By Abdülhamit Bilici
January 16, 2015
A Swedish music teacher who was leading a simple life and paying attention to what is happening in the world received some horrible news involving Muslims in the first two weeks of the New Year.
First, 35 people died in a suicide bombing nearby the police academy in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen. Shortly after this, he read a news report covering an attack in İstanbul, a city he loves very much. A female terrorist committed a suicide attack in Sultanahmet in which one police officer was killed. The attacker was Dina Ramazanova, a woman who held Russian citizenship. The security units are investigating her connection with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). While he was thinking about the ideology behind these attacks, he noticed another story on the TV. This time the attack was in Africa. The TVs were announcing that a radical organization called Boko Haram seized a military base in Baga, Nigeria, and killed 2,000 people in the town.
He was in shock because of these horrible news stories. He was asking questions about how men could become so savage and kill innocent people; but was unable to find a satisfactory answer. Even if he was affected by these incidents because he was a sensitive man, he thought he was in Sweden so he would not be affected by the turmoil in the Middle East and Africa. There was nothing to be worried about.
While he was pondering that thought, he noticed another news story on TV that showed that a bloody raid claimed 12 lives in Paris. Terrorists holding guns, in the heart of Europe, raided the magazine Charlie Hebdo's building, where they murdered 12 people. The aggressors were two young people who were originally Algerian but born in France. It was impossible for the teacher to understand why two European-Muslims would commit such a horrible crime. When he paid greater attention, he realized something. The satirical magazine was picked as a target because of its cartoons that some Muslims find offensive. Cherif and Said Kouachi, the brothers who committed the massacre, were trained in al-Qaeda camps in the Middle East. He was preoccupied with questions as to how people such as these were able to commit this massacre without being confronted; then he also noticed another news report that showed that an aggressor had raided a store run by Jews in Paris.
He was no longer optimistic. What happened in Paris could happen in Stockholm too. He was not safe. So he had two choices: he would either submit to the racist and xenophobic groups and parties that argued there was no room for Muslims in Europe and become a subscriber to an ideology underlining that it was possible to create a Europe where there would be no Muslims at all; or he would keep defending democratic ideals and values, including the ones he has been promoting in the past such as justice, equality and liberties. Terror had no religion. Anders Behring Breivik, who committed a bloody massacre in Norway three years ago, was a Christian. Could the Middle Eastern identity of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who bombed his people, explain his brutality? Could the Western identity of Adolf Hitler be relevant to his brutalities victimizing the Jews? When he thought like that, he was relieved. Yet he had to talk to a reasonable Muslim.
He took the first flight to İstanbul to better understand Islam. It was Friday. He would hurry to catch the Friday sermon in Sultanahmet after all these horrible incidents. He thought that there would be sermons to be recited in the mosques promoting peace, indicating that violence was harming the image of Islam, and dismissing terror as a method to settle problems given that there were a lot of discussions going on linking Islam to violence. He listened to the sermon patiently, but he was stunned by what he heard. There was no reference in the sermon to this matter that concerned Muslims around the world. He found that pretty odd, but he was still hopeful. He had an appointment with a wise man who would offer some solutions and answers to the question as to why some members of Islam were doing such evil acts, given that Islam has been the leader of some remarkable civilizations in history.