« Turkey enjoys ‘soft power’ in Arab countries » – Hürriyet Daily News

Lisa Anderson, President of American University in Cairo (R) and Barçın Yinanç (L). Source : Hürriyet Daily News

By Barçın Yinanç.

« Turkey is enjoying a wave of cultural soft power in the Arab world thanks to its popular soap operas, American University in Cairo President Lisa Anderson says, She notes that Arabs are attracted to the shows because they show that a Muslim country can produce modern stories for television that are also culturally authentic.

Turkish soap operas have become extremely popular throughout the Arab world because they are seen by locals as having reconciled modernity with Islam, according to the President of the American University in Cairo.

At the same time, however, the series’ popularity does not mean the “Turkish model” can be applied to the Arab world because there are fundamental differences between Turkey and Arab countries, said Lisa Anderson.

“People are taking bits and pieces of it; everyone is [just] taking what suits them the most,” she told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview. […]

Everyone is talking about the Turkish model, but is there an understanding of what the gist of that model is. For some, the key word could be secularism; but secularism does not resonate in the Arab world.

No, it does not resonate at all. There are some fundamental differences between Turkey and the Arab world. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, 80 percent of the Ottoman bureaucrats came to Turkey and they became the core of the state apparatus, while most of the provinces of the empire which became mandates were completely denuded of experienced bureaucrats.

Turkey started with a very sophisticated state apparatus while the Arab world has been in the process of state building.

That’s why you will see different trajectories. But there are reasons why there are people that will look to the Turkish model and use it. The liberals, the MB, everyone will use it for their own purpose. It is a credit to Turkey that people will take whatever will suit them because Turkey is considered a success. But the model is not translating at all; people are taking bits and pieces of it.

How is Turkey’s increasing profile perceived?

They are very comfortable with it. It varies from country to country. Turkish soap operas are popular all over the Arab world. Turkey has a cultural, soft power influence right now. People will refer to soap operas as an indication that a Muslim country can produce modern, culturally authentic TV stories; there is a kind of Turkey [showing that there] is a way to be modern and Muslim. Since many of these old governments, including [Hosni] Mubarak’s, said basically that these two things were not reconcilable, but people want that and they love to see Turkey [doing] that. People think Turkey is respected as a country; this is also appealing. There is more interest and hope for attention in Libya and Syria than there is in Egypt and Tunisia. By and large, people are pleased to see Turkey taking an interest in what is going on in the region. […] »

Source : Hürriyet Daily News