Question: The tolerance and dialogue process that began in Turkey years ago and was met with opposition is now a fact that almost everyone accepted. Would you please give your views on this phenomenon?
Answer: It doesn’t surprise me. I see that the resistance to the above-mentioned process appears to be an extension of the struggle between believers and unbelievers. As I have said on different occasions, it is not a new phenomenon for unbelievers to act against believers or for insults to be hurled at the faithful. It has gone on from time immemorial: It is a phenomenon that began with the first battle between Satan and Adam and has continued on, changing according to the times and conditions, sometimes gaining in intensity, sometimes easing up. At certain junctures, the deniers of our day are planning particular games, and they continue their fighting by changing arguments, instruments, and strategies. Here the attitude against faith never changes. Their hearts don’t change; their resentment, hatred, animosity, and hostility toward religion never change. The Holy Qur’an and the sound hadiths call this type of people “Satan’s minions,” meaning those who assist Satan. Because Satan has not changed, it is not possible for Satan’s minions to change either.
From the beginning Muslims really had to accept that this was the reality. Because of that, very trustworthy, angelic people may come and say, “The devils have changed now. The snakes embrace the doves and the wolves graze with the lambs.” But you should not believe them in any way. Otherwise, we will be people who are always lied to, deceived, and cheated.
Against this, we don’t have even one thing in common with them. We have the attitude towards them as we would towards the most monstrous animals that are committed to opposing us. As history has established, our attitude is always humane, because our religion commanded that we should be like that or behave like that. We are even saddened when a fly falls into the jam and is struggling, because our compassion and mercy are centered on even the smallest creature. Many years ago, my beloved friend, who was a flawless theologian, broke the back of a snake in the countryside. I think I didn’t speak to him for a month or two. “What right did you have? Why did you cut that animal’s life short and keep him from living,” I said in reproach.
Now our manner of interpretation is like this. Even people who have the natures of snakes and scorpions are treated with compassion and mercy.
Question: This approach means that they have not changed their attitude at all—why do they fail to soften their stance?
Answer: As I tried to express before, this is in the nature and character of unbelievers. To change one’s nature is hard—as in the folk-saying, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Don’t forget: From the time of the creation of Adam and Satan’s people until now there has been a continuous rising animosity between these two groups. Before, this animosity was connected to ignorance, today it is based on their interpretations of science, philosophy, and the social sciences. Because of this, now the matter is a little more difficult to resolve and has taken the form of an enigma.
Yes, this hostility that is inherent in the character of unbelief impels them into rebellion against faith. They haven’t the least bit of forbearance for the things that come from faith. They have no ability or intention to share. These people have not matured enough to share. Rather than unite against a common enemy, they will wolf each other down, don’t doubt it. There are their clubs and organizations. If you’re not in their circle, they will not even accept you as a visitor. And our mosques? We need to think very seriously about them.
Question: In your opinion, do Muslims know about this as much as they should?
Answer: I don’t believe that they know. Of course, if you don’t know about something, you can’t be opposed to it either. Thus in the times when there were serious attacks against a group of Muslims, there were also Muslims who supported these attacks through deeds and publications. A number of false sheiks and scholars, perhaps unconsciously, served the misguided clan. They used their mouths, they published intrigues. Didn’t they really know what they were doing? I don’t know. But I can say this much: If these people—people of unbelief and misguidance—did not think about why there was this much hostility toward Muslims who were already exposed to a thousand kinds of brutality, then they were both enmeshed in behaviors that were disrespectful to religion and they were completely naive. And even further, they will be punished for their credulousness.
Really, isn’t it necessary to think, “Why are the enemies of God and the Prophet so hostile to them?” Isn’t it necessary to say, “Why do the enemies of the mosques take such a hostile attitude toward them?” Shouldn’t we ask, “What is the reason they declared their hostility to the religion?” On the other hand, a Muslim who can discern even the smallest detail should understand that these people are nothing but Satan’s servants, his representatives and accomplices who take his attitude.
Question: What gave rise to the most recent slander?
Answer: Everyone who lives in this country knows that in this type of structure, people with intelligence and character have so far heard of fifty types of slander and allegations against me. Maybe “conspiracy” would be a better word. The biggest was the “cassette storm” that I went through in June 1999. From the beginning to the end, there was this scenario, but there were details that they didn’t take account of. They didn’t realize there were serious holes in their logic. They said, let’s finish everything up quickly, but they couldn’t do it either strategically or technically without making mistakes. This is the way it was. They hurried through everything and tripped over their own feet. They made fools of themselves in the eyes of the public. Every time I hear it, I admire the prudence: According to the results of a survey of Turkish society, 85 percent said “We don’t believe this.”
