December 22, 2014

Who is a terrorist?

Ekrem Dumanlı

The world was redesigned after the Sept. 11 attacks. Thousands of people died in the terror attack in New York, and all the Muslims in the world were held responsible; Islam was associated with terror after these attacks and all Muslims were considered potential terrorists. Of course, I am not talking about the formation of such a negative image overnight.

There were some radical groups arguing that they were waging a war of jihad, and their violent attacks undermined the peaceful image of Islam; this was a huge danger for Muslims. However, the extremists and radical groups which believed that their approach was compatible with Islam did not appreciate that terror is a crime against humanity and a great sin.

An ad of condolences was published in the Washington Post a day after the Sept. 11 attacks. This ad was undersigned by Fethullah Gülen. In his statement of condolences, Gülen clearly stated that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist and a terrorist cannot be Muslim.

This was an unusual statement, and unfortunately, the Muslim world was not ready to hear this call. Many renowned Islamic scholars in the Middle East were unable to make any statement about al-Qaeda; some of them even publicly supported this terrorist group. Some considered this brutality jihad. Some thought killing innocent people was martyrdom. However, suicide bombing is both suicide and murder; killing an innocent man is like killing all humanity in Islam. For the first time in the Muslim world, an Islamic scholar stated that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist. He was strongly opposed to the murder of anyone, regardless of who the perpetrator is and who the victim is. For those who are familiar with the main principles of the Quran and the Sunnah, Gülen's words had deep meanings, but those who adopted a superficial approach failed to understand and appreciate this Islamic stance.

Those who presented themselves as democrats in the past to attain their goals are now abandoning their liberal and reformist stance and identity because they have seized control of critical institutions. They first indicated that they do not have any interest in EU membership, and then dropped their liberal policies. They also further revealed radical tendencies, as evidenced by the links to al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. This has led to allegations that there is a relationship between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Turkey. Recruitment offices for ISIL were created in the heart of the country, which has become a center for jihadist radical groups. The Syrian problem turned into a crisis which saw Turkey implicated in money laundering and the arms trade. What was the chief reason for the change in the image of Turkey from a model country in the world because of its democracy and Muslim identity to a nest of radical groups? Who is responsible for this change in the image?

It is necessary to look at these terrible incidents from the perspective of two different approaches. There is the decisive stance of Fethullah Gülen, who condemns terror all the time; and then there is the ambivalence of those who cannot make a choice between democracy and radical tendencies. In an interview in 2004, Gülen told Nuriye Akman that Osama bin Laden is one of the persons he hated the most because he undermined the peaceful image of Islam. However, some political Islamists did not and still do not tolerate such remarks.

It is shameful and dishonest to accuse a peaceful religious community of creating a terrorist group; those who refer to Fethullah Gülen and his followers as terrorists and members of a terrorist group without presenting any evidence or justification either have no idea about what terror is or are engaged in a plot to hide their relations and past mistakes.

Those who blame peaceful people for terror despite the absence of elements such as coercion, violence and arms cannot dispute historical facts. They cannot make white black or vice versa. They argue that a group called Tahşiye was declared a terrorist organization by Zaman and Samanyolu TV and that the police then raided this group; the argument goes on to say that some of the members of this group were unjustly sent to prison because of this so-called plot and conspiracy. Well, this chain of lies does not hold water. The concrete findings and facts are sufficient to dismiss the allegations of those who consider Gülen's sermon -- posted at in 2009 -- the start of this conspiracy.

The police had already started to investigate the activities of Tahşiye in early 2008; Oğuz Kaan Köksal, who ordered the operation against this group while a police chief, is now a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy; however, the Gülen movement is held responsible. Did not the intelligence agency expose Tahşiye years ago? Those who staged this plot now blame Zaman and Samanyolu; is this not a sign of despair? In a press statement, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler -- who as then serving as governor of İstanbul province -- provided information on the operation against this group; in this statement, he said that Turkey is fighting al-Qaeda. Did the US buy this trick? I do not think so, because Tahşiye was not al-Qaeda; but the group was trying to imitate al-Qaeda. However, the US wanted a comprehensive struggle against terror groups that exploited Islam. Sadly, that struggle was not performed. Radical Islamist groups have gained power in Turkey; well, who is responsible for this?

Some of our colleagues who support the government now argue that they have no connection with al-Qaeda to protect their friends from Tahşiye. However, when the leader of this Tahşiye group appeared on TV, the group's actual intentions -- which those who claim to have been doing research on this group for years never reported about -- became clear. In a live program, he said he loved Osama bin Laden. Well, this says a lot.

Gülen, Zaman and Samanyolu stand decisively against terror. In a press conference on Dec. 20, 1994 at İstanbul's Dedeman Hotel, Gülen said that there is no turning back from democracy.

After Gülen made this statement, some Islamists who present themselves as democrats said the statement was blasphemous. We are now facing the vengeance of those who have failed to internalize this democratic statement. They do not need to try harder. People are now aware of who has distanced themselves from terror and who has failed to make a distinction between terror and peaceful action. People are also aware of who has provided logistical support for terror groups. Is this not the time for those who try to influence the judiciary by raising ungrounded allegations to look in the mirror for confrontation, rather than telling lies about innocent people?

North Korean mentality?

One of the most repressive regimes in the world survives in North Korea, a country which is entirely unconnected with the rest of the world. There is a leader cult in the country; he is the father, owner and protector of the people -- he is everything. Every statement by him is considered miraculous by his followers. Reports indicate that he threw his brother-in-law to the dogs because he was angry with him. Kim Jong-un, who serves as the head of state, is also prosecutor, judge, media and everything. He is competent in all matters. Recently, he has had some troubles with a movie. “The Interview” depicts a trip by two American journalists to North Korea. In the movie, the reporters travel to North Korea to conduct an interview with the leader. American intelligence agencies then interfere with the process and draft a plan to assassinate Kim. Those who saw the trailer of the movie may realize that the story is told hilariously, that the media is criticized and that the makers of the movie were even sarcastically critical of American intelligence. Well, the North Korean dictator might have his share of criticism in the movie as well.

The North Korean dictator must have resented this, and for this reason, the tension resulting from this movie has escalated over recent months. Last week, the tension led to some serious problems. Sony Pictures, the producer of the movie, capitulated when faced with the threats made to them. This is not just about threats; cyber-attacks were made against Sony Pictures and as a result, the movie -- which cost $44 million -- is not going to be released. Movie theaters cannot risk screening the movie because of growing threats from the North Korean administration.

The American movie industry has reacted strongly to the decisions and stances of the movie theaters and Sony Pictures. People now discuss the submission of the artists and movie makers to the threats. As in our country, North Korea also produces scenarios out of a script or scenario.

The pathetic situation of those who arrested my dear friend Hidayet Karaca because of a TV series script is a clear indication that our country is becoming like North Korea. I believe that those who are trying to prove the existence of a terror organization by reference to a TV series script and to ensure the arrest of people they do not like will be disgraced in the future. Those who insult everyone and are afraid of a script will eventually feel ashamed. There is no doubt about it.

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 December 2014, Monday