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How Innocent People in Turkey Were Demonized as Terrorists

“Oh ruler! We were a people with the mentality of ignorance. We worshipped idols made of wood and stone, consumed the flesh of dead animals, buried our own daughters alive, and committed all kinds of inhumane atrocities. We neglected our relatives and disregarded the rights of our neighbors. The strong among us oppressed the weak, and the rich exploited the poor. The concepts of justice and righteousness were unknown to us.”

“While we were in this state, Allah, the Most High, sent to us from among ourselves a noble, truthful, trustworthy, and chaste person as a Prophet. He called us to believe in the One God and to worship Him alone, freeing us from the worship of idols inherited from our ancestors. He commanded us to speak the truth, fulfill trusts, maintain good relations with relatives, and care for our neighbors. He prohibited all forms of evil and sin, including shedding blood, bearing false witness, consuming orphaned wealth, and slandering chaste women.”

“We affirmed his message, believed in him, and followed what was revealed to him from Allah. We worshiped only Allah, without associating anything with Him. We considered as forbidden what he deemed forbidden and as permissible what he deemed permissible. As a result, our people became hostile to us and oppressed us. They tortured us in order to make us return to the worship of idols and resume our past evil deeds. Life became unbearable for us, and we were unable to practice our religion. When the pressure and persecution became unbearable, we sought refuge in your land. We chose you over others. We longed for your protection and neighborly care. O ruler, we hope that in your land, we will not be subjected to any harm or wrongdoing.”

These historical words were spoken by Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, the spokesperson of a group of Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia due to persecution in Mecca because they believed in a different faith and thus challenged the status quo. By comparing the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic eras, it is possible to extract the fundamental principles of Islam from these words. It may not be necessary to list them one by one. Those who wish can read this three-paragraph text again from this perspective; they can read it and witness the power of faith combined with willpower, freedom, and responsibility.

You may wonder where this came from. It reminded me of these words when my wife met her friend online and had face-to-face meetings during our recent trip to Germany. The couple, both of them advanced in age, live their retirement life in Turkey with their children and grandchildren. The friend’s husband spent his life serving his nation in the security bureaucracy. I also got to know him. We spent a day together in Frankfurt. The infamous event of July 15 affected them as well. Their family was torn apart. One of their children is classified as a person affected by the State of Emergency (KHK) measures, and they are together. The other child lives on an island country, and they have not been able to reunite yet. Despite their advancing age, they attend language courses in the country where they sought refuge. They comply with the rules set by the asylum system until the end. They try to make ends meet with the amount given to every refugee. Despite their fall from a comfortable and easy life by Turkish standards, they have no regrets and are filled with both gratitude and loyalty towards the country they sought refuge in. How could they not be? Even though they spent years standing guard on the border with weapons in hand, risking their lives in the fight against terrorists, their own country labeled them as terrorists, while a country we used to call infidel until recently opened its arms, provided them with basic human rights and freedoms, not to mention teaching them the language, giving them pocket money, and saying, “Don’t worry about health problems; just focus on improving your language skills, and I will find you a suitable job according to your age and career.” Yes, how could they not be filled with gratitude and appreciation? Doesn’t being human, being Muslim, being ethical, and having a conscience require us to think in this way?

A particular incident that the lady of this oppressed and victimized family shared with my spouse deeply affected me. I am writing this article for her. She said, “It is impossible for us to repay the kindness they have shown us in Germany materially, but we will do our best. We will live with our honor and dignity, not as parasites. After completing the language course, we will find jobs, despite our advanced age, and we will not rely on financial assistance. For now, we have no other choice but to accept it.” And she added these sentences that deeply resonated with me: “We do our grocery shopping, but we don’t bring the items into our home during the day. We wait for the night, when there is no one around and everyone in the building is asleep, to bring them in. Everyone in our surroundings knows that we are refugees. When they see us entering our home with those grocery bags, I don’t want them to assume that you are feeding us with the taxes from our hard-earned income and that you are buying these things for us.”

It is expected from someone who has lived their whole life with honor and dignity, sustaining their life with hard-earned halal income. I believe that even though the Germans who are aware of their refugee status and familiar with the system may not see them with those grocery bags, they might still harbor such thoughts. However, their behavior is crucial in preventing these thoughts from turning into actions and in ensuring that they are not crushed under the weight of condescending looks if they were to happen. This way of conduct seemed highly significant to me because this mindset motivates them to hold on to life, to stand on their own feet economically as soon as possible, and to not be dependent on others.

Let me finish it. What did Hz. Ja’far say? “We considered what He made unlawful as unlawful, and what He made lawful as lawful. Our people became our enemies and oppressed us. They tortured us to make us abandon Allah and return to worshiping idols as before, and to commit the same evils we had committed in the past. Life became unbearable for us, and we were unable to practice our religion. When the oppression and persecution became unbearable, we sought refuge in your land.”

As you can see, nothing has changed. The oppressor continues their oppression. Just as Arif Nihat Asya said, “They say (Abu Lahab is dead): Abu Lahab did not die, O Muhammad; Abu Jahl is roaming the continents!” Indeed, in a world where Abu Lahab did not die and Abu Jahl is roaming the continents, there are also rulers like Negus who embrace the oppressed. This is the reality experienced by hundreds of thousands of families and their counterparts.

Let me conclude like this: May Allah be the protector and helper of these people scattered all over the world and their counterparts. May the tongues of those who label these individuals, who possess such humanitarian, religious, moral, and conscientious sensitivity, as terrorists wither away.

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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