Recently there have been a string of terrorist attacks across the globe in places like Lebanon, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad and Saudi Arabia. The latter country saw three attacks in one day at the end of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar (Ramadan), the most recent of which was a suicide bombing right outside the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) mosque in Medinah. While many have used the occasion to point out how un-Islamic ISIS must be for such an attack, the reality is that Muslims already knew this long ago. And it’s not only ISIS which has it out for us. Only the day before, a bunch of Islamophobic incidences and violence acts against Muslims occurred in the USA and Canada, and the combination has left Muslims around the globe reeling.

As a Muslim, each successive attack has left me at a greater loss for words and full of a deeper, more infinite sorrow. Elsewhere, I have written:

This Ramadan, my heart bled for Orlando, Lebanon and Istanbul. It continued bleeding for Dhaka. And now for Baghdad.

All along, there has been a constant consciousness of the chaos and destruction in Syria and Iraq, in Yemen, in Palestine. Of injustice and violence in Burma, China and many other places around the Muslim world.

Hate crimes against Muslims in the West are on the rise.

The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that there will come a time when holding onto the religion of Islam will be like holding a hot coal.

I cannot say if that time is now but I will remain holding it, my hands burning, heart bleeding until there is nothing left of me.

They are killing us. What more can we do? There must be more we can do.

This was before the attack in Medina happened. When the news broke, I could barely process it. I still fail to. One scholar has simply stated, “There are no red lines anymore.” Although the loss of life in all cases has been deeply troubling and tragic (particularly in Iraq where it has been so massive and where the international community has utterly failed), there is something I haven’t been able to properly put my finger on about a group attacking the mosque of our beloved Prophet Muhammad. It feels much more personal than ever before.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that victims elsewhere are not necessarily Muslim or that they could be from minority Christian or Jewish groups, just as perpetrators may identify with any and all of us too. We have been the oppressors too, after all. Rigid labels are rarely (if ever) productive or illuminating, however, at this particularly point in history, it is hard not to notice that far-right militant, hate-fuelled Buddhists, white supremacists, atheists, secularists, Christians and Jews all share a common scapegoat in us. I have a hard time identifying myself with an “us” and them with a “them”. I’m uncomfortable with how these attacks have made my own categories more rigid.

Where other attacks might be analyzed as arising from political or social issues that only tangentially refer to religion or use religion conveniently, an attack on one of the most sacred places in Islam truly feels to me like an attack on every single believing Muslim. What was deeply wrong and evil before has reached a level that defies description for those of us that subscribe to a Muslim identity.

And it doesn’t matter where this is all coming from. As I said, similar attacks are happening from many sides via all kinds of perpetrators in numerous areas of the world. As a junior historian, I am deeply uncomfortable with comparing these incidences but I simultaneously cannot look away from them. That our Deen contains prophecies that echo our current moment makes it all the more unnerving.

How can Muslims today feel calm? How can they feel safe?

There are many suggestions from more learned scholars of our Deen for how to do this, so I won’t go into those here, but instead I would like to talk about the other side of things: what others can do to make Muslims feel safe.

When I saw the news that a Muslim man was shot and stabbed on his way to the Houston mosque for sunrise prayers, I immediately thought of a distant acquaintance of mine who also lived there. I thought to send him a message to see if he was alright and warn him to “be careful.” It turns out that it was that very friend who had fallen victim.

It is difficult to describe the sickened feeling that enters your stomach when you realize that someone you know was shot as a possible hate crime. Though police now say it was an attempted robbery, that sickened feeling lingers all the same, rearing its ugly head every time a hijabi appears on the news for being spit on or being called a sand n****r on the train, every time someone spins gravel at you while you cross the street, every time someone tells you how uncomfortable you make them (or just mutters it under their breath).

In the current divided political climate, how helpful is it to tell our friends to “be careful”?
After reflecting, I have to say, not very.

