For the past couple of years, and particularly over the last couple of days - my Jewish friends all over the world have expressed concern that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Turkey. First of all, Turkey has a population of over 70 million. There is a great deal of diversity and plurality in Turkey. There can be some isolated events and individual statements, but comments meant to present Turkey as a country that is becoming anti-Semitic are misleading and baseless. Israelis and our Jewish brothers and sisters in general should not be concerned at all because there is no question of Turks hating Israel or Jews in general, God forbid.
The Zionist conception of the devout Jewish people, who wish to live in peace and security in Israel alongside Muslims, seeking peace and wishing to worship in the lands of their forefathers and engaging in business is perfectly normal from an Islamic perspective. In that sense, as a Muslim, I support Zionism. I fully back the Jewish people living in peace and security in their own lands, remembering God, worshiping in their synagogues and engaging in science and trade in their own land.
What is not well-known is that the Zionist belief held by a devout Jew and based on the Torah does not in any way conflict with the Koran. What is more, the Jewish presence in that region is indicated in the Koran, in which it is revealed that God has settled the Children of Israel on it:
"Remember Moses said to his people: 'O my people! Call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.' (Koran, 5:20-21)
It is also revealed in the Koran that the Jews are a blessed people from the line of the Prophet Abraham and descended from the worthy prophets of God. There is no doubt that the Jews' efforts to migrate and build a homeland for themselves wherever they desire in the world is a most lawful demand. For that reason, it is the Jews' most natural right to wish to live in their own holy lands. Their ancestors lie buried in these lands, which are of the greatest significance to them. Indeed, God reveals in the Koran that He has settled the Jews in those lands.
"We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling-place, and provided for them sustenance of the best. It was after knowledge had been granted to them, that they fell into schisms. Verily Allah will judge between them as to the schisms amongst them, on the Day of Judgment." (Koran, 10:93)
In another verse God says referring to Jerusalem:
"And remember We said: 'Enter this town, and eat of the plenty therein as ye wish; but enter the gate with humility, in posture and in words, and We shall forgive you your faults and increase (the portion of) those who do good.'" (Koran, 2:58)
And there are other verses of the Koran that indicate the right of Jews to dwell in the Holy Land:
"They say, 'If we follow the guidance with you, we shall be forcibly uprooted from our land.' Have We not established a safe haven for them to which produce of every kind is brought, provision direct from Us? But most of them do not know it." (Koran, 28:57)
"And We said unto the Children of Israel after him: Dwell in the land; but when the promise of the Hereafter cometh to pass We shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations." (Koran, 17:104)
As revealed in the verses, God has settled the Jews in these lands, and Jews have the right to live freely on those lands, as do Muslims and Christians. This is also a promise of God for Jews to gather them in the Holy Land, only with the conditions realized. The words of the Torah state that God would only realize His promise to the Jews on the condition that they love Him and obey Him:
"And when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers..." (Deuteronomy, 30:2-5)
I also would like to point out my thoughts concerning the recent remarks attributed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As is the case with all ideologies, people can impart different meanings to them.
The word Zionism also has several very different meanings. It would be misleading to bundle them altogether and automatically assume the Prime Minister Erdogan was referring to them all. The word Zionism is associated with the connection of the Children of Israel to the Holy Land as well as with the biblical commandments that are required to be performed there. The word is also associated with the search of a community tied together by a common religious and cultural heritage; for a homeland free of persecution. Lastly, the word is associated with the specific political and strategic policy decisions of various administrations of the State of Israel, which are often anti-religious.
In the first two cases, the word Zionism is used only in the positive, constructive sense, that is, the building of a nation. It does not imply any criticism or condemnation of any other group whatsoever, so it is definitely not in the same category as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In addition, juxtaposing Zionism with racism does not have any basis in these two understandings of the term because racism cannot be tolerated in this Torah-linked Zionism:
"You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 23:9)
So I see it as particularly crucial for Prime Minister Erdogan to explain that he is not against the concept of Zionism, which represents the Jewish people's right to establish a state in Israel. It is also important that he clarify his intention and be specific about what he is critical of. And I would humbly ask him to explain what kind of Zionism he sees as a threat, or at least explain that he is referring to a cruel version that is far away from the moral virtue that Judaism teaches. I am sure that he will offer a new explanation that our Israeli brothers and sisters will be comfortable with.
In the Middle East's political arena, being opposed to Zionism and Israel is a good way to gain political power. If he is a writer or a leader of a religious group, then his position is strengthened. Anyone who is anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish is strengthened by the political right. But I will not permit the defamation of a member of the People of the Book who has not committed a crime. This is incompatible with my religious belief.
The Jews are the People of the Book, whom God created and praised for their good attributes and criticized for their errors, in the same way He talks about Muslims. As a Muslim I believe that Jews must be able to live according to their own faith in their own country. God says in the Koran that the Jews exist, and it is perfectly normal for them to live in Israel. And thus, I want both the Palestinians and the Israelis to co-exist.
The author is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at A9 TV. She is also the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization. To reach her: http://www.facebook.com/sinemtezyapar - Twitter: @SinemTezyapar