Read My Lips

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Speaks

What are the views of Turkey’s prime minister on Europe, Islam and the future of his country?


1. Following your recent election victory, what will be your main goal?

“The people gave us a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation.”

(June 2011)

2. What does Europe’s financial crisis reveal about the continent?

“The financial crisis has laid bare Europe’s need for greater dynamism and change. European labor markets and social security systems are comatose. European economies are stagnant. European societies are near-geriatric.”

(January 2011)

3. Do you believe the EU would be stronger if Turkey were a member?

“Turkey is not coming to the EU to become a burden. We are coming to relieve some burdens off the shoulders of the European Union.”

(January 2009)

4. What do you feel like saying to vehement European critics of Turkey?

“You don’t know anything about Turkey, and you talk based on things you hear from other sources. Turkey is all Greek to you.”

(April 2011)

5. And how do you respond to critics who view Islam as being “backward”?

“For a Muslim, there is no such thing as to be against modernity. Why should a Muslim not be a modern person? I, as a Muslim, fulfill all the requirements of my religion and I live in a democratic, social state. Can there be difficulties? Yes. But they will be resolved at the end of a maturity period so long as there is mutual trust.”

(April 2009)

6. Do you believe Islamophobia is a major problem?

“Islamophobia is a crime against humanity as much as anti-Semitism is.”

(February 2011)

7. Who do you expect to take a lead role in Turkey’s EU accession?

“The Turkish people expect Germany to take the lead role in the EU’s membership negotiations with Turkey.”

(February 2011)

8. Do you believe Turkey’s accession to the EU has been stymied?

“Never before have such political hurdles been put before an EU accession country.”

(February 2011)

9. What are your thoughts on assimilation?

“Yes to integration. But no to assimilation. No one can tear us from our culture.”

(February 2011)

10. And finally, why do you take this stance?

“At times, assimilation is putting pressure on individuals to leave aside their customs and traditions — and such a behavior happens to be a crime against humanity. It is impossible for me to change my thoughts on what assimilation is.”

(October 2010)

Each edition of “Read My Lips” presents quotes made by the featured individual at the time specified in the answers. However, it is a “virtual” interview only — insofar as we have added questions in order to provide a better context to the thoughts expressed.

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