In fact, it might be counterproductive to what they need. Instead of telling them to “be careful” (thereby putting the onus on them to remain safe), you can simply make them feel safe as a non-Muslim ally by checking in with them, letting them know that you love them, and even though you can’t necessarily imagine it, you have an idea of how hard it must be right now and how down-trodden they might be feeling about international events.

An archaeologist friend of mine fills this role flawlessly. Every single time there is a terrorist attack and the news breaks, there is a message from her in my inbox within seconds. Sometimes she expresses dismay without even needing to contextualize it (“I can’t believe it.”) Sometimes it’s just the name of a place. Other times she simply asks if I am alright.

There is always a discussion and space held for me to just feel what I need to feel. After Orlando, when it felt inappropriate for Muslims to express how unsafe they were feeling from the Islamophobic backlash, she listened while I worked through my anger and frustrations with the self-declared daesh shooter, my own community (and its relationship to the LGBTQ community) and the rest of the world. She listened while I went on a hellfire-laden rant (even without her necessarily believing in hellfire) about the Baghdad and Medina perpetrators, praying for God’s curse on their heads.

I don’t know what these exchanges mean.

I just know that if there is a her and there is a me, and both of us can reject hatred and embrace love, and both of us can deeply mourn the loss of life, sobbing at our desks at work or over the dishes in the sink, then there is something comforting in that. Something comforting in the fact that in a world that has gone mad, there are still people who reject madness and who will openly stand with you while they do it.

I am told this is the majority of people and, to keep going emotionally some days, I have to believe that. But I definitely wonder.

The Drawing Board blog has been growing steadily in popularity over the last year since being launched and we have noticed that our stats have been booming in some pretty exotic locations all over the world. Given the interconnectedness of the internet and how small it makes this big, wide world we share, it should come as no surprise that we have been read in ever far-flung corner of the globe you can imagine.


Some of the top hits come from the following countries:

  • Canada: No surprise there! Since we are based out of our home country and have the generous support of our incredible families, friends and clients, The Drawing Board gets to rest well knowing that we are read by our lovely communities.
  • United States: Turns out we’re also popular with our neighbours to the south! With English as their native language and the closeness of the online WordPress community, this one also doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
  • Brazil: Now, as the third highest country on the list, Brazil seems a bit random to us, but we guess it doesn’t really matter where you’re popular as long as you’re inspiring people to read, write and be the best people they can be! Saúde!
  • Italy: Since both members of The Drawing Board are Italian, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that our home country loves us. We’re happy that our paesani enjoy reading our posts as much as we love writing them! Ciao amores!
  • Morocco: Since Nakita lived in Morocco for 3 years and knows quite the community there, in addition to posting about it quite frequently, it makes sense that people in one of her favourite countries would love to follow her blog too. Salam alaikum bladi!

Other countries to mention include:

  • Pakistan
  • Malaysia
  • India
  • Germany
  • Bangladesh
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Turkey
  • Indonesia
  • Egypt
  • Spain

Now, if only we could get to these places in person, instead of just through the written word!

Much love from The Drawing Board to all of our international fans!

In the article “Turkey and the Arab Spring: Between Ethics and Self-Interest,” Ziya Önis argues that understanding Turkey’s response to popular uprisings in the Middle East is predicated on the tension between Turkey’s foreign policy mired in ethical rhetoric and the careful negotiation of its economic and strategic interests. The era immediately preceding the Arab Spring saw a rise in Turkish economic and diplomatic ties in the Middle East that hinged on a jargon-based set of principles from the AK Ruling Party. These principles put forth during a period of relative peace and stability, could not predict the uncertainty that would come with the uprisings in 2011 and, as such, were greatly tested as events in the region developed. While Önis provides a provocative argument in accounting for Turkish backpedaling and light-treading in terms of how to act in the cases of Libya and Syria, the article does not move beyond the period in which it was published: 2012. Since the time of this publication, the rise of ISIS in the region has presented another unique challenge to numerous key foreign policy concepts for the Turkish administration and arguably has exposed the government’s lofty liberalist rhetoric as contradictory and relatively empty of meaning in terms of actions regarding the extremist Islamic State organization. Looking at A Dictionary of Turkish Foreign Policy in the AK Party Era: A Conceptual Map, I will examine key terminology used in Turkish foreign policy, how these concepts were problematized in the cases of Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring and how they continue to be problematic for Turkey in the era of ISIS.

