Islamic Solidarity Games: Action for consonance: Op-ed
MEHMET KASAPOĞLU- Minister of Youth and Sports
Much work has been done and much effort has been spent on global reconciliation. As the most recent contribution, Türkiye will host the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games to make a fresh start towards world peace. Approximately 3 thousand athletes from 56 different Islamic countries will come together for sports, pose a harmonic stance to show that unity, despite differences, is possible. Though participants are from Muslim majority countries, non-Muslim citizens of participant countries will also be able to join, since Islamic solidarity embraces non-Muslims with its universal ethics and mentality. So, Türkiye will once again show that under any circumstances, at anytime, one can work for peace, and this time, it is through a noble act, sports.
The games are gathering places for Islamic countries to generate international interest for the host country, promote Islamic values, portray national natural treasures and gain mutual acquaintance, especially for disadvantaged countries. As important as the games are, events and activities outside the competitions are natural parts of cultural diplomacy, they enable the integrity process of different Muslim populations, especially youth, who plays a special part. Also, the games will be supported by an academic symposium about the importance and place of sports in the Islamic perspective. In a wide range from the contribution of sports to social peace to solidarity and integration principles in the Qur’an, the games will be accompanied by intellectual panels and discussions which will help to highlight the importance of the games, as well as the benefits it provides. Through idea and action, the games will create a holistic and comprehensive atmosphere for participants to internalize Islamic matters by heart. Additionally, the natural benefit of organizing an international event, getting to know different cultures and meeting at the common ground is the overall gain of the games. So this event has more than one thing to offer to its participants.
Previous games in Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Indonesia achieved what was promised. Above all, the games helped countries to train and develop new athletes as well as sports infrastructure through the exchange of technical expertise and organizational support. They also helped to strengthen Islamic solidarity among nations and fortify principles of equality between religion, ethnicity and colors in harmony with the pillars of Islam. Spread across the world in a wide range, Muslim countries differ considerably in these spoken countries. Since they follow different sects of Islam, Muslims from different geographic regions vary in way of living, habitual thinking and perception of the world. Islam is the roof, without a doubt, yet it is not an obstacle to creating unique ways of living for Muslims, as they have already done. It is inevitable, also convenient for stepping up towards betterness by profiting from different experiences. However, there emerges a requirement for a platform, an apparatus, where differences get articulated instead of clashing. There needs to be a grand communication channel utilizing all dimensions of communication where people contact and form bonds with each other, even though they do not speak the same physical language. This mentality led to emerging of the games and whatever is done to this extent, it is done to satisfy these needs.
Islamic Solidarity Games are also a flawless example of public diplomacy, which is a trending practice for countries to use as a tool for their foreign diplomacy. As the forthcoming and rising star of public diplomacy, sports diplomacy is keep attracting more and more global attention. Creating a peaceful channel for mutual sharing and understanding is what makes sports diplomacy remarkable. In a world threatened by xenophobia and separatism, this opportunity created by sports diplomacy should be utilized at most. Islamic Solidarity Games, in a broader sense, serves this purpose appreciably, though it aims at the integrity of Islamic countries in the first place. The intended synesthesia between hostile countries can be reduced, or even abolished, by gathering these countries in a tranquil environment, showing them the resemblance they do not know they have. That is the beauty of sports.
Being identically peaceful by nature, sports diplomacy is an excellent ground for Islam. Values defended by sports and Islam are compatible as well. In Islam, as well as in sportsmanship, respecting the ‘other’ regardless of their race, religion or background, prioritizing fairness and equality in all circumstances is what matters the most. Toleration and leniency are core values of the Islamic spirit, spreading them through sports is not only useful for participant Muslim countries but all World countries.
As most athletes are at an age where they can be considered young, youth is the key factor in the games. Young people are the main body of this event, as well as the target of it. They are also bringers, carriers of new trends, new connections and legacy of accumulated efforts. Only by passing the torch to new generations through education and participation, achievements can remain with us. Because whatever is accomplished can only be perpetual if the youth is involved. This includes continuity of humane and ethical values too. Young generations are the lattermost members of Muslim communities who have internalized the values we spoke of. These values, originating in the character of young a Muslim, can easily pave the way for Muslims to be athletes with respected and required ethical features. In other words, a Muslim equipped with Islamic features will have no trouble embodying the spirit of sportsmanship, on the contrary, he or she will be a leading example of sportsmanship, thanks to the resemblance of ethics. Then through sports events like Islamic Solidarity Games, they can also be the eyeful successors of Islamic values, in harmony with sportive values. Last but not least, as games are also open to non-Muslim citizens of Muslim countries, the unifying power of sport will be proven.
All of the things we spoke about above are our motivations to host and participate Islamic Solidarity Games. Serving for both public visibility of Islam and sportsmanship, we aim to achieve multiple goals at once. As the host country, Türkiye is ready to carry the games to the next level and step up its game. Empowered by our hospitable Turkish culture as well, we look forward to welcoming young athletes to our homeland, getting to know them in the most pleasant opportunity, inspiring, and getting inspired by their lively energy.
*Dr. Mehmet Kasapoğlu is Türkiye's Minister of Youth and Sports