THE GOOD NEWS
OF THE TURKISH ISLAMIC UNION
This book was written in the summer of 2003. It would have been very difficult to speak about a Turkish Islamic Union 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago, because neither the world in general nor the Islamic world in particular fulfilled the necessary criteria for forming such a union. To the contrary, many conditions would have prevented it. However, after a series of changes from 1980 onward, the idea of such a union was no longer unrealistic. Let's examine these changes one by one.
Muslims Have Become Freer
The last "Turkish Islamic Union" was the great Ottoman Empire. Since its collapse, the Islamic world has been divided into many nation states that remained, some for a prolonged period of time, under colonial rule. From 1920 onward, most of the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Muslims of Southeast Asia came under the rule of European colonial powers, in particular France and Britain. Muslims of Central Asia and the Caucasus first fell under the rule of the Russians and later on, and even worse, the Soviets. The Balkan Muslims came under the rule of such non-Muslim people as the Serbs and Croatians, whose rulers, after the Second World War, accepted communism.
In short, the majority of Muslims lived under colonial rule. With the
end of colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s, Muslims began to achieve their
independence. Britain first withdrew from the Indian subcontinent and
then the Middle East. In the Indian subcontinent, India, West and East
Pakistan (later to become Bangladesh), were created. In the Middle East,
the various Arab nations gained their independence. In Southeast, Malaysia
and Indonesia declared their independence in 1965.
At the end of the 1980s the Eastern Bloc disintegrated, and in 1991 the
Soviet Union collapsed and many Muslim peoples won their independence.
In Central Asia, the Muslim Turkish nations finally rid themselves of
Russian/Soviet rule after 150 years and became independent republics.
The end of communism also freed the Balkan Muslims. Bosnia-Herzegovina
was freed from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia and emerged as a Muslim nation
in central Europe, and Albania was freed from Enver Hoxha's oppressive
and blood-thirsty communist regime.
Except for Muslims living as minorities in various countries or under occupation (e.g., Palestine and Kashmir), Muslims now rule themselves. This great political change made it possible to speak of a Turkish Islamic Union.
During the twentieth century, major changes took place in the Islamic
world: In 1950s and 1960s, many Muslim countries became independent,
and in the 1990s, communism collapsed, which enabled most Muslims
living under its system to achieve a better and more comfortable
Irreligious Ideologies Are Losing Their Effect
Even though Muslim nations became independent from the 1950s onward,
this did not necessarily mean that they had gained awareness. To the contrary,
in some of these Islamic countries, ideologies opposing the central tenets
of Islam became dominant. One example is Arab socialism, which deeply
affected the Arab world in the 1950s-1960s. Suddenly, militant Arab nationalism
that was incompatible with Islam's morality and based upon Marxist methods
and rhetoric became prominent. Although, it receded almost as quickly
as it had appeared, it wasted time and caused tension.
Apart from that, Muslim nations were scattered between extremes and were
divided into two main camps dominated by America and the Soviet Union.
Nevermind moving together, they were almost equally divided between these
two poles. Most Arab countries were close to the Soviet Union. "Muslim"
Egypt saw no problem in siding with India during its war with Muslim Pakistan.
It only became possible to define the Islamic world as such in terms of
politics, strategy, and culture after the cold war ended, when the "Islamic
world" began to play an important role.
The process of cleansing the Islamic world from the remnants of the cold
war era still continues. The developments taking place alongside this
suggest that a more democratic and tolerant climate is taking shape, one
that will create a more conducive atmosphere for a better understanding,
telling, and practicing of the Qur'an's values. Traditional intra-Muslim
differences are softening with recent developments in the Middle East,
such as Iraqi Sunnis and Shi`ahs praying together in the same mosque for
the first time in history.
Civilization Becomes Important in International
The end of the cold war ended the "compulsory" division
of Muslims into two opposing political camps. Civilizations, instead of
political ideologies, have begun to gain ground. As Samuel Huntington
said, people were no longer defined by the question of "which side are
you on?" but of "who are you?"53 For many people,
spread out from the Balkans to Central Asia, and from the Far East to
Africa, who previously had identified themselves as "socialist," "Yugoslav,"
"Soviet," "anti-communist," or "nationalist," it became more important
to determine which civilization they represented.
