Could Turks lead the way to Tolerance in Europe?

 

There was a time that the European Union would remind everyone of, democracy, liberty, justice, respect of human rights and ideas as such, all of which seems to change lately. The double standard of European mind set is surfacing and becoming more obvious in today’s global environment.

A hundred years ago Europe was able to go and exploit far away lands in India or Africa, without having to worry about that population coming to their home land. It was difficult to travel for the masses, communication means were scarce, and the level of awareness of the opportunities in Europe was limited. These days with the internet, TV, movies, almost all regions of the world seem to be aware of each other. Travelling to the other end of the world is a matter of hours.

Laws in Europe are gradually changing and adapting to the new environment. These days, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to strip foreign origin criminals of their citizenship. It is ironic that he would suggest so, given that he is of foreign origin himself.

 *“He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin. Sarkozy’s mother is from the Mallah family, which originally came from Spain like all Jews of Salonika, northern Greece, and left with the expulsion of the Jews by King Ferdinand. They settled initially in France. About 100 years later the family immigrated to Salonika.
Sarkozy’s great grandfather, who died in 1913, was a well known jeweler in Salonika.”

He is of Greek Jewish origin from the mother’s side and Hungarian origin from the father’s side. This explains his support of the Greek while they are in economic crises. His Greek heritage explains his resentment to the idea of Turkey being part of the EU.

The idea of disowning French citizens of foreign origin when they commit a crime might seem like an easy solution but is it fair? What if every nation found a way to take away citizenship of their criminals? It is every modern society’s responsibility to deal with crime while respecting human rights of those who committed the felony.

This is one of the issues that need to be corrected by Turkey in order to become Europe appropriate.

What if Turkey went into the roots of their criminals and singled out the Kurds, Bosnian, Circassian, Armenian, Greek, Georgian and many other origins and simply took away their citizenships? The idea seems so ridiculous that I would not even humor with it. Yet France the land of liberty is seriously considering such a solution to their problem.

It is a slippery road.  Europe wants to get rid of those who do not seem to fit in. Traditionally it was possible for them to treat the people in their colonies one way and have different standards towards the people of Europe. Now that some of those people have legally become citizens of Europe, acting with double standard has become more difficult. Solutions, suggested by a leader, of the land of democracy are ironically anti-democratic. 

 What makes Europe appealing to the rest of the world?

  • Freedom
  • Respectful environment towards human rights
  • Culture
  • Economic Stability

Europe has lost a large part of its appeal in terms of economical stability, as they are suffering. Freedom and culture are still there, respectful environment towards human rights is becoming questionable. Economics can be fixed but the compromise on its core values will be an interesting evolution to observe while the history of European civilization is being re-shaped.

Peter Hitchens seems to be terribly worried of the idea of Turkey’s admittance to Europe. One of his recently written articles, end with the below quoted sentence.

**Now we may have to pay attention. Among the bayonet-like minarets and helmet-like domes of ancient Istanbul an East wind is blowing, which I think will chill us all.”

He took pictures at one very conservative Islamist neighborhood of Istanbul and used them as an argument that they reflect the ideas of a whole nation. This is like taking pictures of Orthodox Jews and claiming the whole nation is strictly Orthodox. The portrait of Turkey that he drew in this article although completely biased, very well explains the fear of Turkish presence in Europe. This dread has been ongoing throughout history, so it is nothing new. As expressed by the American journalist Timothy Sexton, in the below quote, Europe had been worried of Turks for a long time.

 

***”Much to the chagrin of the Vatican, just a few years later saw the Turks driving forcefully all the way to the Hungarian border. This threat was countered in the typical manner with which the Pope sought to defend his Church: a crusade. Like most of the others, this crusade also ended with devastating losses by the Christian armies, this time during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. After this victory, it looked for all the world like Europe was about to find itself becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.”

The past is in the past. The truth of today’s world is that there is an Islamic population residing and holding citizenship in Europe. It cannot be reversed, unless terribly antidemocratic steps are taken. Whether Turkey becomes part of Europe or not will not change the fact that European have to learn to coexist and tolerate different cultures. As these citizens ideally, have equal rights like any other citizen of Europe oppressing them towards integration leads to antidemocratic behavior.

 

Ironically Turks come from a tradition of tolerance towards differences. Throughout most of the years of the Ottoman Empire, Christians Jews and Muslims co-existed without religious oppression. As expressed in an interview by History Expert, Aron Rodrigue at Stanford University.

****”While it certainly changed over its five-hundred-year existence, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most remarkable historical examples of coexistence among different religious and social groups.”

How is that relevant?

The world is changing and whether we like it or not the global environment is forcing societies to tolerate and coexist around differences.  The feared Turkish presence might actually help integrating the already existing Islamic presence in Europe. David Domínguez-Navarro very well explains how Jews and Christians were not only tolerated but protected and integrated into the society during Ottoman times. Turks come from a tradition of co-existing in spite of differences and therefore managed to create a comfortable environment for members of all religions.

*****”The expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 brought to an end what had been the most economic and cultural successful Jewish community in the Western World. As a result, the largest centers of Iberian Jews found a new shelter in the Ottoman Empire where they also met other Jewish groups and minorities from Europe previously incorporated to the Ottoman territories. The relationship between the Jews and the Ottomans had a strong influence on Islam’s acceptance of the Jews as one of the “peoples of the book”.

In Muslim lands, Jews along with Christians were considered dhimmi, or “protected ones”, they were to be tolerated and had freedom to practice their religions (2). This tolerant attitude towards the Jews existed before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 in the Muslim controlled Spain, and allowed the development of a successful Spanish Jewish community after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 when they were welcome by sultan Bayazid II to establish themselves in his domains. Throughout the sixteenth century they played a key role in the Ottoman economy and public life and enjoyed religious freedom, safety and prominence not comparable to anywhere else since the Golden Age of Spain during the Caliphate of Córdoba 

Although they maintained a social and cultural system of their own they remained an active part of Ottoman urban society, greatly involved in the daily life, they became a pivotal influential minority during this period, and contributed to the commercial, professional and financial development of the Empire.”

Aside from tolerating differences, the Ottoman system ensured all members of the Empire were involved and contributed to the development of the whole.

It is ironic that Sarkozy’s ancestors who had been expulsed by King Ferdinand were sheltered by the Turks, that he seems to oppose so strongly now. It was their tolerance that created a comfortable home for an expulsed community. 

Sarkozy’s solution of expulsion will not serve in long term and Europe will come to the point of seeking ways of integrating people of different origins. Turkish experience might come in handy since the issue of foreign origin’s presence in Europe will not go into thin air.

 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10820457

 http://www.ejpress.org/article/16221

 http://www.stanford.edu/group/SHR/5-1/text/rodrigue.html

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1299213/Peter-Hitchens-disturbing-picture-growing-repression-heart-Eurabia.html

 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/33307/the_ottoman_empire_and_its_effect_on.html?cat=37

 http://www.tarbutsefarad.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3579%3Aeconomic-role-of-the-spanish-jewry-in-the-sixteenth-century-ottoman-empire&catid=1305%3Adiaspora&Itemid=101450&lang=es

 

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8 Comments

Filed under faith, Islam, Religion, Society, thoughts

8 responses to “Could Turks lead the way to Tolerance in Europe?

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