The world needs a global capital and it should be the capital of Islamic Turkey, Istanbul, according to a UN special representative. Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, wrote a Nov. 1, 2012, opinion piece for the controversial al Jazeera English site calling for a “global capital” because of integration “by markets, by globally constituted battlefields, by changing geopolitical patterns.”
While Turkey is a longstanding U.S. ally and a member of NATO, its nearly 80 million population is 99.8 percent Muslim, according to the CIA Factbook. Its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had several run-ins with Israel over access to Gaza. In March, he urged Israel to “stop the brutal attack against Palestinians and stop the massacre and bloodshed.”
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey sent out an “emergency message” for U.S. citizens in September warning of “a planned anti-American march/protest” in Istanbul. The march was tied to protests against the YouTube video claimed by critics to be anti-Islamic. “The Department of State strongly recommends avoiding the march/protest location as well as any other large crowds that may gather in Istanbul to protest against the controversial video that has created other demonstrations throughout the world,” explained the warning.
Falk recommended what al Jazeera called a “modest proposal” that should move the world past “the persisting tendency is to view the hierarchy of global cities from a West-centric perspective: London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles placed in the first rank.” Along with his UN duties, he is the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Falk said there were two sides on where to locate such a capital – hard and soft power dynamics. He defined hard power as a view “that history is principally made by those who prevail in warfare, and little else.”
His description of soft power included “culture, political vitality, religious identity and ethics shapes and forms what unfolds.” He listed “several factors” why to choose Istanbul. Those included the city as a tourist destination, it has “also become a secure and acceptable place to hold the most delicate diplomatic discussions,” it is convenient, and Turkey has “gained economic and political credibility at a time when so many important states have either been treading water so as to remain afloat.”
He credited Turkey for “achieving a stable interface between secular principles and religious freedom” and for “moving away from the ‘over-secularizsation.'” Falk said choosing Istanbul as a world capital would be good because Turkey could provide the “satisfactions of a post-Western world civilization.”