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G7 In Taormina, Molding A World Of Bad Choices

G7 Family photo, Taormina, Sicily
G7 Family photo, Taormina, Sicily

After Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome and Brussels, Donald Trump's week-long odyssey comes to an end with the G7 meeting in the Sicilian town of Taormina. As has become a habit with such events, the picturesque location was turned into a bunker for the occasion, in anticipation of the protests that are also an annual feature.

It was 16 years ago in another Italian coastal location that the most violent demonstrations erupted, leading to the fatal shooting of 23-year-old protester Carlo Giuliani by police at the Genoa G8 (it was Eight before Russia was forced out in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea). Back in July 2001, the so-called "No Global" protesters were lashing out against the idea that a small group of powerful leaders could meet to mold the world as they sought fit. Less than three months later, the 9/11 attacks proved everyone wrong.

Now, these meetings seem more like annual emergency summits, amid rolling crises of economics and violence. Already high on the agenda, the issue of security took on a new immediacy after Monday night's deadly terror attack in Manchester that targeted teenagers at a pop concert. The two other topics expected to dominate discussion are climate and trade, both of which suddenly enjoy far less consensus than even just one year ago.

And yes, the uninvited guest that haunts Taormina: Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Taormina is located just south of the Strait of Messina, believed to have inspired the Greek legend of the two sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis that Homer included in his Odyssey epic, and gives us the expression of having to choose between two bad options, a "rock and a hard place," or as we say in French "plague and cholera."

Though Trump has only been away for eight days, he too has gotten an introduction to the many bad choices the world offers today. And when he returns home, at least two other hot potatoes (or rotten tomatoes?) await: the investigation into the leaking of sensitive information (this time not from him) to the U.S. press about the Manchester attack, and the FBI's expanding Russia investigation that now is reportedly focused on his own son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner.

And yes, the uninvited guest that haunts Taormina: Vladimir Putin's Russia. What role the Kremlin plays in Trump's own version of Homer's tale is yet unclear. But if Odysseus' fate is any indication, the only way to sail away alive from Scylla and Charybdis is to sacrifice part of the crew to the former. A lesson worth pondering as Air Force One heads back to Washington.

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Turkey: The Blind Spot Between Racial And Religious Discrimination

Before the outbreak of the Hamas-Israel war, a social media campaign in Turkey aimed to take on anti-Arab and anti-refugee sentiment. But the campaign ultimately just swapped one type of discrimination for another.

photo of inside Istanbul's Eminonu New Mosque

Muslims and tourists visiting Istanbul's Eminonu New Mosque.

Levent Gültekin


ISTANBUL — In late September, several pro-government journalists in Turkey promoted a social media campaign centered around a video against those in the country who are considered anti-Arab. The campaign was built around the idea of being “siblings in religion,” and the “union of the ummah,” or global Muslim community.

(In a very different context, such sentiments were repeated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Israel-Hamas war erupted.)

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While the goal is understandable, these themes are highly disconnected from reality.

First, let's look at the goal of the campaign. Our country has a serious problem of irregular migrants and refugees, and the administration isn’t paying adequate attention to this. On the contrary, they encourage the flow of refugees with policies such as selling citizenship.

Worries about irregular migrants and refugees naturally create tension in the society. The anger that targets not the government but the refugees has come to a point which both threatens the social peace and brought the issue to hostility towards the Arabs, even the tourists. The actual goal of this campaign by the pro-government journalists is obvious if you consider how an anti-tourist movement would hurt Turkey’s economy.

However, as mentioned above, while the goal is understandable, the themes of the “union of the ummah” and “siblings in religion” are problematic. The campaign offers the idea of being siblings in religion as an argument against the rising racism towards irregular migrants and refugees; a different form of racism or discrimination.

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