Kadın ve Demokrasi Derneği Başkan Yardımcısı Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar’ın onur konuğu olarak katıldığı 15. MAS-ICNA Kongresi’nde yaptığı açılış Konuşması:
Overcoming Challenges Facing the Ummah: The Turkish Experience
Presentation @ MAS-ICNA Convention
Monday 26th December 2017
Dear Sisters and brothers; ladies and gentlemen,
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
It is indeed a pleasure to be amongst you today and an honour to address this wonderful community.
I thank the organisers of the MAS-ICNA convention for extending their kind invitation to me to this event.
I would also like to convey to you warm greetings from our President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
I spent a few years in the States when I studied in Indiana University, Bloomington, just a few hours drive from here.
After spending weeks and months in tiny Bloomington I remember the thrill of visiting Chicago from time to time– as an urban and vibrant place!
Those years were some of the best days of my life, a beautiful campus, overnight stays at the library, putting up posters around for rallies, Fast-a-Thons with the Muslim Student Union, culture days and movie nights with the Turkish Student Association, and many more.
There is a kind of stereotype I want to dispel though.
There’s a stereotypical profile of an international student that’s the child of some international leader, being groomed to be a next-generation leader…
Eastern look and background, western thoughts and orientation.
Truth is, that’s not me!
In fact, until high school I never even thought of studying abroad.
The reason I didn’t continue my higher education in Turkey was the hijab ban.
For the uninitiated, the hijab ban was a tragicomic practice in place for many years in Turkey.
You couldn’t enter universities and even high schools at some point, with a hijab on.
Me and my friends had to stand in protest against the police at the gates of our own high school for days and months to obtain our basic educational rights.
This conference’s theme is “Islamic Duties and Civic Obligations”, right?
Well I experienced at such a young age the pain of having to choose between my religious duties and civic obligations.
My civic obligation to attend school stood in clear violation of my religious duty to wear hijab.
I never hesitated that I would prioritize my religious duties and resist the official ban. But how so?
We mobilized all of our civic capacities.
We organized students, families to protest in front of the school, we protested in city squares to drive attention from the larger society, we lobbied around different NGOs, we tried to make media appearances on the media outlets that were rather biased as they were monopolized by a narrow establishment elite.
We couldn’t achieve it then. But We didn’t give in.
Thousands of students had to leave schools, thousands of them have conceded on their religious duties in order to reach their academic goals.
I was among the more lucky ones who found the chance to study abroad where our rights would be respected,
and at the same time people in Turkey and abroad were working towards creating a better leadership.
Before telling you about these works, let me clarify something.
How did a country, where 99% of people self-identify as Muslim, remove the basic right to exercise the modesty of our deen?
And to do so by rulers who were officially Muslim, and through a government that was officially democratic?
How did it get this way?
As is well known Turkey was never technically colonialized.
But colonialism had its own ways to turn societies upside down across the world.
In the case of Turkey, it was in the form of colonizing the minds of a minority establishment elite who took on itself the role to modernize a mostly religious society through top- down policies.
The Turkish establishment elite had a very hollow understanding of secularism which summed up to a system of discrimination, pressure, and exclusion of all that had to do with religion while celebrating, promoting and imitating all that was Western.
There were days where our grandparents had to burn their Qurans for fear of government persecution.
Even more painful, our scholars and spiritual leaders were hanged in droves.
This same oppressive minority staged coup after coup, killing ministers and even the Prime Minister that they felt stood in their way.
I wish this were the stuff of fiction – sadly this is all part of the recent history of my country.
And more recently in our history, after the coup of Feb 28th Tens of millions of people – the overwhelming majority of Turkey – were stripped of their most basic rights.
People lost their jobs, their licenses, their employment because they were perceived as religious.
People were thrown out of schools, couldn’t run for offices and were labeled as a threat against the secular regime.
So when it came to civic life, religious people were marginalized to the point they could not be active in society.
Despite these demanding challenges, and I believe this is one of the most critical points, none of this majority resorted to violence.They did the same thing I did, which was to work for a just and representative government through non- violent means of resistance.
This was not an effort for the faint-of-heart – it took decades to get us to where we are today.
Turkish people established a new political party, AK Party knocking on doors in every street and every village, articulating our vision for a better leadership.
This was, to put it simply, a liberation movement that took its power from the people and the values they upheld.
In Suratul Ali ‘Imran Verse 139, Allah Subhana Wa Tala says, –
Do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are true believers.
And Alhamdulillah, It was only 16 months after its set off that the AK Party got elected to government.
The AK Party government, did not succeed only in liberating the people from the yoke of oppression, it also brought about economic relief at a time when there was a global economic meltdown.
Turkey successfully weathered the 2008 economic crisis and the per capita GDP quadrupled during the AK Party tenure.Oppression of any religious belief had been removed.Other basic rights concerning language and identity had been introduced, making all citizens of Turkey, whatever their ethnicity, equal for the first time.
But despite this domestic progress, the way the West looked to the rest of the world in general and towards Turkey in particular, has not evolved much unfortunately.
They are still utilizing all their efforts to manipulate the internal dynamics of our country.
