It is neither strange nor new for many Arabs to support a foreign or regional leader for various reasons. The late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of the Iranian revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein and others are examples of leaders that have enjoyed this support.
Currently, there is enthusiasm for the Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan, who like his predecessors, finds himself the leader of some Arabs, even though they do not speak the Turkish language. What is common amongst these supporters of idolised leaders is that they are from different Arab nationalities.
Arabs who supported such leaders were socialist and pan-Arabist behind Abdel Nasser, Islamist behind Khomeini, Baathist and pan-Arabist behind Saddam. Now they are Islamist behind Erdogan. Some Arabs support foreign leaders as a silent protest against their own governments which they dare not openly express.
Dreamers and desperate Arabs ran after Khomeini forty years ago when he advocated the liberation of Palestine and confronting the west. Saddam did the same thing, and Erdogan is doing this now.
These Arabs believed that these leaders would be able to fight their battles, but they faced disappointment after disappointment. No one will fight on their behalf, and no Egyptian, Iranian or Turkish leader will fight for the liberation of Palestine. Erdogan will not liberate Jerusalem and probably will not even liberate neighbouring Aleppo. Not because he does not want to, but because he does not possess the necessary capabilities to do so. He will only launch this battle in the event that Turkish national security is greatly threatened.
Some of these leaders became victims of their own popularity. Abdel Nasser lost the support of the masses and is an example of this. He promised the crowds that came out on the street and clapped for him and the millions that followed him on the radio in the sixties, that he would change the systems within the Arab world and free Palestine. In the end, he lost everything.
Those Arabs who wave images of Erdogan and fervently cheer for him are more dangerous to him than his opponents. Those who waved the pictures of Khomeini and Nasrallah in the streets of Cairo, Kuwait and other countries turned against them and they are the ones who are spreading hatred and hostility against them!
Erdogan was politically elected, enjoys real popularity in his country and there are no doubts about his economic successes. The Islam that Erdogan preaches is moderate and has nothing to do with the Islam of his Arab followers and admirers. Due to the fact that they do not understand these details, they paint a different picture of Erdogan that is closer to the leaders of extremism in the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan.
Eventually, they will be shocked and disappointed, and will then begin to search for another leader whose picture they will wave.