Because we have been unable to become a regular and normal democracy, every generation and every social segment has once been defined as a domestic enemy in different periods. One of the things that the clandestine structures governing the old Turkey did best was to declare part of the people as an internal enemy and to launch effective propaganda to undermine their image in the eyes of the people.
Sometimes religious people were targeted and sometimes Alevis, Kurds, left-wingers, non-Muslims or nationalists were placed under the spotlight. One of the targets that remained the same was the Hizmet movement. Maybe those who are young will not remember, but even though the agents were different, such campaigns of slandering are not new in Turkey. If you go back 70 years, you will see that the propagandists of the time made the following slanderous remarks about Islamic scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi -- who dedicated his life to religious service -- when he was aged 70: “An official figure made this slanderous remark to undermine the image and prestige of the Risale-i Nur [the works of Said Nursi]: At nights, whores are sent to his home. However, my doors are locked all the time; besides, there is a guard watching what I am doing upon orders by that officer.” If you consider the present time, you will see the following headline in a paper about Fethullah Gülen during the Feb. 28 process: “Fethullah has 3,000 suicide commandos.” (Sabah, June 22, 1999). A lawsuit was opened due to such slander; the case lasted 10 years and in the end, Gülen was acquitted. Of course, this made people sad; however, the sense of serving the people has turned into a universal movement of peace and education in this case.
The times have changed but the tradition of slandering has not. Besides, this time, those who were accused of fundamentalism in the past are playing the lead role. Despite many problems, the people who love their homeland and country are declared terrorists. A domestic enemy is being invented to cover up corruption. However, constant lies and slander poison part of the public but they open the eyes of others.
The following message I received from somebody who was apparently contaminated by old-time propaganda shows how perceptions have been affected during this time and the possibility that those who initiated the propaganda would be later affected by what they did: “In the past, I believed that Fethullah Gülen would introduce Shariah and destroy the republican order. Seeing the decisive stance of Hizmet movement and the treacherous assaults against it, I started to listen to Gülen on TV. I realized that his only wish is to raise a well-educated youth with good morals. He dedicated himself to this cause.”
The stories of men of dedication and emotions like Mongolian teacher Galimbek Şerifhan, who was recently buried in the graveyard of the Nizamiye complex -- built by Ali Kervancı in South Africa -- are the greatest response to the slander and lies. Galimbek attended elementary school in Mongolia, graduated from high school in Egypt, studied theology in Turkey and wanted to contribute to the efforts of serving people and so joined the Hizmet movement. To this end, he migrated to South Africa, where he served as a teacher in a Turkish school in Johannesburg. He was teaching in this school and voluntarily serving as an imam in Nizamiye as well. His South African friend Julie Bhamje said about him: “There were three things in his life: the Quran, prayers and religious service. He loved us like his sons; and we loved him like our father. We are very sorry.” His parents in Mongolia told him not to go, but he never considered leaving his students.
Galimbek died in a traffic accident along with his wife and two kids; Mongolian mufti Azadkhan Mukhan traveled to South Africa to take his body to his country and saw something he did not expect: “We would have taken him to Mongolia, but he had told his students that he no longer wished to return to Mongolia and wanted to remain in South Africa. We also realize that people from other countries were crying for him; so we decided to leave his body there.” The following memory his close friend Veyis shares shows that he sensed what would happen to him before: “The Nizamiye complex was completed and a graveyard was being made in its backyard. He said this graveyard will not be empty. And he further prayed to be one of those who die in these lands. Allah accepted his sincere prayers.” No smear campaigns can ever undermine what these heroes have done.
Published on Today's Zaman, 05 September 2014, Friday