by Uzay Bulut
- "Peaceful coexistence," it seems, is a concept truly foreign to Islamic supremacists. Many pious Muslims seem to think that if Islam is the only true religion, why should one need the immoral, untrue religions or philosophies that lead people astray?
- Turkey also has an Alevi community, estimated in the tens of millions, but the number is only approximate. Alevis in Turkey (and Catholics, Protestants and others) are legally "non-existent." And as you cannot conduct a census on a group of people who are legally "non-existent," you just count them as "Sunni Muslims."
- "As far as the legislation is concerned, worshipping in a building that does not have legal status or calling a building a cem house, church or similar may lead to prosecution." -- Mine Yildirim.
- One hears that "Islam is a religion of peace." But what many Westerners fail to understand is that this "peace" takes place only after everyone has converted to Islam. No other ideology has enjoyed the luxury of being praised as the "religion of peace" while providing exactly the opposite.
Once upon a time, Asia Minor, now called Turkey, as well as the rest of the Middle East, was for centuries a real cradle of civilization, where many different religions and cultures flourished. But today these tiny, dwindling communities are not able to enjoy any freedom of religion or conscience.
"Peaceful coexistence," it seems, is a concept truly foreign to Islamic supremacists. It is this missing concept that keeps them in dark ages. They might still go to shopping malls, or use mobile phones, computers and other technological devices, but their minds and souls are trapped in dark ages. Ironically, most of the high technology and science they utilize was invented by the people whose places of worship they like to destroy.
Why is there not a single Islamic country that operates in harmonious co-existence with everyone instead of domination of everyone? And why is it that in most majority-Muslim countries, non-Muslims suffer from persecution or discrimination? Why are they not recognized as equal citizens with equal rights?
"The Latin Catholic community is not able to prove its ownership of churches it has possessed for hundreds of years due to lack of legal recognition of its existence," according to the scholar Mine Yildirim. "This results in a continuing loss of property. ... Since it has no legal personality at all in addition to not being able to own property, the community cannot go to court when it loses ownership of property on account of this very lack of a legal personality."
Yildirim, after including Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses in the same problem, notes that, "The Syrian Orthodox community, which has grown in recent years due to migration from South-East Turkey, has been waiting for over three years for a decision on its application to open a second church in Istanbul. ... The importance of having a legally-recognised place of worship cannot be underestimated given the widespread intolerance in Turkish society towards other religions. ... As far as the legislation is concerned, worshipping in a building that does not have legal status or calling a building a cem house, church or similar may lead to prosecution."
Social intolerance and even physical attacks can also cause a non-Muslim place of worship to be closed down. In the own of Inegol, for instance, a church and synagogue in a shopping mall which opened on May 10 were closed down about two weeks later due to "pressure."
The founding president of the shopping mall, Haluk Ozbek, stated: "As we feel the well-deserved pride of introducing such a big project with international identity to our Inegol, we have been exposed to ugly and meaningless attacks that we do not deserve at all by some groups, because there were also foreign places of worship in our shopping mall project as well as a mosque," according to the Cihan News Agency.
Ozbek said that since the mall has been exposed to physical attacks, as well as to attacks in the media, "they have decided to halt their decision regarding the foreign places of worship for now."
On June 10, Muhammed S. aged 25, shouting "We have finished with Christianity and Judaism... Allahu Akbar!," set fire to the entrance of the largest Greek Orthodox Church on the Asian shore of Istanbul, the Hagia Triada Church.
"The suspect said that he had seen 'Prophet Jesus' in his dream," Kostandin Kiracopulos, a representative of the Association of Greek Foundations, with which the church is affiliated, told reporters. The government-run Anatolian Agency reported that the man had been undergoing a treatment at a hospital for mental disorders.
This church was "lucky" -- it was not razed to the ground. Many historic churches in Turkey were. One, in Bodrum, the Hagia Nicholas Church, had been named in honor of Saint Nicholas, a historic 4th-century Christian saint who was born in Myra, a town situated in present day Turkey. In 1923, after many Greeks of Asia Minor were forcibly driven out of their homes during the forcible population exchange between Turkey and Greece, the Hagia Nicholas Church no longer had a congregation. So, it began to be used as a cinema, and then as a sponge storehouse. Then, in 1969, the authorities decided to tear down the church. First, they tried to destroy it with digging tools, but the building was so solid it would not fall. So they blew it up it with dynamite.
The Hagia Triada Church in Istanbul, pictured here in 2009, was recently set aflame by an arsonist. (Image source: Darwinek/Wikimedia Commons)
Other churches in Asia Minor, after the 1915 slaughter of the Armenians, were also dynamited or bombarded with cannons, according to the Human Rights Association of Turkey.
In September 1955, the Turkish government orchestrated a systematic attack that included the destruction of the majority of the churches, monasteries and cemeteries of Istanbul's Greek community.