The descendants of the minority establishment elite, the types who to this day own the lion’s share of our country’s economic and media power, are fighting hard to win back their privileged seats in politics.
And there is clear convergence of interests between them and those seeking to weaken Turkey in the West.
The new colonialism works its way partly through these convergences. Rest assured, the world’s big powers have effective ways to ensure that these developing countries just remain developing!
In Turkey, we have had our fair share of colonialist intrigue in Gezi Provocations, December 17-25th police-and-judicial coup attempt, DAEŞ attacks, recent suicide bombing attacks by the PKK as well as the failed coup of July 15, only some of the crises we have faced in the last 3,5 years.
A good reason I believe our people have held on to the same political choice for the past 13 years.
It is thanks to a strong culture of democracy that the Turkish nation thwarted the coup on July 15th.
On that night, I was at a gathering with my husband, an ordinary evening.
All of a sudden we heard that the Bosphorous Bridge was (closed) by the Military and We were immediately advised to go to a safe place.
We had all sorts of questions around our heads but gave little chance for a Military coup…
After all it was a matter of the past for so long now…within a matter of minutes though we realized that it was indeed a coup attempt. It was a huge disappointment.
My family, where were they, were they safe?
They told us to go to a safe place, but at such a moment, where would it be really safe?!
My parents were on a family holiday in another city with my sister, her husband and her 3 kids, the youngest of whom was only 7 months old.
For them, the options of staying at the hotel, or flying to Istanbul or Ankara were both very dangerous.
We were hearing the f16 jets flying over the bosphorus, while at the same time following the live stream coverage on TV…
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, ministers in the cabinet and MPs all made clear statements that a small faction in the military have started an upheaval, but that they were prone to lose for many top level generals in the army have opposed them and sided with the government.
They assured that the government and the democratically elected parliament was intact.
During the same hours, the Western media sources were distributing fully fabricated reports that Erdogan took refuge in Greek Islands or Germany. You ask for perception management?
What happened in reality was that Erdogan reached out to the Turkish people via a facetime call and invited them to the streets to protect their democracy.
He also announced that he was to join them on the streets shortly.
Despite the incoming news of carpet bombings at the Turkish Parliament, headquarters of security forces,
national satellite broadcasting center in an attempt to silence television and radio broadcasts,
military tanks driving on the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other major city centers, my father was resolute in his decision to fly to Istanbul and resist the coup attempt with the people.
Later on, we learned that a group of highly trained soldiers attacked the resort they were staying only fifteen minutes upon their leave.
And two police officers were killed on the spot from among the presidential security forces.
Something that has never happened before in the history of our Republic took place that night.
The people went to the streets to take back their democracy.
It was the memories of past tragedies and the awareness of the foreign interventions, that motivated us.
It was the knowledge of the dangers that would be faced if democracy was lost…
And of course, it was the love for our nation and our iman that caused the Turkish nation to face the tanks, f16 jets, attack helicopters and heavy artillery of the army with just flags in their hands.
We lost 248 civilians and innocent lives during the clashes with the rebellious terrorists wearing military uniforms while close to 2000 got wounded that night.
Dear friends, imagine for a second that the white house or the congress was bombed by a terrorist group….
How would you react?
How would you like your government to react in the face of such violence?
You would want retaliation and restoration of justice within the rule of law, right?
That’s exactly what the Turkish people want.
Following the failed coup of July 15th, the government has taken steps to weed out those who supported this attack on democracy, the Gulenist cult.
Over the years, vast networks of cult members had infiltrated the bureacracy, like a fifth column.
These people have been identified and removed.
The Turkish people, who have lived in fear of this cult and their strangle-hold on power, are now able to breathe freely.
“And they plotted, and Allah ruined their plot. And Allah is the best of plotters.” Surah Ali ‘Imran Verse 54
The battle for control over Turkey is one that predates the Republic.
Historically, Turkey has been looked upon as both a leader of the Islamic world and a beacon of religious tolerance.
Only half of the citizens of the Ottoman empire were Muslims, yet they lived side-by-side with their fellow Ehli-Kitab citizens in peace and harmony for many centuries.
In this way, the Turkish people share a history much like that of the United States.
It is this leadership and historical significance that makes Turkey such a strategic country for the Ummah.
That is the main reason why The Western media is obsessively biased with not only Middle East, but specifically Turkey.
It is claimed for example that the Turkish President and the Turkish government are curtailing freedom of the press and imprisoning journalists who criticize the President or the government.
The fact is every person regardless of their profession has to face the full consequences of law if they have links to a terrorist organization or promote terrorist propaganda.
There is no one journalist in Turkey that is imprisoned for journalistic activities nor for criticizing the President.
Yet, I cannot imagine a journalist promoting al- Qaida and its activities as freedom fighting, say on the NY Times, will not face any judicial outcome.
Another claim is that democracy is under attack in Turkey. Of course it is! FETO and their international allies have little regard for democracy and the rule of law in Turkey and will engage in any activity – to undermine the democratically elected President and government.