We can learn this from looking at a point in history. Let me express my perceptions and feelings: The Prime Minister of the time, Mr. Bülent Ecevit, bravely spoke up and came out against this matter, saying in a loud voice, “I don’t believe this,” and “I don’t understand anything about these allegations.” He reacted to this bravely every time something happened. History will always remember his behavior with appreciation.
Yes, that was a storm but it never really died down. From that day to today, just as they did before, they try to destroy me. Every time they ignore the truth, they say brazenly, “This man has nine lives.” As you’ve seen, they may think you’re dead, but you aren’t really dead at all. I want this to be known: I am ill but I am not afraid of death. I see death as something like a holiday. People who do not believe in God should fear death. I am stubbornly longing to meet with God and our Prophet. Death is the greatest jewel that can be given to me. It is like a pearl found on the road.
There are several possibilities we could consider as to why this last slander arose. Let’s start with the flimsiest possibility: Some sly person wanted to get something into the media. He sat down and wrote some fake news and sent it to one of the news agencies. As it happens all the time with us, it was published on a website without anyone checking to see if it was accurate. Even though there are press ethics, they are not enforced because there is no penalty for false news. The press and publication houses have a relevant set of laws, but as I heard from Oktay Ekşi himself, we have a problem with enforcement.
On the other hand, they don’t even think about how this deceptive news affects my family, relatives, and those close to me. Previously, I said that they had tried to kill me. I’ll never forget: A while ago, my brother called me and said, crying, “We heard some news that someone attacked you as you left the mosque and split your head in two.” After that, his voice cut out—I think he fainted. As evidenced by the publication of this sort of false news, they clearly have no respect for people or for human values. In Turkey no one goes out and says, “All right, enough. Fear God. This issue has gone completely overboard.” Because no one says this sort of thing and the law has not been framed appropriately, lies and those who lie are allowed free reign. With these lies, the liars make a premium, increase circulation, and win new customers. And with that they can earn more from the increased advertising, too.
Second:—God knows, this is how it seems to me—Turkey is moving in a good direction toward cooperation through the united efforts of the state and smart politicians in the government. With a certain degree of agreement and compromise—even though there are always opposing voices—good things have been accomplished. For forty or fifty years we’ve had this dream of joining the European Union, and for the first time we are taking real concrete steps toward that goal. Turkey has successfully taken ownership of its role by hosting a meeting of NATO. We are experiencing many important developments, such as improvements in the field of economics, a reduction in inflation, foreign capital invested in Turkey’s development, an increase in tourism, etc.
God knows, there are people, as well as groups, neighborhoods, internal and external powers, who want to undermine and sabotage these developments. Whenever Turkey goes through a good period, there are those who always do underhanded things to all that has been accomplished. There’s no Turk who is unfamiliar with this. The people who have risen to such peaks, haven’t they just worked to benefit their allies? Didn’t they smuggle goods right in front of the eyes of the intelligence agencies? I’m embarrassed even to say it—what should we say about the whole embezzlement affair? Rather than talk about these things, they just shoved it all under the carpet, and instead switched the daily news topics to “reactionaries” in Turkey, “Fethullah Hoca,” and news like that. They turn the eyes of the public in another direction so they can comfortably continue their fraud!
That’s another possible explanation for this slander: Because of what they were doing, they put out this false news because they wanted to change the topic away from themselves.
Third: They think I’m at the threshold of death, and they say I always wanted to pass my last days in Turkey. All right, how did a person such as this come to stay in a different country for the past five years? The people who like to show off want to create an environment of pageantry when I arrive at the airport, with thousands of people who would come and meet me and form a convoy. People always think that everyone else is just like them. So it is thought that I want what those spectacle-loving people want.
On the other hand, throughout my life I have never wanted more than one or two people to meet me when I have arrived from another place. I wanted someone to come to meet me because I don’t know how to drive and I didn’t own a car. When I returned to Turkey from the United States in 1997, I called only one person from the plane and let him know I was there. I didn’t want either the media or my friends to come. Those close to me, including my siblings, only heard after I had already arrived in Turkey.
This is my nature. When I was little I used to do this when I would come home. Was everybody really waiting for me? If they were, so what? All right, it isn’t important if they looked for me or not. When I return to Erzurum, I would prefer to come home at night. My father, may he rest in peace, used to say, “Our stork, he comes home at night.” Let people—the neighborhood, guests, and neighbors—say “He came and he went, etc.”, but I didn’t want them to say anything. My character compelled me not to like those things.
By the way, let me say one more time that I consider it an insult to attribute to me all the educational activities and worldwide achievements made by the workers, teachers, women, and men of this altruistic group (Hizmet). I am not of the opinion that I did anything. Everything is done by these generous people. But some people misjudge and ascribe all this to me. I’ve been here for years in voluntary isolation, as you see and know. But work continues everywhere, with God’s guidance and favor. Even despite all the obstinacy and unbelief.
