By Uzay Bulut
At a conference on women’s entrepreneurship, held in Ankara on November 9 and hosted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected the concept of “moderate Islam”. Referring to the vow by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — during the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Oct. 25 — to turn his country into a bastion of “moderate Islam,” Erdoğan said, “Islam cannot be either ‘moderate’ or ‘not moderate.’ Islam can only be one thing.” He also claimed that the “patent of this concept originated in the West,” which “really want[s] to weaken Islam.”
Erdoğan has consistently communicated his thoughts about the term “moderate Islam” often used in the West to describe his Justice and Development Party (AKP). As early as 2007, he said: “These epithets of ‘moderate Islam’ are very ugly, it is disrespectful and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”
In keeping with Erdoğan’s assertions, the Turkish government-funded Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) published in July a detailed 140-page report, which stated that Islam is “superior” to Judaism and Christianity, and that “interfaith dialogue is unacceptable.”
The report focuses on the teachings and goals of the US-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the attempted coup in July 2016. In the third chapter, the authors of the report slam Gülen for trying to “combine or equate Islam with Christianity” under the guise of dialogue. It says, in part:
“Gülen’s claim that anyone who believes in the trinity of Christianity should not be immediately declared an unbeliever does not comply with Islam’s Tawhid belief [oneness of Allah] in any way. It is obvious that such a claim, which is part of his interfaith activities, is nothing but an attempt to whitewash the trinity of Christianity and to make the trinity legitimate in the eyes of Muslims.
“When it comes to proving this perverted thought of his, he does not even back down from distorting the meaning of a Quranic verse. However, all Islamic scholars understand that the verse which says, ‘They have certainly disbelieved who say, Allah is the third of three,’ (Mâide 5/73) means that those who believe in the trinity are Kafirs [infidels].
“His [Gülen’s] statements that attempt to whitewash Christians against whom the Quran provides very harsh criticisms because of their opposition to Tawhid are unacceptable. For according to Islam, after Allah sent Islam as the last religion, Christianity lost its validity.”
The report concludes:
“Islam is the last divine religion sent to the entire humanity. All of the former religions lost their validity when Prophet Mohammed, the last pearl of the sequence of prophets, was sent as a prophet and the Quran was sent as the last divine book. Hence, according to Islam, it is unacceptable to evaluate Islam on the same level as Judaism and Christianity and to engage in ‘interfaith dialogue’ by saying that former religions continue to be ‘true religions.’ To bring Islam, the last and only true religion, next to other religions does not comply with Islam’s uniqueness and superiority in the eyes of Allah.”
In other words, while many Western governments and Christian leaders consider Turkey a “moderate” ally, and include Islam in their interfaith activities, the powers-that-be in Ankara proudly declare Christians and all other non-Muslims to be Kafirs, in accordance with Islamic doctrine.
To grasp the depth of this divide, one needs to understand the word Kafir, and its significance to Muslims. Dr. Bill Warner, director of the Centre for the Study of Political Islam (CSPI), explains:
“The usual translation of this Arabic word is unbeliever, but unbeliever is only a very small part of its meaning. It is the Quran that defines the word ‘Kafir’ and it says the most terrible things can happen to them. The Quranic doctrine about Kafirs says they are hated and are Satan’s friends. Kafirs can be robbed, killed, tortured, raped, mocked, cursed, condemned and plotted against. The Quran does not have one good thing to say about Kafirs…
“For over the last 1,400 years, 270 million Kafirs have died as a result of the political doctrine of Islam. It is the biggest single source of suffering in the history of the world.
“The word Kafir is the worst word in the human language. It is far worse than the n-word, because the n-word is a personal opinion, whereas, Kafir is Allah’s decree. Nearly two thirds of the Quran is devoted to the Kafir. Islam is fixated on the Kafir and the moderate Muslim thinks that you are a Kafir. How moderate is that?”
It is ironic that Warner’s assessment of a lack of “moderate” Islam is closer to Erdoğan’s than to that of the Saudi crown prince. Whether Islam can be moderated or reformed, or whether Islamic societies can be secularized, is debatable.
According to Islamic doctrine, the Quran is the literal speech of omniscient Allah. The angel Gabriel coming down to Muhammad with the Quranic verses is a large portion of Islam and does not allow parts of the scripture to be changed or ignored. The Quran asserts that it is the final, perfect, and eternal message of Allah to the world, and that it has always been and will always remain unchanged. But Muslims as individuals can and should be encouraged to change their thinking for the better.
Yet even if it is not possible to achieve these aims fully, it is still worth the effort if some of the persecuted Kafirs in the Muslim world can be protected from intolerance, oppression and bloodshed.
It is the political and religious leaders of Muslim communities, however, who need to lead such efforts. It is they who should be introducing reforms and promoting freedom and human rights for all.
Sadly, even when the president of an ostensibly “moderate” Muslim country such as Turkey abhors the mere mention of the word “moderate” in relation to Islam, this does not seem to prevent Western “progressive” elites from excusing violent Muslim rhetoric — both in the name of multiculturalism and out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia.” Never mind that Islam is the religion that sets itself apart from, and above, all others, or that leaders such as Erdoğan advance an ideology of subjugating and enslaving people of different faiths or political opinions. It is no wonder that Christianity, Judaism, and Yazidism have been virtually annihilated in Turkey, as they have in the rest of the Muslim world.
Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C.