With regards to policies aimed at Libya and Syria, Önis cites the key dilemma confronting the Turkish as being “whether to encourage reform (especially in the Syrian case) by putting pressure on the ruling authoritarian elites or support rising opposition movements, which started to seriously challenge the existing regimes.” (46) For the Turkish, this would bring together several contradictory concepts that had emerged in the era prior to the Arab Spring and that had helped to usher in the “new” rhetorical era of the AK Party. On the one hand, the Party was espousing the principles of Zero Problems with Neighbours, (meaning the resolution of existing conflicts, equal security, economic integration, political cooperation and a relationship through security, stability and mutual development), economic interdependence (to promote stability and diplomacy as the first stop in conflict resolution), win-win policies that would promote more peace and cooperation, and finally, partaking in their own version of the greater Middle East project to facilitate democratic development in Muslim countries (Yesiltas, Balci,14,18,20, 30). On the other hand, despite these active foreign policy standards, the Turkish also wanted to promote security for all which meant that no external partner was an enemy, regardless of their religious or cultural background, as well as a hands-off approach that respected national autonomy (Ibid, 21). In the case of Libya, this hands-off approach made the Turkish reluctant to act “as an active force for regime change,” particularly because the two countries were intimately tied in terms of trade and investment (Önis 52). Deposing Muammar Qaddafi would threaten those interests, the economic interdependence of the two countries, and would deal a blow to the “zero problems” policy. Furthermore, despite the calls for democracy in Libya being particularly in line with Turkish rhetorical interests, the NATO initiative would undermine the peaceful cooperation and soft power diplomacy that Turkey wanted to employ as part of their political model. As a result, though Turkey technically signed off on the British- and French-led NATO initiative, it did so reluctantly, after much foreign criticism and, finally, in a passive manner.

In the case of Syria, Önis points out that prior to the Arab Spring and conflict, the relations between the two countries represented a kind of Golden Age in the AK Party era for increased trade relations, a permeable border and a shared cultural affinity. However, the uprisings against the Assad government and the rise in violence between the government and its populous put Turkey in a precarious position. Should they continue with their interests in Syria and implore Assad to reform for the sake of short-term economic stability? Where the AK Party foreign policy concepts of soft power, rhythmic and shuttle diplomacy, mediation and facilitation, as well as being a model country, would all lend themselves well to reconciling issues in Syria, these efforts were not successful (Yesiltas, Balci). According to Önis, support for Assad waned as it became apparent that he would neither reform, nor would he stop the escalation in violence against opposition groups in the country. Turkey has since taken to openly supporting anti-Assad fighters in Syria[1] and the relations between the two countries are all but destroyed.

The rise of ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya has presented yet another unique challenge to Turkey’s lofty ideals in terms of AK Party foreign policy. Arguably, the brutal human rights violations, extreme violence and seizure of national resources across the region would make ISIS a target for Turkish condemnation. However, the sheer power of ISIS and its swift rise has made concepts of pre-emptive, proactive and vision-oriented diplomacy on the part of a Turkey relatively moot points. In a contradictory fashion, Turkey has actually started supporting and supplying ISIS in their endeavours throughout key geostrategic points in the Middle East[2]. Seen as contrary to many liberal democratic and secular principles, the support of ISIS is an activity that can actually be somewhat accounted for in the AK Party dictionary of foreign policy concept terms – something very disturbing, to say the least. Despite Turkish assurances of their refusal to deal with ISIS[3], principles of security for all (regardless of background), maximum regional cooperation, the emphasis on creating a basin of peace through soft power would necessitate engaging with ISIS eventually, on equal terms, despite terror tactics, authoritarianism, human rights violations and so forth. This might help explain Turkey’s reluctance to engage with ISIS in a military sense (despite having the second most powerful military in the NATO grouping and arguably some of the post imminent reasons to prevent the spread of ISIS) and might also explain the lack of policing and enforcement for the restriction of ISIS oil as it is “smuggled” into Turkey for global exportation across the still-permeable Syrian border[4]. It is not my opinion that this is desired or intentional but rather that the political rhetoric associated with the AK Party era in Turkey has created a situation in which Turkey is bound to respond as a key global actor but is bound by how they deal with regional threats and conflicts in a very particular way.

