Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs head Mehmet Görmez, is drawing attention to an increase in sectarian clashes in the Middle East and called on the Muslim world to form a 'wise men' delegation to resolve immediate problems in the region, including in Iraq and Syria.
What are the greatest threats to Islam from within?
It is possible to briefly summarize the threats that the Islamic world encounters from within and outside using several points. One of these points is that people are turning their denominations, dispositions, religious orders and personal interpretations into their identity, which they elevate above their identity as Muslims. People taking their notion of the faith as absolute truth to undermine and declare jihad against other denominations, dispositions, opinions and interpretations.
This is another threat along with ignorance, a lack of information and the fanaticism of damaged minds under the shadow of occupation, colonialism and oppressive regimes. Believers forget about the moral code of coexistence, living together, the inadequacy of our methods to educate people and our orders of training scholars. These are other threats.
There is also the unhealthy situation of individuals trained in scholarly institutions and how they produce knowledge, develop ideas and perform their tasks and the shortage of methodological knowledge to correctly understand religious texts, as well as form a link between religion and life, between reason and revelation, and judgment and wisdom.
What are some of the conspiracies by outside forces against Islam?
We must, first of all, abandon our tendency to blame our problems on outside forces. At the same time, though, we must be aware of the activities of outside forces. First and foremost, it would be a futile attempt to explain the developments in the Islamic world today with reference to solely the religion and its denominations. These are the acts that damaged minds perpetrate due to ignorance and fanaticism.
We must keep in mind that the most recent developments in the Islamic world relate to not only geographical fault lines but also cultural sensitivities.
Ignorant followers, rather than outside threats and attacks, do harm to the Islamic world. Outside forces strive for the representation of Islam by the extremes to knowingly spread Islamophobia and arbitrarily imposing designs on the faith. Consequently, they develop a distinction between moderate and radical Islam. This is where things get really dangerous and perverse. For the transformation of phobia into strategy breeds hate, antagonism, discrimination and alienation.
What is the significance of the Istanbul summit for the future of Islam?
Hopefully, this will be a start. This is a scholarly initiative. Coming together are notable Shi'a and Sunni scholars from around the world, who will hopefully declare that problems within the Islamic world can be resolved through dialogue, as opposed to terror, violence and war. The scholars will demonstrate that fatwas, speeches and recommendations can help reconstruct the moral code of peaceful coexistence and appreciate diversity as a blessing and a form of richness instead of making divisive points.
The initiative will emphasize the need to refrain from opinions and statements that might facilitate sectarian conflict and bloodshed.
On what does the success of this joint initiative of Islamic scholars and wise individuals depend?
Goodwill and sincerity represent the most important conditions for the success of this joint initiative of Islamic scholars and wise individuals. Surely enough, I personally believe each participant possesses these virtues. Furthermore, we must content ourselves with our most basic shared values to simply acknowledge the presence of multiple denominations and avoid going back to the theological debates dating back to their origins. With regard to each and every topic, we must seek a middle ground to facilitate joint action rather than insist on thinking the same way. Keeping in mind that each individual and society is unique, we must rebuild a culture of co-existence.
The third and final condition for the initiative's success is that our discussions are not confined to the roundtables and that each participant commits to promoting unity and solidarity wherever they go.
Do you believe that the Muslims in Iraq and Syria, who ruthlessly butcher one another, can accept the initiative's conclusions?
What matters is explicitly acknowledging wrongdoings and preventing the perpetrators of these massacres from locating a fatwa to justify their acts and, by extension, depriving them of legitimacy. Furthermore, this initiative represents an effort to put off the fire of factionalism, like the ant that carried what little water it could to put off the giant fire of Nimrod that burned the Prophet Abraham just to make its point, rather than aggravate the situation.
What practical outcome do you expect the Istanbul summit to yield?
Today, the Islamic world is experiencing a loss of hope. There is, however, no room for hopelessness. Let us remember that all negative and frustrating developments will come to pass. What the Islamic world witnesses today is but a mishap and we need the guidance of scholars and knowledge for the reconstruction efforts. We must reject and nullify divisive fatwas and instead endorse fatwas that, while promoting unity and solidarity, celebrate our differences as a blessing and a form of richness. A delegation of wise men encompassing all four corners of the Islamic world should come together to reach out to all conflict areas and bring peace with them. I sincerely hope that all participant will shoulder the burden to stop the bloodshed.
Could this initiative, which aims to bring the current turmoil in the Islamic world to a halt, evolve into a more lasting and institutionalized organization?
Absolutely. In order for the initiative to assume a more lasting character, though, we need to develop an understanding to move away from sectarian, dispositional and racial disputes in the Islamic world and promote this view among the people. We should help the general population grasp that our differences, within reasonable limits, are a source of richness. We intend to transform this initiative into a delegation of wise men aiming to resolve more persistent problems. Following deliberations, we shall form a secretariat in Istanbul and proceed from there.