Danish versus Muslim cartoons.

How Best to Fight the 'Islamophobia Industry'

by Burak Bekdil
Hurriyet Daily News
February 4, 2015

Time flies... It was nearly a decade ago that Turkish and Spanish leaders institutionalized their efforts to build interfaith dialogue and peace between the Islamic and Western worlds. Since then, at least a couple of million (overwhelmingly Muslim) people have been killed (overwhelmingly by Muslims in sectarian and other wars). Keeping a count of terrorist attacks on Muslim and non-Muslim targets by jihadists of this or that holy fraction would require meticulous academic work.

Today, few recall or talk about the initiative that went with the fancy name, "Alliance of Civilizations." The world instead debates grimmer topics that do not speak of alliances, but rather of mis-alliances.

For all the things that have gone wrong, Turkey's top cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez, blames the "Islamophobia industry." In the words of Professor Gormez, it is Islamophobia that "is trying to spread fear to hearts by using clashes and incidents in the Islamic world for cruel propaganda against Muslims."

Mr. Gormez's own Alliance of Civilizations initiative has a longer name: The Peace and Moderation Contact Group. A "letter of goodwill" prepared by Islamic scholars will soon be shared with heads of states and religious leaders. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were the first (lucky) people to receive the "letter of goodwill."

Let's hope that the Islamic scholars who prepared the letter of goodwill are not the ones who argue that "a knee-level skirt can arouse sexual desire, even for one's own mother," or that "girls can marry at the age of six."

In my own "letter of goodwill" ("How best to fight Islamophobia," Hurriyet Daily News, April 6, 2012) I wrote the following:

Your most strategic partners in the fight against Islamophobia are not Christians, but your fellow Muslims.

If Muslims stopped killing other Muslims because they belong to a different sect; stopped forcing their chosen practices on other Muslims; tolerated less pious Muslims; did not feel enraged if other Muslims did not abstain from alcohol or pork, or did not attend the mosque; did not kill men, women and children because they adhered to other faiths; did not blame rape on the length of a woman's skirt; did not murder their own wives because they spoke to strangers, or their daughters because they flirted with boys or because they were raped by rascals; did not wish to start World War III because some maverick cartoonist drew blasphemous caricatures; did not issue death fatwas because an author wrote a blasphemous book; or did not aim to spread their religion to the entire world, by the sword if necessary, then fighting Islamophobia would be much easier.

Professor Gormez, you are the top Islamic leader in a country where Adolph Hitler could get elected if he ran for parliament. When thousands of Turks marched with slogans saying, "We are Kouachi brothers," and "Yes, we are threatening," you were silent, just like you were silent when an atheist pianist was sentenced to 10 months in prison for a "blasphemous tweet," but your fellow Muslims threatened to kill in the name of religion.

Just like you remained silent when Muslim scholars argued anti-government protests in Turkey in 2013 were "acts against Allah." Just like you were silent when a deputy from the ruling party associated Mr. Erdogan with Allah, (a grave sin in Islam). Just like you will remain silent after pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV stations in Turkey issue fatwa after fatwa for the killing of Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the "journalists who support him."

It is understandable that you want global respect for your religion. When, in your own honest words, "Muslims must bend their heads [over Muslim atrocities and other shameful acts]," your duty is not to expect respect from non-Muslims and spread propaganda. Respect is earned, sometimes through hard work and honesty, but always without harboring any feeling of supremacy.

So, Professor Gormez, if you want to fight the "Islamophobia industry," your target audience is not non-Muslims. It is the Muslims who make Muslims bend their heads. You can always start by condemning those thousands of "Kouachi brothers in Turkey." I hope I am wrong to think that you will not.

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hurriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Lebanon Protesters Set Embassy Afire

Anger Over Caricatures of Muhammad Targets Denmark, Christian Neighborhood

Washington Post February 6, 2006; A01 edited extracts

BEIRUT, Feb. 5 -- Thousands of Muslim rioters (may involved as many as 20,000 Muslims), enraged over the publication of caricatures of Islam's prophet Muhammad, set ablaze the Danish Embassy on Sunday and rampaged through a predominantly Christian neighborhood, escalating sectarian tensions in a country whose melange of faiths can sometimes serve as a microcosm of the world's religious divide...

in the streets, fistfights broke out between Christian and Muslim Lebanese after protesters threw rocks at a Maronite Catholic Church, broke windows at the Lebanese Red Cross office and shattered windshields of cars. Bands of Christian youths congregated with sticks and iron bars, promising to defend their neighborhoods...

The Danish Embassy was gutted and its granite facade scorched. Acrid black smoke spilled out of its windows hours later, as firefighters tried to contain the blaze. Workers swept up glass that littered the streets of the neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh...The protests took on an especially provocative tone in Lebanon, given its large Christian population and the still vivid memories of its 1975-90 civil war.

Until last year, Syria's military presence and command of the country's intelligence services made it the power broker in its smaller neighbor...a 23-year-old Muslim, took a break from his job at a restaurant and smoked a cigarette. "These things shouldn't happen, but at the same time, you have to show respect for religion," he said. As he spoke, a firetruck barreled down the street, its sirens blaring. "There has to be respect," he said. "Without respect, you get this..."