THE SEVEN PILLARS OF ISLAM
JUSTICE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE
OUR FRIENDS DESERVE JUSTICE
The Turks Have Always Been Our Friends. Let's Stick With That.
I deplore the oppression of any human being or perceived group, especially when violence is involved. I also deplore the mindless, ignorant Islamophobia expressed by some of the posts & commenters even on the more civilized sites. I'm sure most of you have never been to Turkey, or known any Turks. I doubt you know anything much about them, or Turkish history & culture.
Allow me the presumption of enlightening you. Hollywood and the rest of our corporate media would like you to believe that Islam is one great monolithic enemy, a billion savage fanatics all violently opposed to the American way of life, and ready to end it by violence. Obviously, since it is usually us attacking them, this view might be a little backwards, don't you think?
There are indeed over a billion Muslims in the world, a number which has only recently surpassed the number of Catholics in the world. There are also almost another one billion Protestants, so Islam is barely half the size of Christianity. There are more Buddhists, Shintoists, Taoists & Confucians worldwide, and almost as many Hindu's as there are Muslims. But Islam is hardly monolithic.
There is no one central authority in Islam: No Pope, no Archbishop of Canterbury. There once was a Caliphate, and a Sultan, in Turkey, but that ended almost a hundred years ago. Today there are thousands of Islamic organisations, purely religious or mostly secular, hundreds of thousands of individual mosques, and any number of sects and offshoots, from Druze to Sufi's, Sikh's to Baha'i. The majority of Muslims now live outside of the Middle East, in Asia (800+ million), in Africa (400+ million), Europe (50+ million), North & South America (12+ million), in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Russia, America. In the Mid-East itself, Muslims are split between Sunni, orthodox followers of a direct line of succession from the prophet Mohammad; and Shi'a, followers of an alternate line of succession. There are doctrinal differences, but the real differences tend to come down to political struggles between one group and another, in what is often referred to in the US media as "tribal warfare." Not so different from the struggles among the people of the former Yugoslavia or Northern Ireland; having very little to do with the actual practise of religion.
Islam itself is doctrinally descended from Judaism and Christianity: True Moslems revere the Hebrew Prophets and Books of the Bible, and respect Jesus Christ as a great man and prophet, if not actually God. They believe that Muhammed was the last and the greatest of the prophets in this line, the man who brought the Word to the former unbelievers of the Near East and beyond.
Truly devout believers in Judaism and Christianity would find little to disagree with, and much to embrace in the basic tenets of Mohametanism. The Seven Pillars of Islam are quite simple and straightforward:
1. Love and devotion for God, an entirely inward sign of faith.
And these outward signs of faith:
2. Purity and cleanliness.
7. Struggle for Justice.
Most Muslims are like most people everywhere. They tend to be more observant in the breach than in the actual doing of what is required by their faith. Like most people everywhere, they go about their daily lives simply trying to survive, and to do no harm. There are fanatics in every country, some even running their countries, as in the United States today. But 99% of all people everywhere simply do not fall into this category. That includes most Muslims.
The Turkish people, in particular, have an historical reputation for tolerance. If anything, they have always been regarded as among the least fanatical, the least religious, the most secular of Muslims. When they were running the Muslim world, other religions were protected. Jews and Christians were entrusted with the financial and security concerns of the Sultan. Everyone in the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), stretching from Austria to Somalia, Morocco to Turkmenistan, Italy to Afghanistan, at one time or another, was free to worship as he pleased, for the most part, so long as he obeyed the law and payed his taxes.
The Ottoman Turks made the fatal error of siding with the Germans, who had built their railroads, in WWI. For this sin, their Empire was broken up by the post-war League of Nations. By League Mandate, Britain got Iraq and Palestine Trans-Jordan (Israel & Jordan today); and access to the oil in those countries now known as Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The US, though not a member of the League (thanks to the corrupt Republicans' xenophobia), somehow came to dominate much of the oil fields, perhaps by superior oil-finding & drilling technology, and control of distribution. The French got screwed: They got Lebanon and Syria, to their enduring regret: No oil at all.
Faced with this defeat and the theft of most of their territories, the Turks had themselves a revolution. Pro-Western nationalist Kemal Ataturk established a secular republic supported by a strong military, which remains their bulwark against Islamist factions. Alone among Mid-East nations, Turkey has remained committed to democraticization and Westernization, outright outlawing any attempt at a religious coup. Until Bush.
Professed Christian crusader George "W." Bush has helped to push even Turkey into the Islamist camp. Since Dubya's coup in Florida, a completely new opposition to American and European influences and policies in the Mid-East has arisen in Ankara, and taken over the government by full, free and fair elections in Turkey (no hanging chads, no paperless voting, no Supreme Court interference). The largest land Army in NATO, historical bulwark against the ancient Russian enemy's southern flank, is now under Islamist command. Of course, they're rather busy with the new Kurdish nation that Dubya has unwittingly (?) created on THEIR southern flank, in Iraq.
Not to worry: The right-wing Turkish military still stands as a bulwark against any too-Islamist or anti-Western action. Most Turks do want to be a part of NATO, and a part of Europe, which they are, territorially; as well as ethnically, in Germany, Austria and other "gastwerker" economies, going back to the 1950s. But then there's this anti-Muslim backlash in Europe: Not so different from their previous campaigns against Jews, Gypsies, and other ethnic and religious minorities; and fueled by the same evil spirit. The Turkish people are very much aware of this. They don't like it, especially after a century of turning West, and over sixty years of doing the West's bidding in Eastern Europe and the Orient, near and far; and around the world (including Korea, the Congo, Lebanon, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Sudan, Liberia & Afghanistan) with the UN.
The Turks are not Arabs. They are not Persians. They are not Uigurs or Moghuls, Kossacks or Mongols, Moors or Tatars. They are Turks, a modern nation in southeastern Europe and northwestern Asia. They are teetering on a knife's tip of radical Islamism never before seen there, right-wing miltary dictatorship too often seen there, and liberal Western values once favored by much of the population. If idiot redneck American and European policies drive them away, the cornerstone of a new Middle East, and a Janissary against radical Islamisim may be destroyed, and lost forever. So, before you judge our least-appreciated friends in the world, take a look at yourself, at how bloody ignorant and prejudiced you are, and think of a future without these friends. Better to have as many friends as possible, or, at least, as Turkic poet Nazim Hicmet said, "To be alone, like single tree, in the brotherhood of the forest."
By the way, I am neither Turkish nor Muslim. I am an American Irish Catholic. So I know all about religious strife. Take my weary word for it: Don't go there.
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