By Kemal Öztürk
A detail caught my attention while visiting the famous Hasan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. They had reserved a corner of the mosque to display the beautiful architecture and art of Islamic civilization.
Tiles, ceramics, calligraphy, ornamentation from the Indian-Iran era, the Seljuk-Ottoman era, from the Andalusia and Maghreb regions were displayed in the mosque. The richness of the civilization we have lost is displayed here.
While viewing this long garden-like area, I thought how much richness the Muslim world would create if it came together like the art work did.
A common dream that is believed will not come true
I have seen nearly all Muslim countries. I have spoken to many philosophers, journalists and religious leaders. I generally ask two questions: First, how will the Muslim world get out of the crisis it is in? Second, can unity be formed among Muslim countries?
I would have to sadly say that I haven’t heard any bright ideas to bring us out of the crisis and chaos we are currently in. A Bangladeshi political scientist living in Malaysia once said to me, “The Muslim world is waiting for a solution from Istanbul.” I heard the same statement in Morocco, Yemen, Palestine and Syria. We can answer the first question with: “Turkey should produce a solution.”
I got a similar answer for my second question: “Of course there should be unity among Muslim countries, but it is impossible.” Everyone has Islamic unity in their mind and heart.
Westernist labels: ‘Islamist, followers of Sharia’
Western and Westernist intellectuals have brought up arguments that this utopian idea will never come true. I think the first thing they did was to negatively affect those who have been advocating Islamic unity. Thus, they managed to stereotype this group as a minority and isolate them from the Muslim masses.
Terms like, “Pan-Islamist, Islamist, follower of Sharia, pro-caliphate, political Islamist, radical Islamist” are products of the West (Westernist intellectuals) in the last two centuries.
Muslims who tried to prevent the Ottomans from being destroyed and prevent Muslim countries from being invaded were treated as guilty and labeled using these terms.
The UK, Germany, France (Israel and the US joined later on) did everything possible, so terms like “Ummah, Islamic Union, and pro-Ottomanism” were not used in colonized Muslim societies. Because the “Ummah” or “Islamic union” becoming a reality would create a change that would shift the balances.
The same fear and caution still continues in the West. Whenever Turkey became interested in the Muslim World, governments changed in many countries, and terms like “Ummah” were heard again, people started to be labeled as guilty. Organizations like al-Qaeda, Daesh and Boko Haram supported this labeling. Besides instigating Shiite-Sunni conflicts, they produced new enemy labels like “Jihadi, Daesh supporter, Salafi.”
Is Muslim unity really a dream?
The Syrian war and the aftermath made people believe that Muslim unity was a dream. They believed that the people who were at each other’s throats would not be able to come together. The number of those who said, “We don’t want to unite with these savage people” increased. Who would want to unite with the brutal Daesh?
I think the exact opposite is possible. This chaos/crisis will create an opportunity that will trigger a powerful change in the Muslim world. People will become tired of chaos and the West’s hypocrisy, and will want peace and order.
What prevents “Muslim unity” from becoming true? I think the best answer for this is hidden in the history of the European Union. European sectarian wars continued for a century. They caused 15 million people to die during the World War I.
Before the sorrow eased, this time they caused 40 million people’s deaths during World War II. The savagery the Germans showed in France, Britain, Poland, Greece and other European countries has not been experienced in the Middle East.
The North-East-Asian Economic Cooperation
If someone asked, “Can Europe become unified in the future?” during those periods, what would the answer have been? Who would have believed in unification? Nobody. But it happened. It happened six years after the war ended and 40 million people were buried. The first step for unification was taken in 1951, and the European Union was established. Chaos was transformed into an opportunity.
Now if Europe can unite after such atrocities, why can’t the Muslim world do so? For some reason, when Europe unites it is not labeled “The New Crusader Army,” but when the Muslim world decides to unite, people are fearful.
Well, what if this union is called the “Northeast-Asian Economic Cooperation” instead of “Ummah, Islamic Unity?” This sounds different, doesn’t it? I can hear you say yes. I believe interfering with perceptions started long ago.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit will be held in Turkey this week. This is a good opportunity for these issues to be discussed.