Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Choosing between freedom and Islamism

Choosing between freedom and Islamism, August 26, 2014 , by Uzay Bulut

"The book you are holding in your hand is a book of a new era marked for a more beautiful ‎world. It is obvious that a more beautiful world cannot be achieved without a freer world. ‎And to achieve a freer world, taboos must be broken. All kinds of chains that bind freedoms ‎must be broken."‎

This excerpt is from the preface of the first edition of the book "This is Religion," by Turan ‎Dursun.‎

Dursun's father was of Turkish descent, and his mother, of Kurdish descent. Born in Turkey ‎in 1934, he was a former mufti and imam and an open critic of Islam who fought for a freer ‎and more humane world despite pressures from the state, the public, and even his own ‎father, whose dream was to see him become a devoted cleric.‎

Dursun was a prestigious mufti in the cities where he worked. His ‎progressiveness and hard work were often covered by the national media, and he sometimes ‎wrote columns for national newspapers, as well. He was frequently invited to official state ‎ceremonies and was respected by the public. He regularly visited villages to observe their ‎problems, and tried to offer solutions.‎

Because Dursun received his education in madrassas (Muslim theological schools) and knew Arabic ‎well, he had a comprehensive knowledge of Islam's original source documents -- the Quran, ‎hadith, biographies and histories. And he had something of crucial importance that most ‎Muslim scholars lack: a critical mind.‎

The Islamic religious texts did not satisfy the depths of his mind. He had an incredible passion ‎for learning. Aside from his native languages, Turkish and Kurdish, he learned Arabic, ‎Circassian, and some French. He had a strong interest in Greek philosophy, as well, and read ‎Aristotle's works when he was just 12. ‎
‎"Knowledge is accumulated in your mind to a point, and then a spark is emitted. But if [your ‎religion or ideology] is so deeply rooted in your culture and conscious, it is hard to certainly ‎face up to and distance yourself from it. I always had a nature that revolted against the ‎concept of God and my disengagement from Islam took place in an evolutionary phase. I had ‎always argued with God. Then I repented. I thought, for example, that if the Quran is the word ‎of God, then why does it permit slavery? Why does it tell some people that it is OK if they are ‎slaves? I thought that if [the Quran's author] was really Allah, he should have abolished ‎slavery and that he should not have declared some people slaves and others free. But then I ‎immediately abjured. I had always been in a state of rebellion since my childhood," Dursun ‎said in an interview.‎

But his main estrangement from Islam happened when he compared the Quran with other ‎religious books. ‎
‎"Then I realized how Muhammad transferred some of the writings of the Torah and Bible to ‎the Quran. I was so frustrated and angry. I could not live my childhood and youth properly ‎because of him. So many people can't live properly because of him. So many people are ‎sufferers of his disasters. So many people know what's right as wrong and what's wrong as ‎right because they think the darkness that he chose exists. Human emotions and human ‎creations haven't progressed in many ways because of him. I have found no disease, neither ‎cancer nor AIDS, and no disaster more horrid than the effects of that religion. And at that ‎moment, I decided to start a fight," Dursun said.‎

Dursun also gave up his job as a mufti, which he carried out for 14 years, to dedicate himself ‎better to his cause.‎ "I gave up my job to be able to fight. I was on top of my career. I was not an ordinary mufti. ‎People knew and respected me. But I had to leave that job. Because I thought that if I was to ‎fight, I could not do that with my current job because that would not be honest. I have always ‎been consistent. I never want a difference between what I think and what I do."‎

Dursun said that he first lost his faith in Muhammad, then he deeply thought about it, reading ‎extensively in anthropology, and in a few years time he lost his faith in God, as well. ‎

With these changes, Dursun's father and brothers were gradually estranged from him.‎
Then he started writing. His first problem was that no media outlet or publishing house ‎wanted to publish his articles. ‎

In the preface to "This is Religion -- Part 1," he explained that period: "I tried so hard to ‎publish these articles. I rang many bells. My attempts continued for months, if not years. They ‎all turned me down. [These articles] daunted even people known as 'progressives' or ‎‎'intellectuals.' Even when my most moderate articles were presented to them, some of them ‎said, 'They can stone us to death if we publish them.' Some of them were even scared of ‎being bombed, let alone being stoned. Some of them responded with the same rhetoric of ‎tactician politicians: 'We respect the religion. We do not support offending religious feelings.'‎
‎"Every time I was turned down, I thought: If they can't risk offending feelings, how can ‎struggle against darkness be possible? Can new steps in the field of civilization be taken ‎without offending feelings? How can changes that aim to reach a more beautiful, civilized, ‎and humane world take place without offending feelings? What novelty or reform has been ‎introduced without offending feelings? Have human beings not offended religious feelings as ‎they have changed themselves and the nature? I always thought about these questions. But ‎still found no entrance to our 'liberal' (!) printed press. ‎
‎"So before our country and the world, I would like to document this (situation) and blame the ‎‎'intellectuals' who function as stern wardens that are not very different from the sovereigns of ‎the oppressive regimes that they accuse and as taps that prevent water required for liberation ‎from flowing," Dursun said.‎