Let’s go back to the earlier point: If I return to Turkey and I am met by thousands of people coming to the airport in convoys and in the middle of it someone can stick in some provocateurs, they will change the focus. Come on, didn’t they do this in even the most innocent demonstrations?
Fourth: With this false news, they may have wanted to interfere with people who just want to be in their own home, in their own garden, with wife and friends, enjoying the summer, or innocently reading the Qur’an or hadith. It’s not just my individual perception; it is general common sense that they snitch on people. As a result they come and seize innocent people and—excuse me—work you to a pulp until they can get you to spill everything. And no matter how much you protest your innocence, they’re sure you are guilty. That is, they work opposite of the law. You will be declared guilty, and then you have to prove your innocence. But they should follow the basic principles of law: “You can’t prove a negative.” “People are innocent until proven guilty.” “Allegations must be proven.”
In order to blacken the reputations of such innocent people, it is not difficult to sneak into people’s homes and plant a bunch of CDs and books, and things like that. Right now in the world of terrorism, this is a most common method. With these sorts of sneaky plans they can enthusiastically declare innocent people to be terrorists and portray innocent acts to be somehow connected to terrorism. You can see this is a basic conspiracy theory, but you cannot assure me that this isn’t what is really going on.
Fifth: I heard that some people influenced by the evil suggestions of Satan would say a certain person is dying and that would act be a curse to make that death possible. When they did, people think he really is dying, and people give up on him. I don’t believe in such things, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility that such false news with this aim could be fabricated. It is possible, as I discussed before, that false sheiks and scholars are capable of doing such a thing.
Question: How do you want us to behave in the face of all of these things that are happening?
Answer: You know of the behavior of our blessed Prophet and the Companions during the Slander Incident. Now the Companions were a discreet group. Despite this, there were some hypocrites mixed in with them. In order to get revenge against the Messenger of God, they spread slanders about our noble mother Aisha. This was the scenario. Behind this was the well-known hypocrite Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salul. It is always like this—pardon me—there are always people who will believe such ridiculous scenarios. There were even those among the Companions who started to believe this. I’m not going to say their names, but all together there were three people. I think there are some Muslims in Turkey who are like this. As I said before, I am all for discernment, but there might be those among our people who believe in such lies, misrepresentations, and conspiracies. Because of a lack of evidence and despite the fact that I haven’t had any influence for years, they can believe the lies because they don’t see me since I am living far away as an expatriate. And those people who have these beliefs fill the airport and this situation benefits the conspirators. As I said on STV in a live telephone interview—and as I am saying again—I do not give my blessings for people to act this way.
Question: How do you feel about these slanders?
Answer: I can’t say I’m not sad. Of course I’m sad. I’m sick at heart. But I found this consolation: People slandered our blessed mother Aisha during the Age of Happiness. The heretics even slandered God. How many times are such slanders against God mentioned in the Holy Qur’an? God forbid! “God has a child,” they said. “The angels are God’s daughters” they said. These expressions that are so disrespectful of the Divine Essence always fill me with compassion. First the heretics did this to God and to our dear mother Aisha. Now in our day, the heretics do this to a simple man like me. But I don’t suffer that much, I cheer up.
Question: Finally, is there anything you would like to add?
Answer: Well, the people who have the ability to oppress always oppress. Your work is painful—actually, you decide if it is painful or delightful. If you don’t have the capacity to hurt people, then you won’t hurt them. In my opinion, this is better. If there are such oppressors, let them continue oppressing. Let’s call down God’s mercy and forgiveness upon those with an aptitude for caution and vigilance. Let’s wish for them to be saved from the path that leads us astray.
Second, you will be subject to slander whatever you do. It has been the fate of those who walk this road to face conspiracies and this will continue. But sagacity sweeps it all away. Against wisdom no conspiracy or slander can work.
Third: It is ungrateful to ignore the activities of people who bring Turkish culture and language to all corners of the world. I say these activities are like the sun. The sun can’t be covered up with wet clay. Let them do what they do, this wise society sees and knows everything. Because those who oppose us can’t help but see the good things that are happening—the light has not been extinguished—they are driven to delirium. They become unbalanced. This also needs to be known. Those with that mentality are like those who believe in the caste system. I dare not say it—they think they were created from God’s mouth and ear, but the pure children of Anatolia were created from His fingernail (God forbid!). No matter how improper it is, they make this judgment against those who do the good activities, “Give no quarter! Don’t save them, shoot them! Kill them!” Their basic logic is based on the idea: “Kill them, and later we’ll find proof.” It is also important to know this.
Finally: Don’t be discouraged. Those who serve this nation and this nation’s future and even serve all people will continue with God’s permission and grace. Like a caravan, they will forge ahead. This caravan—again with God’s favor and generosity—will not be stopped by slander or by deceit.