The Protests of Taksim Gezi Park and the Root of the Problems
Since we do not use the way of the Prophets, their inheritors, saints and sincere friends of God, we are unable to handle problems. We are committing so many wrongdoings just to eliminate one wrongdoing. We cause various kinds of wrongdoings and injustice to happen. We only add fire to the flames of grudge and hatred. We cause things to grow out of control. And today you see the examples in the streets. There are worse examples, perhaps. In the books of hadith referring to chaotic events of the future (Kitab al-Fitan wa’l-Malahim), the Prophet foretells worse events. The current turmoil can then be seen only as a sampling of those larger chaotic events; accordingly, people will kill one another but none of them will know why these killings are taking place. There will be repeated damage to people and properties, but none of them will have any reasonable, licit and lawful basis. Things will happen helter-skelter. Predictions of God’s Messenger relate such events in detail; thus, these current events seem to be micro-scale samples.
If we take these events lightly, we will resemble the forty fools: they took each other by the hand so that they could get down to the bottom of a cliff, but of course they all fell down together. Thirty nine of them died and only one survived with serious injuries and broken bones. When people asked him what happened, he answered that they would nearly get into trouble, treating the situation much too lightly. This is how the insensitive people disregardful of the consequences usually view this issue.
And on the other side, some people say, “Why are they engaging in violence and causing harm? Why are they breaking the glasses of innocent people’s windows? They throw Molotov cocktails into houses, dorms, schools, universities, and even into banks!” Illogical and inhuman behavior prevails. Yet, if you make sweeping overgeneralizations by saying: “This has nothing to do with the issue of standing up for some rights,” then this means turning a blind eye to the innocent demands of the innocent people among them. We neglected these people first of all. These generations are a fruit of our neglect. Secondly, they may have some acceptable demands. They can express themselves saying, “The park needs to be preserved, and trees should not be uprooted. Ecosystem should be protected, and so on.” That said, the crowd may not, however, keep the balance while trying to protect a park they enjoy. As opposed to their very aim, they can damage the environment themselves, upset the general harmony and leave nothing behind for an ecosystem. Therefore, insensitivity on one issue, or failure to understand it, may lead to excessive behavior in some people while it may lead to a different form of apathy in others. May God protect!
On the other hand, some people both at home and abroad try to take advantage of our weaknesses and abuse innocent people’s innocent demands (by provoking the masses). As some creatures are all ears for hearing sounds, such abusers are all ears for opportunities to abuse. The media throughout the world are against Turkey now; they are unfortunately acting as if the apocalypse has started. Significantly worse disasters happen in Syria, but the media does not care at all. Similar things happen in Iraq, but once again, the media is silent. They do not even care about suicide attackers in different parts of the world. Turkey, however, is in a critical position to become a balancing factor in the region. It has made certain kinds of progress.
On the one hand, there are those innocent demands. On the other hand, there is the abuse of those demands by certain circles within the country, or the use of those demands as a counter move by certain ideologies. Others from abroad take full advantage of the events for their ulterior motives. Our negligence and inability to see the well-planned strategies of abuse by others has resulted in the current conflicts.
In fact, the Messenger of God told about this picture. He said it would happen after the general public was alienated from their spiritual heritage. For this reason, we need to revise our point of view.
“Who is to blame for this unrest? Those who overlooked the protests by labeling it as ‘this and that’? Or should we blame those who are involved in the violence? Or should we blame the system overall?” Does the problem lie with our failure to raise and develop good generations? Or to not have guided them as we should? If so, then the system needs to be revised. We need to revise our own thoughts again. If we do this – if we face ourselves honestly, and openly self-criticize – we can be saved from greater concerns. If we do not face ourselves now, we will be facing issues we cannot tackle later, may God protect us. We need to revise our moral education systems. Whose children are those youth who act so unreasonably on the streets? They pursue no righteous cause; if they did, they would gather somewhere, express their feelings in a civilized way, and then leave. Some would receive their message, and they could gather to repeat it for those who did not understand. They could become organized in a way. Given that people make their choice through elections, they could work seriously towards that avenue. They could try to convince people by telling them about their positions and complaints. They vote for what they like. If they do not like the choice, they can wait patiently for the next election and choose a different one.