Another claim is that President Erdogan and the Turkish government is eliminating its political opposition by clamping down on Fetullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement. Let me put the record straight on Fetullah Gulen and Hizmet – which in Turkey is now legally classified as a terrorist organization.
On July 15th, the Gulenist terror cult attempted a coup that led to the death of 248 citizens.
Many citizens were literally run over by tanks, others were shot and killed by the cult’s soldiers, who were trying to seize control of the country.
These terrorists are the very same people who had for years used concepts of “peace, harmony, interfaith dialogue, service, schools, charity” to promote their activities.
But it transpires that behind this peaceful front they had been using bribery to lobby.
They often achieved their aims by disguising their Muslim identity, by drinking alcohol and by foregoing salat.
In this way they were able to infiltrate official institutions.
They stole the questions to entrance exams so that they could place their own people in high-level government positions.
They blackmailed people by using illegal wiretaps and hidden cameras.
They fabricated evidence for criminal trials against those who would not contribute to their cause, and imprisoned anyone who dared speak out against them.
All of these actions were carried out with a military style chain-of-command.
At the top of this chain was Fetullah Gulen; he was followed by his generals, or to use their terminology “big brothers”, and then down to the neighborhood level “big brothers.”
This network included high level cabinet officials, and so-called imams of banks, soccer teams, courts – reaching up to the very highest judicial and military positions.
Gulen is considered to be so close to Allah in his close circles that, astaghfirullah, he is seen as being above Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Gulen claims that Surah Nur of the Quran al Karem refers to him.
All of this, my dear friends, is backed by concrete evidence, it is reality, and unfortunately not a joke.
What’s perhaps even more interesting is that Fetullah Gulen, has been residing safely right here in the States for the last seventeen years.
The truly frightening fact is that the Gulenists, own the largest system of charter schools in the United States With more than 150 schools.
So this terrorist cult receives 500 million dollars of your tax money every year.
What happened in Turkey is a cautionary tale…the Muslim community in this country as well is under threat.
Let me stress one thing: FETO is actually more dangerous than DAESH.
It is easier to turn some hopeless, desparate, uneducated people into militants…
They have little to lose…
When someone comes and promise them with paradise they may give it a try…
FETO on the other hand, takes possession of the minds and hearts of well educated doctors, engineers, generals, scientists etc through its highly hierarchical and closed system using the method of taqiyya (dissimulation).
They get into all shapes…
when need be they will drink alcohol, they will forsake religious attire if necessary, they will act just as the situation necessitates until they successfully overtake.
We are at a better position vis-a- vis FETO as of today, for it is unmasked.
Our state will defend the integrity, security and public will of our country with full vigour and force – and all of this will be within the rule of law.
Dear sisters and brothers, Despite the economic and political pressures it has confronted since the failed coup, Turkey struggles to stand strongly by its principles internationally.
As a nation we resist looking away from the problems of our region and instead choose to engage and take positive action.
At a time when all the European States come together and try to figure out how to accommodate around only 300 Syrian refugees, it is a true blessing that we as Turkey host around 3 million Syrian refugees in our country.
By the way we receive almost no international fund for this.
EU promised some assistance, but has not kept its promise.
At a time when all the world turned blind to the plight of our Gazan sisters and brothers, Turkey reached out to Gaza and helped them rebuild.
We have been by the side of the people in need regardless of their ethnic, religious, sectarian, or racial background.
We have extended our helping hand to our friends from Somalia, to Myanmar, to Haiti.
It is an honor that According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2016, Turkey ranked the highest with regards to its spending for humanitarian assistance as percentage of its Gross National Income. This is barakah in action… alhumdulillah…
We have not stayed silent to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
With the orchestration of Turkey, alhumdulilah we have managed the safe evacuation of close to 50 thousand war- torn Syrians from Aleppo just last week.
Turkey took a principled stance in the military coup in Egypt in 2013 at the detriment of its own interests and when the world just watched as silent observors.
We stood and will continue to stand with the people of Egypt in their struggle for democracy.
We stand with the people of Syria in their quest for freedom and justice.
Turkey shows the entire World that secularism, democracy and Islam can actually work well with each other.
It provides inspiration and hope for other Muslim nation states that a grassroots change is possible and a better future is achievable.
We need strong leadership, vision, belief and hard work.
Let me return back to the point with which I began. Turkey’s story of success despite the critical challenges it faces is not only its own – it is ours as an ummah.
However we need to feel and act like an ummah as our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) likened us to a single body – if one part is in pain the whole body feels it.
As American Muslims you live in a country founded on principles of religious freedom.
While occassionally America may stray from these founding principles, inshallah it will continue to honor these committments for all of its citizens.
We as an Ummah have a very powerful common denominator, a bond, Islam.
We must always remain aware of the great value of this bond and we must do everything we can to protect it.
In the face of the rising Islamaphobia, violence in the name of religion, fomenting discriminatory political tendencies around the world, We need to know one another beyond the biased media coverages.
We need to develop our own terminology to express our shared problems.
As Muslims all over the world we need to forsake the sectarian narratives imposed on us, and instead embrace each other on the basis of our shared Muslimhood.
We believe that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his servant and his messenger.
That is all we need to come together.