For peace we must find ways of living together, says Hürriyet chairwoman
Left to Right: Karen Armstrong, Mehmet Aydın, Zainab Salbi, Vali Nasr, Vuslat Doğan Sabancı. AA photoFinding ways to live together is the key to achieving global peace, Hürriyet chairwoman and Aydın Doğan Foundation Vice President Vuslat Doğan Sabancı said on Oct. 20, speaking at a panel on Islamophobia organized by the Doğan Group in Washington.
Doğan Sabancı delivered the opening speech of the panel titled “Islamophobia: Overcoming Myths and Engaging in a Better Conversation,” organized in cooperation with the U.S.-based Atlantic Council think tank and the Smithsonian Institution.
“If we want peace, we have to find ways of living together ... For this, we have to put aside our stereotypical opinions and prejudices. We have to lend an ear to the other without fear. We must invite each other to understand and listen to each other. We must listen to all voices and defend our freedom to converse together, which belongs to all of us. One of the best expressions of what I’m trying to say is stated in the 18th verse of the Zumar Surah in Holy Quran: Listen to all voices and choose the best,” said Doğan Sabancı.
She referred to U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks at the U.N. General Assembly meeting last month, in which he said the world was too small to “build walls to prevent extremism.”
“A threat in one part of the world is never limited to that particular place. It affects the entire world. The outcomes of how that threat is perceived, defined, and struggled with are truly global. And because the threat is global, peace can only be ensured at a global level. People’s destinies have become dependent on each other as never before. If even the most developed arms technologies in the world cannot prevent the spread of the threat, we need to stop and think,” she added.
Doğan Sabancı said the solution was to learn to live together by “respecting differences, recalling shared points and listening to each other carefully.”
“That means learning to live by actually internalizing the concept of ‘pluralism,’ one of the most important principles of democracy … First and foremost, we must carefully and sensitively differentiate between those who are attempting to present Islam as an excuse for their atrocities and those who are members of the faith of Islam,” she said.
When millions of Muslims are victimized by the barbarism of terrorist organizations, millions of important allies and partners in building a better world are lost, the Hürriyet chairwoman said, warning of the risk this posed to the ongoing struggle against terrorism.
“Islamophobia not only exacerbates anti-Western sentiment, it also equips those radicals, and those who ignite terrorism in the name of Islam, with a priceless propaganda tool. ISIS plays the ‘oppressed, looked down upon, and alienated Muslim’ card to recruit young European Muslims,” Doğan Sabancı said.
Commenting on the media’s role in fight against Islamophobia, Doğan Sabancı said the media should not become the instrument and the objective of polarization for Islamophobia.
Media organs can serve as a bridge in the fight against Islamophobia, she noted, warning against all “hate speech about Islam based on misinformation.”
“On the contrary, the media should ensure that the voice of Islam that expresses itself accurately is much louder than the noise of the bombs set off in various places around the world by a bunch of heretics,” Doğan Sabancı said.
“We must treasure the freedom to ask questions. We should vigorously defend it. We must exercise such freedom not only to have our prejudices interrogated but also to ensure that our counterpart’s voice is heard better, and that he can express himself as accurately as possible. If we are creating the rules for living together, we must defend others’ right to be heard as much as we defend our own freedom of speech. We are all on this boat together, and we have nowhere to go other than this boat,” she added.
Among the other panelists in Washington were author and comparative religion commentator Karen Armstrong; former Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydın; the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Vali Nasr and Iraqi human rights activist Zainab Salbi.
Defining Islamophobia as an “irrational fear,” Armstrong referred to the “wall” imagery used throughout the history of mankind.
“We cheered when the Berlin Wall was torn down and now we are cheering because new walls are being built. Something has shifted. Islamophobia is an irrational fear, it is not based on reason, it is based on a gut feeling,” Armstrong said.
Nasr also suggested that Islamophobia was a way of “putting the blame back on Muslims.”
“Islamophobia is a way of putting the blame back on Muslims, putting Islam itself on trial and holding it responsible for promoting terrorism, rather than putting U.S. foreign policy on trial for creating some of the problems. In fact, in the Muslim world the understanding of 9/11 was that this was about foreign policy, while in the U.S. the idea was that it was about Islam,” he said.
Salbi, meanwhile, stressed the need to “individualize Muslims” in the fight against Islamophobia rather than “generalizing” about them.
“Muslims are diverse, not all Muslims are the same person,” Salbi said.
“People are denying us our identities, it’s complete generalization. The first thing to do is to individualize and to not generalize about Muslims,” she added.
For his part, Aydın pointed to the need for “intercultural education,” saying Islamophobia needed to be immediately addressed in order to not become an epidemic.
“To fight Islamophobia we need intercultural education, we must respect each other’s culture and values,” Aydın said.