Gatestone Institute September 19, 2013
Taksim Square, Istanbul, September 10, 2013: The honorable journalist Ahmet Şık threatened at close range by a police gas launcher. Please remember our brother Ahmet in your duas.
Mass protests against police abuses have resumed in the Turkish city of Istanbul, as well as in Ankara, the national capital, and in Antakya province on the Syrian border.
The latest country-wide demonstrations began after the death on September 10 of Ahmet Atakan, a male aged 22, in Antakya.
Atakan was an Alevi Muslim, belonging to a Turkish and Kurdish heterodox sect that fuses Shia Islam, metaphysical Sufism, and pre-Islamic Central Asian shamanism. Alevis make up about 20 million people, or a quarter of Turkey’s population of 80 million, along with approximately two million Alevis in the Turkish diaspora in Western Europe.
Atakan died when he was struck by a police gas canister, according to opposition sources, or, in official accounts, fell from a building. The tragedy occurred during a march of about 150 young people against road construction that would uproot trees, damaging the environment on the grounds of the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara. Alevis in Ankara also expressed discontent at official plans to construct a multi-use “cultural center” including a Sunni mosque and – as Alevis do not pray in mosques – an Alevi cemevi, or “ritual house.”
Continue reading Turkey Protests New Police Aggression by Veli Sirin
Koha Ditore [Prishtina, Kosova] September 8, 2013
The flag of the Albanian nation.
September 8 – Islam in Kosova is endangered by extremism, the opening to which was made by the head of the Islamic Community of Kosova (BIK), Naim Tërnava. So says Stephen Sylejman Schwartz, scholar of Islam and executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, based in Washington, USA.
Schwartz, in an interview with Koha Ditore, insists that the removal of Tërnava is a prerequisite for addressing the problems within the Islamic Community of Kosova, and for combatting outside influences that have introduced extremism into Albanian Islam, which has traditionally been moderate and tolerant, and an example for the whole world.
He calls Tërnava a dictator, while restating plagiarism charges against the head of the BIK in gaining a master’s degree.
Continue reading Tërnava is a dictator, and should be removed Interview with Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director, CIP by Koha Ditore Staff
Gatestone Institute August 14, 2013
Turkish demonstrators against the Ergenekon verdict, Silivri, August 5, 2013.
The Turkish judicial system, now under the control of the radicalizing Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, concluded on August 5 the six-year trial of military officers, secular politicians, and journalists, known as the “Ergenekon case.” The AKP was considered formerly by many Turks and foreigners as a “light” or “moderate” Islamist party.
“Ergenekon,” a legendary Turkish place of origin in Central Asia, was the title given to an alleged secret anti-AKP terror plot with which 275 defendants were charged. Of them, 60 were locked up prior to the trial, and 21 were acquitted.
Begun in 2007, the Ergenekon proceeding has ended with the former head of the Turkish military, General İlker Başbuğ, ordered to serve life in prison. Başbuğ, who had served as Chief of General Staff under Erdoğan, was arrested in 2012, accused of heading the Ergenekon plot against the AKP leader. Similar punishments were decreed for 18 more of the accused.
Continue reading Turkey: Erdoğan’s Ergenekon “Victory” by Veli Sirin
International Press Institute and South East Europe Media Organisation June 21, 2013
The Center for Islamic Pluralism endorses this statement by IPI/SEEMO.
Vienna, 21 June 2013
The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) on June 19 condemned a campaign of repression targeting journalists covering ongoing protests in Turkey.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “We are deeply disturbed by accounts of numerous journalists being beaten, detained arbitrarily and forced to delete footage. We are similarly disturbed by reports of outright hostility towards journalists coming from the highest levels of government. We urge Turkey’s government to respect the fundamental role that journalists play in a democracy and to ensure that media representatives are allowed to do their job.”
Turkish news website Bianet reported on June 18 that police conducted early-morning raids on the offices of Özgür Radio, the Etkin News Agency and the newspaper Atılım, detaining numerous individuals. The raids followed reports Monday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) cataloguing approximately 20 instances in recent weeks in which foreign and domestic journalists were beaten, hit by tear gas canisters or rubber bullets, or detained, particularly on Saturday night as police evicted demonstrators from Gezi Park near Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
Continue reading CIP endorses condemnation against repression of journalists in Turkey Numerous media representatives reportedly beaten, detained arbitrarily by Steven M. Ellis, IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser
The Weekly Standard Blog April 12, 2013
The flag of the Albanian nation.
Away from the eyes of the world, ideological Islamists pursue infiltration of the moderate Muslim communities in Kosova and Albania. But in nearly all cases, they continue to be rejected.
Secular, avidly pro-American Kosova, remains a major target. The northeast Kosova town of Podujeva, which has seen ongoing conflicts between traditional clerics and radicals, was shocked by gunfire at a mosque in March. Podujeva has been a focus of confrontation between fanatics and conventional Muslims since 2011, when the pro-Wahhabi chief Islamic clerical official in Kosova, Naim Tërnava, dismissed imam Idriz efendija Bilalli, an outspoken critic of fundamentalist Islam, as chairman of the Podujeva council of the Kosova Islamic Community (known as BIK by its Albanian-language initials).
Continue reading Resistance to Islamist Infiltration Continues in Kosova and Albania by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute February 4, 2013
Presentation of a model of the 16.c. CE Süleymaniye Mosque, erected in Istanbul at the order of Süleyman the Magnificent, Depicted by Nakkaş Osman, 1482-88 — Image Via Wikimedia Commons..
