Open Letter to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)


Date posted: August 24, 2014

August 23, 2014, AYDOĞAN VATANDAŞ

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) a Muslim umbrella group that has been described in the media as the largest Muslim organization in North America is known with its annual conventions which focus the attention of North American Muslims upon the needs of other Muslims both throughout the world and on the continent.

ISNA explains its vision statement as ‘to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.’

And the mission statement is explained as follows:

‘To foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.’

As a journalist living in the U.S, I believe that ISNA, has played a crucial role to construct an Islamic community in a modern and secular society, enshrining Islamic ideals and effecting Muslim thought in North America during the decades.

I have been so glad to see that in these conventions intellectual stimulation came from the variety of scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, devoted Muslim community leaders and businessmen.

However, the convention that will be held between August 29-September 1 of this year, I am sad to see that ISNA gave a room for a panel program titled ‘Turkey at a Crossroads’ which allegedly aims to take a closer look to the events listed as
•Taksim Square and Gezi Park Events,
• Series of Leaked Audio Tapes,
• Political Coup trial against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey,
• The situation of Kurdish people in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
• Developments after two elections (Local and presidential), and
upcoming General Election.

However, while some of the topics of the panel explicitly aim to attack Gulen Movement, which was subjected to a ‘witch hunt campaign’ by PM and -newly elected president- Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the speakers are affiliated with Turkish government or pro-government entities, it is sad to see that ISNA failed to provide a fair and balanced panel discussion.

While known as a devoted organization to aim providing insights, affirmations, and appreciation of Muslims in North America, which would hopefully replace prejudicial, arrogant, dialectical confrontation towards the Muslims in North America, with mutual respect and dialogical encounter, it is so sad to see ISNA supporting an initiative to demonize another Muslim society which aims to promote Islam and mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures all over the world.

When North American Muslims were faced with the question, ‘Is it possible to maintain the Islamic view of life in a society which apparently operates on a secular basis, Gulen movement was one of the few like ISNA which believed it is.

When some of the leaders of ISNA, encouraged the Muslims to engage in dialogue to the point of discovering the commonalities in the North American context, Mr. Fethullah Gulen was on the same page. By engaging in dialogue, both the leaders of ISNA and Gulen movement believed that they could arrive at a point where Muslim and non-Muslims would be able to make strong affirmations concerning their own faith, a mutuality, unthreatened by the other, without a feeling of being intimidated by one another.

In order to reach that goal, serving as the servants of their societies wherever they live in the globe, they opened thousands of schools, charities, universities, hospitals, and cultural centers. They believed that leaders are first appointed to serve, not to rule.

In an article appeared at the New York Times in 2008 titled ‘Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam’ reads as follows:

‘The Turkish schools, which have expanded to seven cities in Pakistan since the first one opened a decade ago, cannot transform the country on their own. But they offer an alternative approach that could help reduce the influence of Islamic extremists.’

‘They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.’

Speaking at the Pakistan-Turkey Business Forum, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pointed out the historical alliance between the two countries and paid compliments to the PAK-TURK schools established by Turkish entrepreneurs.

During his speech, Sharif praised the PAK-TURK schools by saying: “The 23 PAK-TURK schools have played a great role in improving relations between the two countries in terms of cultural and emotional bonds. I want you to know that Pakistan always regards Turkey as a friend and an ally.”

Some of the leaders of ISNA in the past have encouraged Muslims to open schools. This particular goal was successfully accomplished by a devoted Muslim group, Gulen movement, all around the world.

While the biggest problem of the Muslims of our age is known as ‘education’, how can one explain the ambition of Erdogan to close down all these schools all around the world, which are in service of humanity.

Erdoğan accuses Gulen movement over the leaks and the massive graft probe that has engulfed his government and resulted in the resignation of four cabinet members since mid-December. Even though we have no evidence that the corruption probe was politically motivated or not, it does not necessarily mean that we should ignore the evidences presented by the prosecutors. In an article appeared Al Monitor, Noted Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, author of ‘Islam Without Extremes’ writes as follows:

‘The “parallel state” narrative cannot serve as a basis for the government to mount an all-out war against an entire civic movement. That would mean the end of the rule of law. Similarly, the government cannot subjugate the judiciary to itself on the grounds it is stamping out the “parallel state.” That would mean the end to the separation of powers; that is, a shift to dictatorship.’

In an article appeared at American Conservative, Dr. Philip Giraldi, an ex-CIA officer and executive director of the Council for the National Interest writes that there is no evidence of such a judicial coup against Erdogan: ‘Erdogan has claimed that there is a “judicial coup” against him linked to the followers of exiled former ally Fethullah Gulen, a conspiracy which he has called in his usual colorful fashion both a “parallel state” and “blood sucking vampires.” But, apart from numerous arrests, the reassignments of police officers and prosecutors and an ongoing investigation, no evidence has been actually produced to suggest that there is anything approaching a large-scale coordinated effort to discredit or remove him.’

In all democratic countries the corruption cases of this magnitude can overthrow the Governments. This is why Erdogan and his party’s media machine call it as ‘coup attempt.’ The truth is that by reassigning the prosecutors and the police officers that were in charge of the corruption probe was the real coup attempt to Turkish judicial system and democracy.

Erdogan also accuses Gulen Movement for the leaks. However, Erdogan keeps quiet when it has already appeared that German Government has been wiretapping Erdogan since 2009. US President Barack Obama also avoided answering a question regarding the wire-tapping of Erdogan in his interview with Germany’s ZDF in January 2014.

I am hundred percent sure that in that particular case ISNA was not fully informed about that panel discussion program is being organized by the Turkish government which demonizes and oppresses all the social groups in Turkey who do not pledge complete obedience to Erdogan’s leadership. As a devoted organization that came into being on the basis and the ideals of the Qur’an, the hadith and the Sunnah, ISNA can easily realize that a panel discussion program which aims to separate and polarize the American Muslims does not match the traditional vision and mission of the annual conventions of ISNA.

Source: Today's Zaman , August 23, 2014


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