T Ü R K İ Y E ' N İ N B İ R İ K İ M İ
|Y A Z A R L A R||29 KASIM 2005 SALI|
Palma de Mallorca / Spain
After the directors of the beautiful Mardavall Hotel on the island asked Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish prime minister, to make an entry in the hotel's guestbook he wrote down his determination to fight terrorism. He finished his long sentence with a familiar ring, "We shall overcome." His is the probably only non-curtsy entry in the book meant to eternalize foreign guests' praise for the hotel's services.
Indeed, Prime Minister Erdogan is preoccupied with philosophical ideas nowadays. This is why his reaction to the recent atrocities in Paris wasn't as strong as expected. He emphasized the need to make the enraged Muslim youngsters feel embraced by the society they live in as equal citizens with the same rights and same obligations, adding the recent official ban of Islamic attire in secondary schools there was a reason for their further alienation. It was a very plain explanation of course and didn't lead to any real feedback, even from the Muslim population of Paris that he tried to analyze, but the reasoning behind his outburst was easy to comprehend: His mind is preoccupied by philosophical ideas.
Our modern world, worse than at any other time in history with every page rife with bloodshed and killings over religious differences, has been beset by intolerance and bigotry. The events of that fateful day of Sept. 11 changed the world completely by sowing suspicions in everybody's minds and urging them take a stand against each other. Those who had no idea what Islam was until Sept. 11 now have a complete understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of the religion of more than 1 billion Muslims. Today's world is a world of prejudices.
Some blame religion itself for the misfortune that's befallen the world after 9/11. It's a two-way misunderstanding. Many in the Islamic world honestly believe that some Christians with a crusader mentality are aiming for a world free of non-Christians. Some Muslims believe that they, fanatical Christians, are doing everything in their power to force God's hand for an Armageddon. Bigotry and fanaticism feed each other's prejudices.
One way of coping with this growing misunderstanding is to clarify misconceptions about religions. A commission to tackle this delicate issue has been created by Spain and Turkey and sanctioned by none other than Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations. Statesmen and scholars with an in-depth understanding of religions are the members of this high-level group. Their task is to find ways to fight terrorism with non-combatant means, through understanding, and to root out misconceptions and prejudices.
Prime Minister Erdogan is co-founder of this noble project. He flew all the way from Ankara to Parma de Mallorca just to say how important the commission's task is. He outlined the framework of how he sees the world could become safer and more secure. During our conversation on the plane, he proudly announced that he's stopped using the term dialogue for efforts to create an understanding between religions and cultures, and he ventured to name "Alliance of Civilizations" for the project he gives the greatest possible backing to by lending his minister of state, Professor Mehmet Aydin, for the purpose.
Spain and Turkey have both received blows from fanatics in the post-9/11 world. They each represent a different worldview on religion. The former is staunchly Catholic whereas the latter is Sunni Muslim. Far back in history, Catholic Spain expelled Muslims and Jews from its territories and forced the remaining Jews and Muslims either to hide their religious identity or to convert. Those expelled from Catholic Spain found a safe haven in Ottoman Turkey.
Now the two countries are forging a bond which will eventually lead to the mutual understanding of cultures poles apart. The sages, or wise men, who have been selected for the commission, for their acumen and knowledge, would have understood the seriousness of the task they've assumed after listening to speeches by Erdogan and his host Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, prime minister of Spain.
When I first heard the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, that religions are a divisive factor between people and sources of bloody conflicts, the idea sounded quite outrageous to me. I myself have never experienced any hostility in my long sojourns in non-Muslim societies, and nobody around me has shown any animosity towards other people with different religious identities. How come? I surmised.
In the post-9/11 world everybody feels and thinks differently. We're all suspicious of each other and suspicion breeds fear. In a world filled with homegrown fear and hatred nobody can feel safe. This is our current situation.
Prime Minister Erdogan is sincere in his determination to overcome this calamitous situation in the world and seems to be ready to exert every effort to change the atmosphere radically. Otherwise, why we are here, in Palma de Mallorca, a beautiful tourist resort, miles and miles away from Turkey, in black suits?
From The New Anatolian, 29 November 2005
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