It seems we have damaged ourselves. The matter lies with the grass roots. Since the ground has lost its fertility, and the atmosphere has become corrupt, we witness such illegitimate events, and certain generations who represent these events. Until the time we tackle our human failings, the problems will remain unsolved. We need to see what we did. We failed to revise the system. “How is it possible for us to raise a generation that will honestly self-supervise? How can we raise a humane generation that will not respond to destruction with more destruction but instead with construction?” This is the real question, and we failed to think about it.
The Qur’an says, “…Your responsibility is your selves (so consider how you are faring along your own way). Those who go astray can do you no harm if you yourselves are rightly guided (and so follow your right way without deviation)…” (al-Maedah 5:105). That is, your unity and unswerving course on the righteous path will mitigate even the most negative factors. We failed to look at ourselves. We did not check whether we were on the righteous path. We failed to raise generations who were conscious of right and wrong. We watched without concern, dismissing them as “just a small bunch.” And they began to run amok, attacking here and there. What they really need is to be treated with sympathy and compassion. They are trampling human values under their feet; they are trampling their own values. Even though it seems too late for today’s generation, there should be systems to develop them beneficently for tomorrow. What can we do to develop them? What can we do to remind them that God created them in the best pattern and bring them into line with humane ways? How can we prevent them from harming people and human values? How can we remind them not to harm their country so that they do not let others abuse this against their own country and make all of us face certain plans impossible to overcome?
If you display some weakness, others usually plan to take advantage of it. While you are already in such a weak state, they shatter you into pieces, as they did it with the Ottoman State. The most critical factor right now is our own weakness, our internal conflicts. Even if we cannot change the situation today, community leaders, scientists, psychologists, and educators should come together to generate relevant projects. What can we do to bring the generations who failed to pursue a humane course into line with humanity? How can we convince them of the value in serving their own country, of developing it into a great country by God’s grace?
One should not ignore or underestimate what goes on, just as one should not take fire or war lightly. As Imruu’l-Qays, one of the poets of the pre-Islamic Arabia, rightly said, “There are two things that you can start but cannot stop, even when you really wish to: One is fire and the other is war.” We have seen both, indeed. You can take this statement both literally and figuratively. Actually, the current events that we are going through are not much different than fire. And there is the issue of war. As is well-known, because of a few adventurers, who did not really know how to govern a state, unnecessarily firing at Russian ships on the Black Sea engaged the Ottoman State in World War I. A great state was thus brought to ruin. It is an essential of our culture to talk about previous generations with respect, but I cannot manage to forgive those who caused the destruction of a state, which had served as an important factor of balance among world powers. Let them account for what they did in Divine court; but I am not saying, “Let them enter Hell.” They will be called to account before the Divine court. That state was so important. A profane play by Voltaire, disrespectful toward the Prophet, was performed in Europe. It was the time of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The Ottomans were known as the “sick man of Europe” when the sultan gave an ultimatum, saying that he would declare war on them as the caliph of the believers and make the Muslim India march on them. Even during a period of such decline, like a wounded lion roaring, he made everybody in the forest straighten. Those few adventurers, however, brought that state to ruin and this is the truth that lies behind our wretched condition today. They joined the war but were unable to stop it when they wished. It took away everything, like a flood. Fire and war, they stop only when they will! For this reason, if you are able to put out a fire while it is small, do it right there. Otherwise, by the time it covers an entire field, it is too late. For this reason, even when faced with the smallest fire, we need to call all the fire brigadiers to help by shouting, “Get your equipment and come, there’s fire!”
If centers of learning are bombed, innocent ones are being killed, people are stopped with gas bombs, and if some turn a blind eye to all this by failing to see the underlying reasons, then the fire grows—God forbid!
I do not think that the character of the nation has been corrupted to that degree; not even bad ones are that bad. However, others who do not wish to let you grow into a factor of balance can take advantage of this. Turkey is a ball of problems, and those who surround it can take advantage of these problems. Even one of them can make everything into a mess. There is a covert agreement among them to not let you advance even one step further. You may console yourselves with an apparent “spring” here and there, when in reality, you are faced with the ice cold winds of fall.
