May 07, 2014
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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.
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.)
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.
Their solution to racial discrimination is religious discrimination. It's a strange approach: we should tolerate the Arabs not because they are people but because they are Muslims, they seem to say.
On the other hand, I believe the solidarity they suggest is a historical illusion, because historical and current events clearly show that the religion does not and cannot make people siblings to each other. Although Islam has the suggestion of the Muslims being siblings, we all know this is not possible in practice.
While religion provides a feeling of solidarity among people, this lasts only until a conflict of interest. The feelings fade when it comes to profits and gains. There are many examples for this in history, when Muslims did not hesitate to spill the blood of their “siblings” due to conflicts of interest.
One of the biggest obstacles on the path to becoming siblings through religion is the different interpretations of the faith.
For example, three of the four caliphs in the early years of Islam were murdered by their “siblings in religion.” If religion could make the people siblings to each other, it would make them and their supporters so, as well.
It couldn’t, and they all killed each other for seats of power. It is a great hoax to say that religion would make people siblings in our era, when it couldn’t do it among the comrades of the Prophet Mohammed — the people who, we assume, understood Islam the best.
On another note, one of the biggest obstacles on the path to becoming siblings through religion is the different interpretations of the faith. Although there's one Islam, there are thousands of perspectives to be a Muslim. Each of these perspectives either doesn’t recognize the others as Muslims or considers them as enemies.
Solidarity through religion is an empty dream as long as communities, sects and organizations do not accept other interpretations and are hostile to each other in today’s world when different perspectives organize among their own.
Muslim women perform Eid prayers at Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara.
An Islamist organization in Egypt doesn’t recognize those in Turkey. Some Islamists in Turkey don’t recognize those in Saudi Arabia. The Shiite Islamists in Iran does not believe the Sunni movements in other countries as trues Muslims. Muslims even kill each other via organizations such as the Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram.
Nine out of every 10 killed Muslims are killed by Muslims, according to data from Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs. The differences in interpreting the religion does not end with national borders, too. Religious people in the same countries also perceive each other as enemies to be destroyed. Speaking about sorority through religion in such a setting is not for people who are in their right minds.
There are hundreds of different interpretations of Islam in Turkey alone. Religion, which couldn't make President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fethullah Gülen siblings, is to make the Muslims worldwide as siblings. Religion, which couldn’t even unite all the members of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is to unite Muslims worldwide as the ummah. Some of the faithful who couldn’t manage to be siblings with their fellow citizens are wrong to assume they can develop a feeling of sorority with people they know nothing about. It’s strange that they think this would work.
Does this offering of ummah and being siblings in religion include the millions of people who support organizations such as the Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram? How many Muslims in the world intend to be siblings with those who interpret the faith as they do? This is all nonsense, as I’ve been trying to say.
We should adopt an understanding which is based on the good of the people, the country and humanity by being on the side of the right of the good and true while being against the evil and the wrong while dealing with different nations and societies, not one that recognizes people through unrealistic factors such as religion, identity and sect. Discriminating among people over religion, sect or identity is an antiquated approach.