Ekim Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish American Business Council and a close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said US President-elect Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during his campaign was mistaken as he is not an expert on Islam, but that Erdoğan will be one of the people he will consult about it.
In an interview with the Hurriyet daily on Sunday, Alptekin said that both Erdoğan and Trump have a lot in common as both are self-made men and both defeated the status quo.
When asked about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, Alptekin said that it was mistaken rhetoric for which Trump apologized.
“Trump is not anti-Muslim, but anti-radical Islam. I don’t think he is an expert on Islam and one of the people he will consult in this regard and learn to trust will be Erdoğan. The president-elect is willing to listen and learn, and he will learn a lot about Islam from the friendship he will enjoy with President Erdoğan,” he said
Describing the Obama administration as unable to understand quickly enough the failed coup in Turkey in July, Alptekin said he had spoken with Trump’s advisers and security team to understand what their vision is for the Middle East and Syria.
“We felt that there was more willingness to listen and understand than we have seen from the Obama administration or that we were likely to see from a Clinton White House,” he said.
It was recently revealed by Washington-based news portal The Daily Caller that a Dutch company, founded by Alptekin in 2005 hired the Flynn Intel Group Inc., an intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s top military adviser, as a lobbyist.
The story, penned by Chuck Ross in The Daily Caller and published on Friday, said Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who is expected to be given a seat in Trump’s cabinet as either secretary of defense or national security advisor, founded the Flynn Intel Group Inc. in October 2014.
“[Flynn’s company] was recently hired to lobby Congress by a Dutch company called Inovo BV that was founded by a Turkish businessman who holds a top position on Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board,” the report said.
Flynn wrote an op-ed for the Washington-based The Hill on Tuesday, just hours before Trump was declared president-elect, in which he repeatedly praised Erdoğan and called on the next president of the US to extradite US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey as Erdoğan accuses him of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.
Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, was the mastermind behind the violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others, while Gülen strongly denies any involvement.
The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup. More than 110,000 have been dismissed from state jobs, close to 73,000 detained and over 32,000 arrested by Turkey over links to Gülen.
While Erdoğan and the Turkish government have demanded Gülen’s extradition from the US and shut down schools linked with the movement, US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have several times said that it is the US courts that will decide on Gülen’s extradition if a case is filed against him with concrete evidence that demonstrates his involvement in a crime.
In a statement to The Daily Caller, Gülen’s lawyers said they hoped that Flynn’s op-ed is not indicative of the Trump administration’s position towards the cleric.
“We hope that Mr. Flynn’s op-ed on Mr. Gülen and Turkish-American relations, published before the results of the election were known, is not a statement of policy for President-Elect Trump,” Gülen’s legal team at the Washington, D.C., firm Steptoe & Johnson said.