Huntington's "clash of civilizations" theory, which expresses this fact,
is important in this regard. Huntington predicted that the twenty-first
century would be defined by civilizations, rather than nation states or
political groupings, and that the dominating identity would be the "civilization"
identity. And, he was right. He also correctly predicted that these civilizations
would be based upon religion. However, he was wrong to suggest that conflict
would determine the relationship between civilizations, for it is more
likely that this relationship will be based upon friendship and cooperation.
To make this happen, all that Huntington and others who think like him
must do is to abandon the biased Social Darwinist worldview that misdirects
The end of the cold war is not the only reason for the world to be defined
in terms of civilizations. Another important reason is the fall of atheism
and the rise of religion. These developments are closely associated with
the beginning of the collapse of the materialist philosophies, due to
new social and scientific discoveries that are disproving them, that have
had a cultural monopoly over the world for the past two centuries. In
particular, scientific developments are eroding the roots of materialism,
and this enables people to see the evidence for God's existence more clearly.
At a time in which belief in God is gaining momentum and people are turning
anew to religious morality, faith in Islam is also growing rapidly.
Everyone Is Talking About Islam
Islam is the most rapidly spreading religion in the world. Many
people in the West are making an effort to learn about its morality
and frankly express the admiration and interest they feel for
Another noticeable development is the universal recognition of the fact
that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Furthermore,
Islam is the most important subject of current affairs. The situation
of perhaps 30 or 40 years ago was altogether different. The world was
thinking within the cold war's narrow ideological framework and many people
believed, due to the materialistic worldview's influence, that religious
morality could not be a defining factor in the lives of people and communities.
But at the beginning of the 1980s, Islam suddenly became the most talked
about subject on the planet, and the West realized that Islam's morality
was a great power that could set people as well as nations in motion.
In the 1990s, the West's interest in Islam increased further, as indicated,
in part, by the rise in the number of articles on Islam appearing in the
media. The greatest interest in Islam came after 9/11, a tragedy that
was totally contrary to Islam's morality. Westerners, in particular Americans,
began to make great efforts to understand and know Islam closely. Currently,
researchers and members of the media are very interested in Islam. Even
though some of this research is biased, it is drawing the world's attention
to Islam and causing many more people to look at its morality. (For further
information, please see Harun Yahya, The Rise of Islam [Kuala Lumpur:
A. S. Noordeen, 2003].)
Increasing Global Dialogue and Solidarity between
Another important development that cleared the way for theTurkish Islamic Union
is globalization, a process that began in the 1980s and gained momentum
in the 1990s with the advancements in communications technology, in particular
the Internet. Some Muslims view globalization as the carrier of Western
culture, and thus consider it to be a negative development. In reality,
however, this process enables the whole world to enter into an intense
cultural dialogue with itself in a common language. Globalization also
makes it easier for Muslims to access information and increase their cooperation
and dialogue with each other to previously unseen levels. In effect, globalization
has been an important catalyst for the Islamic world's ongoing enlightenment.
The Internet, an important gift to all of humanity, demonstrates the
vast growth in dialogue between Muslims. Thanks to it, joint efforts expanded
and the possibility of accessing information increased and diversified.
As a result, whole new generations that think, read, develop ideas, and
produce solutions were born across the world. Dr. Farish A. Noor, a Malaysian
political scientist who teaches at Freie University of Berlin as visiting
professor, says the following about globalization's effect on the Islamic
As a result of improving communications
technology and facilitating the freeflow of information and knowledge,
Muslims are now free (or freer) to go directly to the core of Islamic
learning itself: The major texts, narratives and ideas of Islamic thought
are no longer confined to rare books stored in remote libraries
One of the consequences of this breakdown of traditional
hierarchies and rigid educational structures is the creation of new
Islamically-conscious and educated constituencies. Access to Islamic
texts and knowledge has meant that Muslim women and lay Muslims are
also allowed to learn, discuss and comment more about Islam. This is
happening all over the Muslim world thanks to the creation of global
To use Noor's terminology, "these are glimpses of a
Muslim world where time and space no longer serve as barriers."55
Both the Internet and the global media unite the world's Muslims. An
event in one Islamic nation can be watched in all others at once, and
thus becomes an issue for Muslims everywhere. All of these means demonstrate
that the Islamic world can look forward to a much brighter future.
