Last week, I participated in two invaluable conferences, the International Terrorism and Transnational Crime conference held by the International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime (UTSAM) and the Police Academy, and the 5th Religion Council organized by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB).
Although the themes of security and religion seem to be distant and unrelated subjects at first glance, the contents of the debates at the aforementioned conferences were rather similar.
Despite the fact that the main theme of the former symposium held by UTSAM and the Police Academy was international terrorism, the issue of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) left its mark on the symposium where important participants from the U.S. and U.K. to India and Turkey represented various institutions. The program prepared by UTSAM, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) and the Ankara Center for Political and Economic Research (ASEM) were quite successful. That this crucial kind of activity has increased significantly in the last decade indicates the present success achieved in the state structure and allows us to look to our future with self-confidence.
While wars are being waged and carried out in Turkey's neighboring countries, the participants of the symposium prudently discussed transnational terrorism in the world in general, and in the Islamic Middle East in particular. Regarding both sources of international terrorism and the relationship between religion and terror, it was stated that the occupation of Iraq, the recent social traumas in the Middle East, oppression and income inequality in the world, juveniles and young workers being excluded from and isolated in Western capitalism, refugees becoming stateless, the psychology of constant defeat and other kinds of injustices such as the Israel-Palestine issue nurse the rise of international terrorism.
At the 5th Religion Council, Mehmet Görmez, the head of the DİB and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave complementary and highly significant speeches. In his speech, expressed in extraordinary diplomatic rhetoric, Görmez discussed the present catastrophic state in the Islamic world by questioning not only the association of Islam and terrorism and the rise of Islamophobia in the West, but also criticizing the present erosion of n religious communities regarding their bonds to religion.
Erdoğan, on the other hand, said: "Since the first day of our political power, our main endeavor has been the abolishment of obstacles standing over the freedom of faith and conscience, and we are successful in this respect. Secondly, we also achieved to inject self-confidence into the veins of all our citizens and, particularly, of religious people, who had thus far been treated as second-class citizens." While the president emphasized that a society that receives a true religious education cannot be captive of terrorist activities, his following statement, which was perfectly compatible with the spirit of the Religion Council, was passionately applauded: "As the owner of religion, [God] shall protect it until doomsday and we are obliged to treat religion with justice as a trust of God."
Regarding the issue of ISIS, ecclesiastics and theologians at the 5th Religion Council seemed much more prudent than the participants of the terrorism symposium and argued that such terrorist movements were conjectural and thus, doomed to fall. It is also rightfully claimed that the present troubles of the Islamic world emanated from ideological competitions, colonization and occupation in the region and the coopting of religion by religious groups and communities for the achievement of their own objectives.
At both of the conferences we saw the benefit of an authentic and well-learned religious understanding for the internal stability of a country and the contribution of the state's stability for authentic religious understanding.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.