Finally, Dursun was able to find a magazine to publish his articles and then a publishing house ‎to print his books.‎

Among the many subjects he wrote about were violence in Islam, Shariah law, the status of ‎women in Islam, the private life of Muhammad, contradictions in the Quran, "Satanic verses" ‎and the vengefulness of Islamists. 

He also focused on what he called "the unscientific and ‎irrational matters in the Quran." He wrote countless books and articles in the 1980s.‎

His son Abit Dursun said that every single article his father wrote fell like a bombshell. "My ‎father heartily dealt with taboos that no one in Turkey had ever dared discuss," he said.‎

Thus, Turan Dursun often received death threats and was exposed to verbal attacks. ‎
‎"Even a fatwa requiring my father's execution was proclaimed. Then the magazine for which ‎he wrote made a call to all Islamic scholars to join a debate program on TV with my father. ‎But none of them volunteered because they knew that my father was one of the most ‎outstanding scholars of Islam, not only in Turkey but throughout the world. And my father ‎was fearless," said Abit Dursun.‎
Turan Dursun's knowledge was great and so was his bravery. But he did not write to harm, ‎coerce, destroy or kill anyone. He had a cause, which he believed was to enlighten and liberate ‎people to create a better world, where freedom and humanity would prevail. And his only ‎weapon was the eloquence of his pen. ‎

But his opponents did not share the same human values. As if to prove Dursun right about the ‎violence of Islamic teachings, they did not confine themselves to verbal or psychological ‎attacks. ‎

At age 56, Dursun was brutally assassinated by two gunmen in front of his house in ‎Istanbul on September 4, 1990. ‎

After Dursun's murder, a book titled "The Holy Terror of Hezbollah" was found on his bed. ‎Family members said that the book did not belong to Dursun and was left on his bed as a ‎message by the people who entered their house. ‎

After Dursun was murdered, plainclothes policemen took away many of his works, which he ‎had been in the process of preparing, including the 2,000 pages of his Encyclopedia of the ‎Quran, many of his manuscripts, articles, letters and the fifth edition of his latest book.‎
"The police arrived in our house 45 minutes later. The plainclothes policemen who had arrived ‎much earlier ransacked the whole house. As they left after seizing my father's works, the ‎uniformed policemen came. … We sought help from the prosecutor's office later, but were not ‎able to get those works back," his son said.‎
Dursun was opposed by the police and the state, and was completely vulnerable. But he was ‎also abandoned by many of Turkey's intellectuals. Not everyone had his courageous heart and ‎his free mind, after all.‎

Abit Dursun delivered a speech in his father's funeral: "Turan Dursun always said 'I am not ‎scared of darkness. I am scared of being scared. Because one who is scared either dreads or ‎becomes aggressive. Those who killed my father viciously fired bullets at his back, without ‎even daring to look him in the eye," he said.‎

After Dursun's assassination, his books sold tens of thousands of copies in Turkey. His ‎supporters have called him a "warrior of enlightenment" -- one of the most well-deserved titles ‎in history.‎
Dursun was killed years ago, but the silence and indifference of the West -- the free world -- ‎in the face of Islamism remains deafening.‎

The term "Islamphobia" has been invented to muzzle the critics of Islam so that Islamists' ‎feelings will not be offended. Even genuine supporters of this term must be well aware of the ‎fact that the slightest, mildest criticism of Islam can cause violent reactions from "peaceful" ‎Islamists.‎

That is why Alan Dershowitz was so right when he said, "The threat or fear of violence should ‎not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech." ‎

Why do we fear a violent reaction from Muslims if we make any substantial critique of Islam? ‎Is Islam not a religion of peace, as many claim it to be?‎
"Islamophobia" apologists should also answer these questions: What thoughts are included ‎and guaranteed within the scope of freedom of expression? Which thoughts are free and ‎which are banned? To what extent can one criticize Islam and about what subjects must one be ‎silent? Can we get a list of do's and don't's, and if so, how would it contribute to human ‎progress?‎

The suppression of criticism of Islam and Islamism aims to restrict the capacity of the human ‎mind. But we are no longer living in the seventh century. In the 21st century, one may not ‎demand silence from free thinkers.‎

Uzay Bulut is a freelance journalist based in Ankara.

Link to source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=9759

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