In conclusion, key facets of Turkish foreign policy under continuing AK Party leadership have been problematized in light of mass disturbances to the region of the Middle East. These have lead to negotiations, reversals and sometimes blatant contradictions of Turkish diplomatic principles. In the future, issues regarding the hypocrisy of idealistic foreign policy principles in light of continuing humanitarian problems with regards to domestic politics will need to be discussed.

Sources Cited/Referenced

Tony Cartalucci. “”Islamic State” (ISIS) Supply Lines, Influx of Fighters and Weapons Protected by Turkey in Liaison with NATO.” Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalisation. 29 Nov. 2014. Web.

Klein, Aaron. “Turkey ‘providing Direct Support’ to ISIS.” WND Politics. 9 Oct. 2014. Web. <;.

Vali Nasr, “Iran, Turkey’s New Ally?” The New York Times, December 29, 2013

Ziya Onis, “ Turkey and the Arab Spring: Between Ethics and Self-Interest,” Insight Turkey, Vo. 14, No. 3, Summer 2012, pp. 45-63.

Liam Stack, “In Slap at Syria, Turkey Shelters Anti-Assad Fighters,” The New York Times,

October 27, 2011.

Sara Westfall. “ISIS Energy Security.” Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. 26 Dec. 2014. Web. <;.

Murat Yesiltas and Ali Balci, “A Dictionary of Turkish Foreign Policy in the AK Party Era: A Conceptual Map,” SAM Papers, No. 7, Center for Strategic Research, May 2013, pp. 1-35.

“‘IS’ Supply Channels through Turkey | All Media Content | DW.DE | 26.11.2014.” DW.DE. Web. <;.

“UBCMUN IPC – ISIS Convoy Captured Carrying Equipment Manufactured in Turkey.” UBCMUN IPC. Russian Times, 10 Jan. 2015. Web. <—isis-convoy-captured-carrying-equipment-manufactured-in-turkey.html&gt;.

“Turkey Deals with Iraq, Not with ISIS, Says Energy Minister.” DailySabah. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. <;.


[1] Liam Stack, “In Slap at Syria, Turkey Shelters Anti-Assad Fighters,” The New York Times,

October 27, 2011.

[2] Cartalucci, Tony. “”Islamic State” (ISIS) Supply Lines, Influx of Fighters and Weapons Protected by Turkey in Liaison with NATO.” Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalisation. 29 Nov. 2014. Web.; “‘IS’ Supply Channels through Turkey | All Media Content | DW.DE | 26.11.2014.” DW.DE. Web. <;.; Klein, Aaron. “Turkey ‘providing Direct Support’ to ISIS.” WND Politics. 9 Oct. 2014. Web. <;. “UBCMUN IPC – ISIS Convoy Captured Carrying Equipment Manufactured in Turkey.” UBCMUN IPC. Russian Times, 10 Jan. 2015. Web. <—isis-convoy-captured-carrying-equipment-manufactured-in-turkey.html&gt;.

[3] “Turkey Deals with Iraq, Not with ISIS, Says Energy Minister.” DailySabah. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. <;.

[4] Westfall, Sara. “ISIS Energy Security.” Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. 26 Dec. 2014. Web. <;.