‘We Muslims’ and others
One of the many assets of this newspaper is the diversity in its opinion pages. Naturally, there are writers with completely opposite points of view, for example my column neighbor Burak Bekdil and my humble self. Moreover, he occasionally emphasizes our differences further by taking issue with what I write, as he did in his recent piece titled, “We as Muslim Turks...” (dated Jan. 9, 2013).
The “Muslim Turk” Mr. Bekdil was speaking of was actually me, for I had defined myself as such in a previous piece of mine in which I shared an unpleasant travel story (“How I got deported from Lebanon,” Dec. 22, 2012). I was not allowed to pass security at the Beirut airport because of an Israeli visa on my passport and was sent back to Turkey. Hence, I wrote:
“As a Muslim Turk, whose sympathies are certainly with Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am deported and treated as a criminal – not in Israel, but in an Arab country. Hence, from now on, I will probably continue accepting invitations to conferences in Israel, but will hardly ever think of visiting Lebanon again.”
Inspired by these lines, Mr. Bekdil explained how wrong it is to look at the world from the perspective of religious affiliation. Instead of supporting “our brothers,” he advised, we should analyze world events with objective criteria.
However, a more careful reading of my lines would show that I actually did refer to an objective criterion when comparing Israel to Lebanon: I found the former’s visa policy more reasonable (Israelis can give you a hard time at border gates as well; yet they are still relatively more flexible).
Moreover, I never based my support for the Palestinians’ demand for a sovereign state merely on my cultural sympathies for them. I rather have relied on a universal principle: justice.
Yet still, there is a nuance here that Mr. Bekdil seems to be underestimating: The lens through which each one of us sees world affairs is very complex, and it inevitably is a mixture of principles, interests and sympathies.
It would certainly be unethical if this sympathy factor closed our eyes to the misdeeds of “our brothers.” (It would be un-Islamic too, for the Koran states: “O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice... even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin”). But it would also be unrealistic to argue that our sense of sympathy should never influence our political positions.
Nevertheless, one can certainly aspire to take a universally neutral position, and argue against all feelings of “brotherhood” in any given political conflict. If Mr. Bekdil is subscribing to this idealistic point of view, I certainly have great respect for it.
However, there is a little problem here. I have been reading Mr. Bekdil’s brilliant pieces for quite a while, and although I have seen him bash Muslims’ pro-Palestinian feelings many times, I have never seen him criticize the other side of the coin: the staunchly pro-Israeli attitude in the West, especially the United States. It is no secret that many (not all) American Jews and millions of evangelical Christians enthusiastically support Israel’s policies out of ethnic solidarity or religious commitments. Does Mr. Bekdil plan to use his mighty pen against them as well?
Or will he rather keep on making fun of the Palestinians’ legitimate claims on East Jerusalem (and Ahmet Davutoğlu’s support for them), giving us the impression that he, too, takes a side in the Holy Land out of his not-so-brotherly feelings for the Arabs?