Westerners' Search for the Ottomans
As we have been stressing from the onset, creating the Turkish Islamic Union will benefit Muslims and non-Muslims alike and will have a just, democratic, and progressive nature. After its formation, other civilizations, especially the West, will be dealing with a stable and trustworthy authority with which they will be able to have friendly and peaceful relations. As the Turkish Islamic Union will be responsible for preventing and curing the radical elements that appear in the name of Muslims, the West will have no cause for such worries.
One sign that foretells this union's arrival is its necessity, which
the West recognizes. A power vacuum on old Ottoman soil has been diagnosed,
and the idea that setting up a similar system could cure the problem is
finding a growing audience. As history shows, the Ottoman Empire brought
peace and stability to this area. And, based upon this success, applying
the Ottoman model to this troubled area will go a long way toward solving
its current problems and unrest. For example, in his article, entitled
"A World Still Haunted by Ottoman Ghosts" The New York Times (March 9,
2003), David Fromkin begins by saying that "A ghost has been haunting
the United States. It is the specter of the Ottoman Empire" and continues:
Today, the more ambitious spirits in the Bush administration propose
not merely to invade Iraq, but to use it as a base for transforming the
Arab Middle East. Once before in modern times, Western countries-England
and France-set about remaking these Ottoman lands. After emerging victorious
from World War I, they redrew the map of the Middle East. Iraq was one
of the artificial states to emerge.
After World War I, Britain and France, by defeating the Ottoman Empire,
won control of the Arab lands, and with it, a tantalizing bauble: the
likelihood that vast deposits of oil might be found there.
The Europeans and their American business partners hoped to establish
stable and friendly regimes. After they redrew the borders in the early
1920's, Britain and France introduced a state system, and sought to supply
political guidance too. But the system did not endure. Instead, the area
grew more turbulent and unsettled.
Looking back, it is clear that many characteristics
of the Middle East, some of which President Bush would like to change,
were shaped by the five centuries of Ottoman rule.56
THE OTTOMANS LEFT AND PEACE CAME TO AN END
The New York Times wrote that the fragmentation of the Ottoman
Empire lay at the root of most international problems and conflicts.
The truth on which the world is agreed
Daily Turkiye, 3.12.2002
Daily Milliyet, 28.4.2003
THE GUARDIAN: AS THE OTTOMANS LEFT, THE PROBLEMS BEGAN
Daily Ortadogu, 4.12.2002
THEY WISH THE OTTOMANS WERE BACK
The fact that present day wars in many countries, from the Caucasus
to the Balkans and the Middle East began with the end of Ottoman
rule is on foreigners' agendas.
THE OTTOMANS LEFT AND PEACE CAME TO AN END
Daily Yeni Safak, 18.12.2001
British journalist Timothy Garton Ash expressed similar views in an article
published in The Guardian (March 27, 2003). Ash, dealing with the problems
of Albanians in Kosovo and the Kurds in northern Iraq, says "in both cases,
we are still wrestling, nearly a century later, with the legacy of the
Ottoman empire," and concludes:
Let's face it: when this bleedin' war
is over, we'll be back in 1918, confronting many of the same questions
in the same places that our grandparents wrestled with, from the Balkans
to the Middle East. And we still don't have answers. Sometimes I think
we should reinvent the Ottoman empire.57
It is obvious that at a time when even the West is discussing how to
reinvent the Ottoman Empire, Muslims should give it serious consideration.
The developments taking place since the beginning of the fifteenth century
Hijri show that Muslims are at a historic crossroad. We all must be worthy
of this responsibility.