The Islamic salvation army

The Islamic salvation army

The video news clip featuring angry Muslims, boasting of themselves as the “Great Anatolian Youth Initiative” and protesting a rock festival on the campus of an Istanbul university because beer would be served there is still a fresh memory. Then we learned that the university administration had banned beer at the event following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “request.” And jokes galore!

One online humor newspaper quoted a member of the Great Anatolian Youth Initiative as saying that after their success at the rock festival, the group now aimed to effect alcohol bans at the Rio Carnival and Oktoberbest: “It is our duty to show them the way.” If in real life that was merely a joke we could smile and forget it. Unfortunately, these are very sad jokes.

After silently wishing the young Anatolian Islamists all the best of luck in their endeavors at banning alcohol at the Brazilian and German festivities, I turned to the column of an Islamist writer who was standing there, alive, as the best proof of the Turkish saying that there is always some kind of truth in jokes. The man wrote that “it was every Muslim’s religious duty to ensure the salvation of the world’s 7 billion souls.” It is precisely this morbid, false belief in traditionalist Islam – ironically running against basic Quranic teachings – that justifies imposing moral and religious values on others.

Only with that perception would the faithful think they possess God-given authority to make sure even strangers should abstain from alcohol, should wear the headscarf if they are women, and should fast during the month of Ramadan. Persuasion failing, the traditionalist would often resort to violence to “ensure salvation of the stranger’s soul.” I’ll break your bones if you refuse salvation!

Most recently, in the Palestinian territories, six people were arrested and one was sentenced to a month in prison for eating in public during Ramadan, according to the official Palestinian Authority’s daily newspaper. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Supreme Court for Shariah said that Palestinian law should prohibit “even non-Muslims and those who cannot fast for health reasons” from eating in public during the month of Ramadan.

Sheik Yusuf Ida’is said, “Our streets are Islamic!” He also said that formal legislation should be enacted to “severely punish” anyone (Muslim or otherwise) who eats publicly. “We have to monitor the streets,” said the legal authority of a territory where 10 percent of the population is Christian.

Similarly, an Egyptian religious authority said eating in public is not a personal freedom but an “assault on the sanctity of Islam.” In other Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, eating in public during daylight hours during the holy month is punishable by law.

But who really are the strategic victims of the traditionalist rhetoric and practice apart from the immediate victims who may be drinking a can of beer at a festival or eating publicly during Ramadan? The strategic victims are the liberal, pro-dialogue, pro-conciliation Muslims like the Gülen Movement (Hizmet) whose immense efforts to expose Islam’s peaceful essence merely get lost in the face of the Great Anatolian Youth Initiative, the Palestinian sheik or the Egyptian authority.

Evidently, those who support “a liberal case for Islam” should first try and convince the Anatolian Youth, the sheik and the hundreds of millions of Muslims equipped with a Muslim-meter and authority to break bones to make sure every soul reaches salvation instead of trying to tell Westerners how peaceful Islam can be. I would be very curious to hear the response liberal Muslim missionaries would get if they reminded big angry Muslims that Islam forbids “faith by force.” So, gentlemen, convince the Anatolian youth and Sheik Ida’is first and then tell us the story of your liberal case for Islam.

I am asking once again: How can a religion at war with its less devout adherents be at peace with other religions?

Due to technical issues, this article did not appear as scheduled in the Aug 8, 2012, edition of the newspaper. The Daily News regrets the error.