In the last three years Western media have described Turkish foreign policy as “neo-Ottoman.” Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allegedly “moderate Islamist” Justice and Development Party or AKP are perceived as seeking to revive the historic influence – if not the once-extensive territorial borders – of the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans ruled most of the Middle East from the end of the 13th century CE to 1923, when the Turkish republic was established.
During the latest controversies over “neo-Ottoman” ambitions, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has denounced tirelessly, as nonsense, all claims of wishing to restore the empire. According to Davutoğlu, a new “opening to the East,” directed to the former Turkish provinces in the Arab lands, as well as Armenian, Kurdish, and other cultural zones, represents mere normality. Turkey has, it is said, legitimate interests in common with its neighbors. This view seems intended to give Erdoğan ‘s policy a less expansionist and aggressive flavor, making it appear rational and pragmatic.
Continue reading Turkey Censors Its TV History? by Veli Sirin
The Weekly Standard Blog December 6, 2012
Statue of President George W. Bush erected in 2011 in Fushë-Krujë, Albania, which the president visited in 2007.
On November 28, Albania celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The small and enigmatic republic had an atrocious history of strict isolation, after World War II, under the Communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. Its population of three million is described typically as 35 percent Sunni Muslim, 35 percent spiritual Bektashi Sufis, whose creed is derived from Shia Islam, 20 percent Christian Orthodox, and 10 percent Catholic.
The office and bookstore of the official Islamic Community of Albania, representing the Sunnis, are located in the capital, Tirana, on a main street named for George W. Bush. Albanians see no irony in that. They love Bush, who recognized the independence of Kosova when it was proclaimed in 2008, just as they love Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton. Since the middle of 2011, the town of Fushë-Krujë, which Bush visited in 2007, has been adorned with a monument depicting Bush in rolled-up sleeves, waving as if to a crowd. (Prishtina, the Kosova capital, named a street for him in 2008.)
Continue reading Fireworks in the Rain. Albania’s Independence Centennial by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute October 26, 2012
Damage to the Great Mosque of Aleppo.
Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country’s border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate last?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his public comments, is addicted to candor, if not bluster. He condemns the weakness of the United Nations in the face of the Syrian bloodletting, yet is even more dismayed, it seems, to realize that Turkey cannot wage war on the Al-Assad regime. Turkey cannot save Syria; it cannot march to Damascus; it cannot remove the Al-Assad state apparatus, and it cannot reconstruct Syria as a Turkish protectorate.
Continue reading Turkey in the Syrian Crisis: What Next? by Veli Sirin
Gatestone Institute October 5, 2012
When the enigmatic Turkish Islamist leader, M. Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the U.S., published, in the September 27 London Financial Times, an op-ed column with a clumsy turn from benevolent moderation to hard Islamist ambitions, he revealed his authentic character.
The topic was, probably predictably, the latest outburst of terrorism in Muslim countries, along with the pretext of indignation against a crude video made in the U.S. and which insulted Muhammad. The op-ed, entitled, “Violence is not in the tradition of the Prophet,” emphasized, in the first seven (out of nine) paragraphs, that Muslims should not react to insults against Muhammad by destructive protests: “The violent response,” he wrote, “was wrong… Muslims …must speak out [against] violence… The question we should ask ourselves as Muslims is whether we have introduced Islam and its Prophet properly to the world. Have we followed his example in such a way as to instill admiration?… [A Muslim] should respect the sacred values of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others as he expects his own religion and values to be respected.” So far, so good.
The true outlook of Fethullah Gülen, however, was revealed in his last two paragraphs: “Hate speech designed to incite violence is an abuse of the freedom of expression… [W]e should appeal to the relevant international institutions, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] or the UN, to intervene, expose and condemn instances of hate speech. We can do whatever it takes within the law to prevent any disrespect to all revered religious figure, not only to the Prophet Muhammad. The attacks on the Prophet we have repeatedly experienced are to be condemned, but the correct response is not violence. Instead, we must pursue a relentless campaign to promote respect for the sacred values of all religions,” Gülen proclaimed.
Continue reading Gülen’s False Choice: Silence or Violence by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] September 20, 2012
Libyan demonstrators, September 14, 2012.
The majority of the world’s Muslims – especially spiritual Sufis, but also traditional, conservative, moderate, and conventional believers – object to naming as “Salafis” the fundamentalists we see attempting aggressively to usurp the leadership of Sunni Islam. The term “Salafi” equates present-day Islamist ideological radicals with the “aslaf,” the first three generations of Muslims, including Muhammad, his family, his Companions (sahaba), his Successors (tabaiyun), and those who came immediately after his Successors (taba tabaiyun). It is historically inaccurate and theologically illegitimate to call masses of people now living “Salafis” for several reasons.
Current “Salafis,” or, better, “neo-Salafis,” assert their right to the title because of their alleged emulation of the aslaf. Some of this “revival” of habits ascribed to the aslaf is mere, absurd mimicry, such as growing an untrimmed beard, wearing a full-length robe or short breeches, and cleaning one’s teeth habitually with a mishwak or twig, as Muhammad is said to have done. Critics of the “neo-Salafis” contend that the style of Muhammad’s facial hair and garments, and use of the mishwak, were common Arabic cultural signifiers found among the Prophet’s enemies. This may seem trivial, but as will be seen, it goes to the heart of “neo-Salafi” falsehoods and the conflicts unleashed by them, most recently on the pretext of an anti-Islamic video clip produced with the slightest of budgets and production values in the U.S.
Continue reading “Neo-Salafi” Fallacies And Muslim Reaction to Insults Against Muhammad by Stephen Schwartz