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Modern Islam And The Disease Within

Even a country like Turkey can't find its way into the modern era. What remains is a negative, aggressive "discount Islam" that creates problems around the world

Inside a mosque in Dhaka on July 28
Inside a mosque in Dhaka on July 28
Zafer Senocak*


BERLIN — A Turkish newspaper recently reported that there isn't a single internationally patented pharmaceutical product that has been developed in Turkey. This is despite the fact that Turkey is one of the most advanced Muslim countries, technically and scientifically speaking.

The Muslims of our world don't develop remedies. They spread diseases like radical Salafism, and these diseases are both chronic and incurable. Even though the art of healing rose in the Orient during the Middle Ages, with Muslim and Jewish doctors at the forefront of medical developments in their profession. But the "healing" Islam of the Middle Ages has, over the centuries, turned into a diseased Islam that now poses a worldwide threat.

The incurability of the Muslim psyche is directly linked to the loss of Islamic culture's creative forces. Muslims grow up in a world that is dominated by dependencies. Women are dependent on men, young Muslims are dependent on their elders, and the entirety of the Islamic world is dependent on the rest of the superior world.

Still, dependency is not the cause of this deficiency, especially in these days of global networking, even if Muslims perceive these as forms of subordination, causing them to always feel inferior and not in control.

The incurability is a direct consequence of this permanent inferiority in comparison to a foreign culture that is superior in all areas. The disease prevents any kind of reconciliation.

Every civilization will, sooner or later, be measured by its sensitivity towards its surrounding environment. That environment is part of the world that provides protection and security. In the Islamic world that connection between humans and the immediate environment has been destroyed, and with it urban culture in Islamic metropolises has collapsed and left catastrophic living conditions.

There can be no humility where humiliation reigns. The Islamic culture has lost all its humility because it is subjected to constant humiliation. A part of the incurability of the Muslim complex is the belief in conspiracy theory. Everyone else but them is responsible for their misery. The U.S., the West or Israel are favorite targets of Muslim paranoia. And nowhere else is the fragility of these conspiracy theories more evident than in Turkey.

Turkey has been practicing democracy and secularism for more than a century, and yet too many Turks suffer from the same incurable disease as the rest of the Muslim world. The same newspaper that reported that no medicine has been developed in Turkey also reported that more than 10,000 people joined ISIS in the last three years. To me, these reports are two sides of the same coin. Turkey, a NATO member state, somehow managed to come under suspicion to have supported ISIS logistically.

The Turks have more than enough reason to be proud of a secular system that has given them relative stability in a volatile region. But instead of cherishing that stability, they hanker for a Muslim society, send their children to religious schools and stand idly by while the most atrocious crimes are committed in the name of their religion.

There are many people in Turkey who believe that the West is behind all of the misfortune of the Middle East. Books about World War I and the era of imperialism are in great demand. It nearly seems as if World War II never even happened.

But then again, in the consciousness of many Muslims, it never did happen. The abattoir that was Europe barely touched the Islamic world. Instead, memories of the colonial era have come to life again and are being kept alive by a psychological deformation that disables any kind of rational analysis.

Modern Turkey is increasingly trying to fight Islamism, but the European elites have left them more or less to deal with the problem by themselves. Is that a tribute to the melancholy postmodernism or is it the beginning of a rejection of the ideals of the Enlightenment?

The desire of Turkish intellectuals to act as a bulwark against Islamism might save the Turkish Republic from becoming an Islamic state, but that doesn't in itself solve a single problem in the Islamic world. This is because Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia and the diaspora spreading by the whims of migration are immune to intellectual discourse that may cause them to view their own position in a critical light. The Islamic world is immersed in a phantasmagoria of their own cultural, moral and social decline, and turning back is not an option.

The path to 21st century healing is barred to Muslims. The disease they suffer from is incurable because their poisoned thoughts, encumbered with the prejudices of centuries, have formed a fateful alliance with their damaged psyche. The pathogen of the disease has nested in the thought processes and contaminated their very thoughts.

All attempts to conquer this disease have failed so far. But have they really tried? The well-educated and philosophically versed Muslim scholars consider themselves immune to the disease that has infected their faith. But that is a mistake! A disease that has infected your thoughts is not going to stop at the supposedly safe realms of the intellectual world. Quite the opposite. The disease searches for a culture ripe for thoughts to be born and developed.

In this day and age of digital communication, the medium of culture reaches into all areas of the globe and the spread of the disease cannot be controlled. The simple Koranic schools of the Islamic world, which are often no more than a hole in the wall, have long since achieved dominion over the teachings and the practicing of Islam of elaborately fitted university theological departments.

Especially in the diaspora, educational distance is passed on from generation to generation, and it is in this society that the ‘discount Islam' rapidly gains ground.

The free world will, sooner or later, have to react to the breakdown of civilization within the Islamic world just as it reacted to Nazi Germany in 1941.

But shouldn't there also be dissemination of a life-affirming mentality beyond the military response? When young democracies such as Tunisia are attacked, we need an answer that will support the civilian society of that country. But not just in that country.

Are dissidents, who want an open-minded society within the Islamic world, getting enough solidarity? Is Saudi Arabia truly an ally in the fight against Islamic extremists? Why is it not possible to give our community of shared values a face that doesn't shy away from asking these questions?

*Zafer Senocak is a Turkish-born German writer.

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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