ago I had written in my column that the AKP was Islamizing society by implementing some Islamist policies, but I backpedalled from this assertion in my response to her. I wrote to her that there was no difference on this point between my column and my e-mail response to her and quoted my column that she referred to, which said: “These are not enough to conclude that the AKP is now Islamist but are enough to raise the question. We need to closely scrutinize what will come next.” I also wrote to her that in my column, I was referring to Erdoğan's theoretical world, his ideas, rhetoric and probable intentions, but not to clearly observable government policies and state-led Islamization of society.

She replied with another quote from my piece, which said: “Nevertheless, there are an increasing number of signs that the AKP is reverting back to Islamism and this is not a first in Turkish political history”. I tried to explain in vain that I was talking about signs and not clear and concrete policy implementations and not about what actually happened. I insisted that I have never said the country is being Islamized by the AKP.

She even wrote that “you defended the concept of Islamism.” I have never done that and my regular readers know that I am critical of Islamism. It was obvious that she was disturbed by my answer, which included a part on Islamophobia. In this part, I tried to explain how Islamophobes in the West simply manipulate these issues and have always treated the AKP not only with suspicion but with groundless accusations. She took this to mean that I was defending Islamism. She even wrote to me that “you said Erdoğan was trying to Islamize the country. That was your headline.” I was astonished. I replied to her that “this was my headline: AKP: reverting back to Islamism? This further proves that you do not want to differentiate between Islamism and Islamization of the country (one is an ideology in the abstract and the other is about concrete, observable implementations). Plus, you do not want to see my question mark.”

To cut a long story short, she would not even include my objection in her online piece and began sending me one-word replies such as “stop” and “enough” since she could not explain her position. In the end, she even claimed that I was harassing her. What a great journalist!