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Silent Witness: The Complicity in Systematic Oppression and the Islamic Perspective

In Turkey, groups such as Kurds, Alevis, minorities, and members of the Hizmet Movement, who are not considered ‘acceptable citizens’ by the system, are subjected to disproportionate and systematic oppression by the state. While one part of the society is being subjected to these oppressions, the other remains a spectator, does not engage in a struggle against the oppressive individuals and institutions regarding fundamental human rights and freedoms, and adopts the attitude of “As long as I am not affected, it doesn’t matter.” Does this attitude also make that part of the society oppressive?

This question, which has long occupied my mind, I realized is illuminated by a verse from the Quran. It’s a prayer narrated from the mouths of those called “mustad’afin” in the Quran, who could not migrate from Mecca to Medina for legitimate reasons during the Hijra. They pray: “Our Lord, take us out of this country whose people are oppressors.”

From the perspective of faith, this is actually an expression of helplessness and exhaustion. It means that those people, born and raised in Mecca, have lost hope of living a humane life in their homeland. They have been subjected to intolerable oppression simply because they changed their beliefs, chose a different worldview and lifestyle, and saw no material way out in the foreseeable future, which led them to make such a prayer.

Their fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, relatives, who knew them at least as much as they knew themselves, did nothing, even supported the oppression. While they were praying to their Merciful Lord, they said, “Whose people are oppressors…” and the Divine Will has confirmed this statement, making it a verse in the Quran.

The phrase in this verse about the nature of people’s response to systematic oppression teaches us great lessons and messages. If oppression becomes systematic in a family, village, city, or country, if natural law is ignored, if justice is sacrificed for the interests of any family, community, or state, and if society does not speak out against all this, then they also deserve to be called oppressors.

The oppressed in the continuation of the verse say, “Send us a helper from Your presence!” We can also translate it as: “Send someone with Your vast grace and mercy to take care of us, to provide support, to extend a helping hand.”

So, let’s ask; how can we help the oppressed? Three things come to mind…

First, to take the oppressed out of that country. Second, to help meet the basic needs such as food, shelter, and security of those who have to stay there for legitimate and reasonable reasons. Third, to contribute to making that country a place where basic human rights and freedoms are respected, and everyone can live a humane life in the long term.

Finally, let’s ask this question about the root of the problem: “Why were the Meccans subjected to this oppression by their own fellow citizens?”

Was it because they believed in a new religion, threatened the interests of the Meccan aristocracy and rulers? These are certainly factors. But the main root cause is servitude to humans. The religion of Islam came to free people from servitude to others.

Not to the state, not to the government, not to the regime, not to the party, not to the sect, not to the community, not to the leader, not to the sheikh, not to the teacher, not even to parents, but only to Allah. If servitude is to be given, it should be to the only Entity worthy of it, and according to our belief, His name is Allah.

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


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