We therefore need to be alert and act intelligently. We need to see the smallest problems as consequential, and we need to handle them in a smart way. If you are facing an invasion of ants, do not dismiss it. They reach into your pots of butter and honey, and pollute them with toxins; do not dismiss it. Taking problems lightly stems from light thinking, light reasoning, and light judgment. It is very important to see everything clearly, as they are. Then it becomes possible to generate well-placed projects and plans.
The souls devoted to building a new revival must be very cautious at this issue, very cautious. What is in our hands is a trust we inherited from the previous generations. If we face a betrayal or murder concerning our own personal life, we may be indifferent to that if we wish. But a betrayal concerning rights of the public—we can also call them God’s rights—cannot be ignored. God judges the responsible ones gravely. If we do not put a barrier against events that will result in a betrayal against an entire nation—may God protect—the issue grows so much that our neglect becomes a betrayal of the trust. However, we have to protect the trust against all odds, just as we protect our life and honor, until we hand it to the trustworthy generations to come. Let’s fulfill our responsibility, and put our trust in God, and then see what God will decree for us. God Almighty makes even the oppressors say, one day, “God has preferred you above us,” like his repentant brothers once said to Prophet Joseph.
We need to recite prayers against malevolence. You can divide sections of a prayer book, such as Al-Qulub ad-Dari‘ah, between friends, and thus complete reciting its prayers and litanies collectively. You can also read the names of the Ashab al-Badr; the blessed souls of those Companions are no different than heavenly spiritual beings. It has been tried on different occasions; such prayers became an invitation for Divine Providence, and seemingly unsolvable matters are solved by God’s grace.
There is really not much people like us can do; maybe I have been talking in vain. Until the moment we straighten ourselves… I heard a story from Osman Tarı, a former member of the parliament. There was a scholarly person known as Tahir Efendi among the members of the first parliament of Turkish Republic. As others gave enthusiastic talks, he preferred to keep silent in a corner. One day, his supporters insisted he also talk; they said that others were taking pride in their representatives’ talks, and they also expected the same. Tahir Efendi was a person who made short but concise remarks. He answered thus: “Dear congregation, know that you are the electors and I am the elected. We are destined for the house of elected ones (Parliament). The act you did is called intihab—election. “Intihab” comes from the word nuhbah, which means “cream.” Do not forget that the cream will be of the same nature with the substance used. The cream that gathers on top is the same with the substance in its base. Accordingly, yoghurt, milk, or lime will have a cream of the same kind with them.”
Upon hearing this anecdote, I said that what Tahir Efendi had expressed was indeed a very good paraphrasing of the hadith, “You are governed however you are.”
The issue needs to be dealt with at the grassroots level by restoring a morally wrecked generation. As Bediüzzaman puts it, our duty is to repair a fort that has been wrecked for centuries. For centuries, it was damaged from different directions. We need to grasp our responsibility, and begin cultivating the new generations. We need to let them embrace the values of their own spiritual heritage; they need to be taught such thinking and manners. Otherwise, these transgressions will continue. And continuing to respond to them in a reactionary fashion only makes us into bullies. The issue needs to be dealt with from the bottom-up. What is our problem? How can it be settled? The matter needs to be solved in compliance with the path of the Prophet. The Messenger of God, for whose sake God split the moon in two in an instant,1 strived so diligently during his entire twenty-three year period of Messengership to educate his people in patience. Had he prayed for it, God would immediately turn their hearts into angelic ones, as a miracle. But he was a teacher to guide people. What are the ways for a good upbringing, how much effort is required, how much brainstorming is needed? The Messenger of God showed it by suffering personally. This is what it takes; it is beyond human power to change it. God’s creational laws do not change. However, most people don’t know this; they are deaf and blind to it. This is the way to follow. As the famous poet Necip Fazıl puts it, “The rest are trivial matters.” What needs to be said to the miserable, crawling generations of long years is, as the poet says, “You have crept much with your face down; it is high time you stood upright!”
1. The manifest miracle of the moon split upon the gesture of the Noble Prophet is mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’anic chapter of al-Qamar (The Moon), which derives its name from the word “al-qamar” (the moon) in its first verse: “…and the moon has split” (al-Qamar 54:1). (Ed.)
This text is the translation of “323. Nağme: Taksim Gezi Parkı Hadiseleri ve Problemlerin Temeli“