Such attacks have led to the destruction of the Christian culture in the region. Unfortunately, this seemingly old tradition in Turkey is still in full swing. In April 2015, in the province of Mardin, which until the 1914-1925 slaughter of Assyrians had been an important center for Assyrian Christians, the Association of Assyrian Unity was abolished because the concept "co-presidency" in its charter -- a term also used by Kurdish organizations -- as well as the word "unity" in its name "are against the law." The head of the Assyrian Association, Yuhanna Aktas, said that its members will object to the decision, but if nothing changes, they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Now that there is only a tiny Christian community left in Turkey, its Islamic authorities do not often resort to their usual aggressive methods. Instead, many of the surviving churches have been used for various insulting purposes other than as places of worship, but this practice only makes the persecution of churches more invisible.
A historic church, for instance, which before 1915 had been in a majority-Armenian village of Germus, is now used as a stable. The church had been restored by Armenians just 11 years ago.
A detailed report in 2014, by the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, revealed hate crimes and violations of the Christians' right to build and maintain places of worship, to share their faith, and other forms of discrimination to which they were exposed. The report is filled with stories of violence or threats of violence that churches or church members experienced in Turkey in 2014 alone. In many cities across Turkey, churches, Christian community leaders or church members have been continually subjected to threats, harassment or psychical attacks.
The Protestant church in the province of Antep was sealed because "it was an illegal workplace." In Mardin, another church was apparently infiltrated by two police officers for years. The result was the deportation of some of the church members. In the Uskudar district of Istanbul, members of the Protestant community were made to leave their church and told they would be given a new place of worship. They are still waiting for it. In the Bahcelievler district in Istanbul, the Presbyterian Grace Church was threatened on social media with attacks. Police could not find the source of the threats. In the province of Kayseri, some people threatened and tried to kidnap a Christian university student. When he sought help, nothing was done, so he had to drop out of school.
Turkey also has an Alevi community, estimated in the tens of millions, but the number is only approximate. Alevis in Turkey are also legally "non-existent." And as you cannot conduct a census on a group of people who are legally "non-existent," you just count them as "Sunni Muslims."
Cem houses, the places of worship of the Alevis in Turkey, are also victims of Islamist supremacy. They have never been recognized as places of worship, either during Ottoman rule or under the Turkish Republic.
According to a parliamentary report in 2013, there are 82,693 mosques in Turkey, whereas there are only 937 cem houses. And more than half the provinces in Turkey do not have a single cem house.
As public policy expert John C. Sawhill is alleged to have said, "A society is defined not only by what it creates, but also by what it refuses to destroy."
Sadly, the Islamist supremacists do not seem to be capable of respecting people of other faiths or with no faith. Many pious Muslims seem to think that if Islam is the only true religion, why should one need the immoral, untrue religions or philosophies that lead people astray?
They also, as one can see, try to invalidate or destroy religions that came into the world hundreds or thousands of years before theirs -- even if these religions do not disrespect or try forcibly to convert anyone. To them, non-Muslims are kafirs -- what Islamic scriptures call the unbelievers.
"The language of Islam is dualistic," notes Bill Warner, the director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. "Humanity is not seen as one body, but is divided into whether the person believes Mohammed is the prophet of Allah or not." And according to the Quran, a Muslim is not the friend of a kafir (3:28).
The Koran defines the kafir as: hated (40:35), mocked (83:34), punished (25:77), beheaded (47:4), confused (6:25), plotted against (86:15), terrorized ( 8:12), annihilated (6:45), killed (4:91), crucified (5:33), made war on (9:29), ignorant (6:111), evil (23:97), disgraced (37:18), unclean (9:28), and cursed (33:60).
"Only the word 'kafir,'" according to Warner, "shows the common political treatment of Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, atheist and humanist."
As Muslim jihadist armies, as well as many Muslim civilians, continue to destroy or attack the places of worship and other cultural or religious values of people of other faiths, they create their own legacy. With each church, synagogue, cem house, Buddhist temple or other non-Muslim place of worship they destroy, attack or ban, they destroy their own identity, value and worth.
Is this the legacy that they wish to be remembered with throughout generations? Apparently, it is.
At the same time, one hears claims that "Islam is a religion of peace." But what many Westerners fail to understand is that this peace takes place only after everyone has converted to Islam.
When future descendents of today's Muslims understand that, and look back at what their ancestors have done, they may well not see a past or heritage to be proud of.
Why is it so dangerous -- all around the world -- to criticize the Islamic ideology?
No other ideology has enjoyed the luxury of being praised as the "religion of peace" while providing exactly the opposite.
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.
 "Freedom of Religion and Belief in Turkey," by Ozgur Heval Cinar and Mine Yildirim, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.
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Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.