Abant Platform on Africa

İhsan Yılmaz
İhsan Yılmaz


Date posted: June 28, 2013

For three days I will be away from Turkey’s increasingly suffocating internal politics. For this reason alone I am grateful to the Journalists and Writers Foundation, organizer of the Abant Platform on Africa.

I think this three-day event will, among other things, show us, Turks, that there is a huge world outside Turkey and that we need to be humble about our country. Our Turkey-centric approach and our obsession with internal politics — which pave the way for ignorance of the outside world — will be challenged in this and similar meetings.

The meeting will have five sessions: One, “Africa: Images and Realities”; two, “Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence”; three, “Education in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities”; four, “Health in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities”; and five, “Economic Development of Africa: Different Approaches to Sustainable Growth.” I want to specifically focus on the first and second sessions.

The decision to have sessions on “Africa: Images and Realities” and “The Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence” reminds me of the Hizmet movement’s worldview. This worldview first and foremost rests on humility. Second, it does not see itself as having a “civilizing mission” but a mission to build bridges between different individuals, nations, groups, countries, religions and civilizations so that they will know each other better, accept each other as they are and cooperate for a better world. The first session’s title implies that we must be humble about our knowledge of Africa. Second, it suggests that it is wrong to project our constructions, myths and imaginings onto Africa. Third, we must make an effort to have an interactive dialogue with Africans, instead of speaking and making decisions on their behalf. These three themes are also suggested by the title of the second session.

The title “Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence” has more to tell us. It is both a subtle challenge and also an offer to help solve the problems of Western modernity, which focuses on values such as growth, “progress,” technology and power. From this perspective, Africa as it is has almost nothing to offer the world, it is at the consumer-end of these modernistic values. If that is the constructed case, then from a modernist perspective, Africa deserves to be conquered, ruled, civilized, colonized and controlled by more “progressed” civilizations.

To cut a long story short, just think of the movie “Avatar.” The genius of James Cameron has reminded us moderns once more how ignorant we are when it comes to other cultures and civilizations. We are not only ignorant but also despicably ridiculous; we aren’t even aware of our ignorance and claim to have a monopoly over the truth just because we are more powerful, thanks to our technology, than others. The Quran refers to us, humans, as God’s vicegerents on Earth, but we are also told that humans are the most ignorant and cruel to the truth (zaluman jahula). Colonizing humans in the movie Avatar learned their lesson the hard way. When it comes to Africa, it will take some time to come to terms with our ignorance and wrongdoings.

But when we do, we will have agonizingly and repentantly learned that before the colonization and shameless exploitation of Africa, it indeed had a civilization, a different understanding of the cosmos and an excellent worldview based on harmony and order in nature, where humans know and respect their limits and responsibilities. For several years, I have taught a course called “Legal Systems of Asia and Africa” at SOAS, University of London, and this course not only looks at Africans’ modern systems but their traditional ones as well. Our students learn the ways in which Africans have law and order in their society. Yet from an ignorant, modern, legal positivist perspective, all you can see is a chaotic jungle. In the name of being “scientific,” what a disservice to the truth!

It is high time such courses are offered at Turkish universities.

Source: Today’s Zaman, 28 June, 2013


Related News

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

It seems that the bias of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest judicial body in Turkey, may force the Turkish government to pay a large sum of money, according to a prominent computer expert, who monitors erroneous decisions of the Constitutional Court on Internet applications used by Turkish citizens.

General Staff ordered broadcasting of anti-Gülen recordings

Journalist Mehmet Ali Birand has claimed that the General Staff ordered the broadcasting of anti-Fethullah Gülen audio recordings by some TV stations in the run up to the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention.

Mothers meet in İstanbul to mark Mother’s Day, see their children

A mother, Vera Stamova from Moldova, expressed similar feelings. “My two children study in Turkey. My younger daughter studied in Turkish schools [in Moldova]. She received a quality education. I love Turkey and I have great confidence in Turkish people. If I had another child, I would also send her to Turkey. I miss them a lot, but they are very lucky and are taken good care of here,” she said.

Turkey cooperating with Israel to help Gaza

Diplomatic sources confirmed that an official from the Turkish Red Crescent went to Israel to coordinate humanitarian aid to be sent to Gaza. “There is no other way to provide aid to Gaza,” said the sources on Thursday. Dismissing claims that the Turkish official will be negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza, sources said Turkey is only in contact with the officials from Hamas and the US regarding the Palestinian territory.

Hate crimes get worse in Turkey

Despite the fact that Turkey has recently adopted legislation against hate crimes, Turkey’s divisive Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not stopped his attacks with verbal expressions of intolerance and hatred directed at the judiciary, opposition parties, the media, business groups and members of the Hizmet movement, a faith-based civic movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Islamic scholar Gülen urges followers to remain calm in face of insults

Fethullah Gülen, the inspiration behind the Hizmet movement, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to insult and target with a smear campaign, threatening to pursue criminal proceeding against it, has urged his followers to remain calm and avoid making inflammatory remarks about those who appeal to insults.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Political predictions for 2014

“Somalis will remember your aid”

A House Divided: Civil Society and Democracy in Turkey

Vision-impaired journalist, under arrest for 7 months, denied access to Braille books in prison

Advisor’s claim has potential to accelerate AK Party’s downfall

“1915” by Prof. Ihsan Yilmaz (1)

Turkish Olympiad held in Philippines enchants audience

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News