CPJ Dangerous Assignments

“A Letter to Learn From”
By Ihsan Sureyya Sirma
Published in Milli Gazete,April 14, 1999

There are elections (!) next Sunday. We will elect our so-called representatives. We should think carefully before we decide who to vote for.

If we persist in voting for the mentality that closes our religious schools and our Quran courses and imprisons mayors who recite poetry, then we will probably never have the right to complain about anybody…

Recently, I was invited to a conference held at the Islamic University in Holland. After the conference, somebody gave me a letter that expressed the oppression of people who wear headscarves in Turkey. It is typical of the thousands of letters I receive.

“To the President of the Islamic University in Rotterdam:

My name is S.D. I read about the Islamic University in Selamnewspaper. I was born in Kayseri in 1980. My father died in 1988. My mother is a housewife, and our financial situation is not very good. I entered the Sakarya University Pre-Education Teaching Department in 1997-1998. In my first year, I was disciplined (though not expelled) for wearing a headscarf. But then came a second interrogation on the same charge. It now seems likely that I will be suspended from college.

It’s bad enough that I must fight with my family, my friends, and the society I live in over my ideals, without also having to deal with problems like this. That’s why I’m looking for a university where I can study without giving up my beliefs … Please send me detailed information about the Islamic University. If I am given the chance to attend your university, I believe that I will be successful…

Best regards, S.D.”

This letter comes from Turkey, which is supposed to be a 99-percent Muslim country. But Muslims are not allowed to live as Muslims in this country anymore. So a Muslim citizen of this Muslim country wants to move to a Christian country in order to live as a devout Muslim because there, Muslims can live and study according to their beliefs: no one interferes with their headscarves and beards. This reminds us of the time when, on the orders of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims left Mecca for the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia because they were not allowed to practice their religion at home.

There is no doubt that people are observing what is going on and waiting for election day so that they can call such behavior to account.

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