What Muslims should and should not do
The moment when I heard about the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I was depressed. I knew there would be people all around the world who would focus on the “religious identities” of those who fired the bullets, as well as their political identities.
This attack in Paris has a feature that injures each and every one of us almost fatally because we are people who are members of the same religion, or at least from the same “cultural basin,” as the attackers who carried out the killings.
Let us not go for the same discourse again, repeating in vain, “What can we possibly have in common with these 'terrorists'? They do not represent Islam. Terror does not have a religion. A murderer does not have a religion.”
Let us remember what happened all over the world after Sept. 11 and what inconveniences Muslims faced. Almost 14 years later, this attack in Paris will activate similar “reflexes.”
I am looking at the images of thousands of people gathering at Paris’ famous square Place de la Republique. I sense the signs of a build-up and reactions that would put this shame on each of us. This would create an uncomfortable situation for each of us in the near future in Europe, on the continent that we have been trying to be a part of, to be politically integrated with, for half a century.
Sentences such as “It is not correct to associate terror with Islam” are no longer satisfactory. Terror, of course, cannot be associated with Islam, but it is also a fact that it is associated with “Islamists.” They are “activists” who say they act “in the name of Islam.”
Turkish officials, more than just plain statements of condemnation, must draw a thick, sharp and deep, non-permeable line between Turkey, the Islam that Turkey understands, Turkey’s Muslims, and the “Islamists.”
This is why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement of “Terror does not have a religion or nationality” is inadequate. It is a cliché. It is not adequate to use an expression that has been used many times before, after Jan. 7.
The only and most effective way to prevent Jan. 7, just as Sept. 11, from damaging Islam and Muslims, is for Muslims to be the leaders in coming out against the incidents. Islamic countries and, of course, Turkey, must be the most energetic and determined of all in condemning the incident, absolutely rejecting those who committed it.
The Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry’s statement, on Jan. 7, was extremely wrong for this reason. The statement mentions Islamophobia and racism in Europe as a trigger of terrorism. It said Islamophobia should be fought. Many foreign fighters, the statement said, joined the war because of the discrimination they have been exposed to.
These words are not wrong by themselves. These words could have been right for a political scientist and social psychology professor, but if they are uttered by Turkey’s foreign minister on the day of the incident in Paris where Charlie Hebdo was attacked, infuriating the entire world, then they are wrong.
This error has been frequently repeated. When the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) occupied Mosul and took 49 Turkish diplomats hostage, the former Turkish foreign minister also became a social psychologist, explaining the strengthening of ISIL with reference to the policies of the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad that excluded Sunnis, while also saying the Damascus regime was shedding Sunni blood.
This is not the way to fight “Islamist terror.” What's more, the dignity and honor of the religion of Islam, the glorious culture of Islam, and the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world, cannot be protected as such.
I'm afraid that we will heavily suffer the consequences of the Jan. 7 attack in Paris in the near future; not only in terms of foreign policy or the possibility of toughened living conditions for Muslims living in Europe, but at the same time because of its negative effects on Turkey’s domestic policy.
The only way out is this is for the Turkish government to shed its complexes. Without resorting to “social psychological analyses” it should announce, in the most energetic way possible, that it opposes the attackers behind this incident; that it absolutely rejects their ideology; and that it will fight it to the end.
Otherwise, we will all have a tough time. When I say “all” I mean all Muslims, regardless of whether they are pious or not; note that I do not mean “Islamists.”
For my part, I want to reiterate once more my solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and my commitment to free speech.