A self-criticism of Islamic world by top Turkish official in Mecca

A self-criticism of Islamic world by top Turkish official in Mecca

Today is the first day of the two biggest festivities of Islam, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, also marking the completion of the annual pilgrimage around Kaaba in Mecca.

Leading Turkish pilgrims in Mecca this year, Mehmet Görmez, Turkey’s Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Director, delivered a khutbah (sermon) and a prayer there Sept. 23, on the eve of the festivities’ start. 

Pleading for the mercy of God, Görmez said it was no one but Muslims who are responsible if there are those who think that this religion of God’s grace was a “religion of fear.” 

Underlining that Muslims start every action in the name of God, Görmez said, “But [Muslims] failed to do our works with justice, mercy and love. We called violence as jihad, oppression as victory.”

Though there is no direct reference in his prayer, which could be counted as a self-criticism in the name of Muslims around the world, the words of Görmez came after a speech he delivered in Ankara on Aug. 17, when he condemned movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as being of “terrorism” and all good Muslims should “unite against their deception.” 

“This fact cannot be ignored as provocations of ‘exterior conspirators,’” Görmez continued. “We have to ask ourselves: ‘What have we done wrong that those provocations have found ground?’” That was a follow-up of a report by the Diyanet on Aug. 10, under the title “Aims, Activities and Islamic Understanding of the Terrorist Organization Daesh,” referring to ISIL by its Arabic initials.

The message of Görmez coincided with the reopening of the Central Mosque in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was joined by Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan among political leaders from countries with Muslim populations.

The Syrian civil war is a matter of concern for both Russia and Turkey, in the sense that the influence of radical groups might influence their own Muslim populations. But they differ on the source of it. The Turkish government sees the oppressions of Bashar al-Assad as the main reason of the ongoing tragedy at its southern borders, and its dealing with a huge refugee problem; an estimated 2-million Syrians are living in Turkey and some are forcing their way to Greek and Bulgarian borders to find their ways to migrate into European Union countries, mainly Germany.

But Putin thinks if Assad’s government --which provides Russia’s sole military base in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East-- fails, al-Qaeda and ISIL kinds of groups would be encouraged to pick their next target as Russia, with its 15 million plus Muslim population mainly concentrated in Central Asia and the Caucasus; there are estimated 2 million Muslims living in Moscow.

Turkey on the other hand recently joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL and opened its strategic İncirlik base in southern Turkey, which was followed by Assad’s opening up of its bases (mainly around Latikia) to Russian war planes, turning the whole situation into a Cold War style, proxy war. 

At such a conjuncture, the self-criticism of Turkey’s top religious official is actually a strong criticism against radical movements using terrorism in the name of Islam. On this day of festivities, in different parts of world, they are actually Muslims of different sects and different shades of radicalism killing each other. Without drawing a thick red line between violence and politics in the name of jihad (whatever their root causes be), the political leaders in the Islamic world are likely to fail in their efforts to give an end to the current re-generation of violence in the name of faith.