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Gülen: "European Union Favors Turkish Muslims"

by Mehmet Gündem on . Posted in Mehmet Gündem's Interview in Milliyet Daily

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How do you interpret the start of a negotiation process between the EU and a Muslim country, in terms of Europe's identity and vision?

To date, how Turkey will benefit from this process has been discussed, generally speaking. I am not sure whether European countries are aware, but what Turkey will bring in is much more important. If they are aware of this and still resist, that means their obstinacy has dominated over sound thinking. As a matter of fact, there are many benefits out of this relationship for the reputation and future of Europe.

Our intelligentsia have always chased after the idea of "becoming European." Since the Tanzimat reforms, we have been involved in this process, which gained momentum with the Republic. The first serious agreement was realized in 1963, followed by discussions and forums both in favor and against. I remember in 1966-67 listening to high-profile people who did not approve of this process. Their arguments coincide with those who are against it today: "It is a Christian club; they will trick us; they will make us Christian. . ."

Some Muslims have recently published and distributed books on such grounds: "if they (Europeans) come, they will influence us and steal our youth from us, with the way they look, their mentality, their conception of religion, their notion of God . . ." Europeans, on the other hand, at that time, probably had concerns about our economic poverty and our being Muslims. Perhaps, they were not confident enough about their own religious values, but they did not reveal these inner worries. I don't know if such worries still prevail, but it was evident that they did not have any intention to admit us in.

Have you observed a change in this intention in the present process?

In Germany, the Turkish community, who it was thought could assimilate, has preserved its existence and retrieved its identity after two or three generations. While they were previously under the influence of others, they became a community of their own, influencing others. We have learned, on various occasions, that both in the US and Europe there is a warmer feeling toward Turkish people than toward other Muslim communities. They regard Turkish Muslims as being more lenient. Perhaps, democracy, the Republic and secularism (in Turkey) play a comforting role in their cordial approach. Moreover, Turkish Islam is on the agenda more in the US and Europe than in Turkey.

What about the negotiation date that has been announced?

Even if it is not certain whether we will enter the EU or when it will happen, the announcement of a date has had a significant effect on Turkish nation. It appears to be a success that has been accomplished by the current government. There are many aspects to be questioned, but I don't want to put too much emphasis on them, for this may be (wrongfully) perceived as political aspirations. (This date for) our membership is good news more for Europeans than it is for us, and it should have been welcomed as such.

Why do you think it is good news for Europe?

Because there are powers who want to dominate in the region. The Chinese have already penetrated, through their competitive trade, and by way of their gentle conduct. Neither the US nor Europe can challenge them. It is certain that there will be serious revolutions in economics and China is threatening the world in this respect.

By alliance with Turkey how can Europe pose a power against Chinese expansion?

Turkey can be a bridge across the Middle East and the Far East. Europe is in need of Turkey's profound and rich heritage of insight into the Middle East. They have accepted Cyprus, but Turkey is a much more important country, and Europe has to make due assessment on this. Another dimension of the matter is that, although the current governments cannot appreciate it, there is in the public level a remarkable sympathy and appeal for Turkish people due to our historical credit and psychological influence. Our history and the present republican democratic administration both play a role in this. We can actively observe this in countries where (Turkish) educational activities are taking place. Therefore, Europe can become a power in the region only if they can win Turkey. The US wants to maintain its dominance in the region as well. The US administration has so far seemed to support Turkey's membership to the EU; this can be argued. The US would not wish to lose an ally like Turkey or its alliance with another power, if they want to sustain their power.

What do you think about the government's performance during the summit in Brussels, was it submissive or bargaining?

Many statesmen have endeavored toward this goal. All of this effort would be in vain if another collapse were to be suffered. The government was under the influence of this psychology. There were things that happened in Brussels which I regarded highly.

Like ?

The determination to leave the meeting befitted our nation's honor. It meant "we don't need this; let them recognize their own needs." This move at such a crucial moment proved to be to our advantage and a step back was taken. Crucial moments do not always conclude favorably; they may have said "you can leave." (Our government) spoke with others, one by one, and discussed every issue separately, which I appreciated. This was a noteworthy end to the efforts of many statesmen. More importantly, a lesson was taught to the Europeans there.

What kind of a lesson?

The flags of each country were placed at where the representatives stood. My eyes watered when Mr Erdogan and Mr Abdullah Gul lifted our flag, our sacred banner. I wished that they would kiss it and blow the dust off. Abdullah Gul did so and put the flag in his pocket. This was a lesson that was as important as the summit to show the attitude of the Turkish people toward certain values. Sometimes we need to look at the bright sides of things. When disadvantageous results are attained, it is better to continue criticism with sound insight, but there are many other positive things which are fortunate for the reputation of our nation. I think these were observed by all our intelligentsia and will be appreciated. Criticism, on the other hand, should be done without emotions and not be made an instrument for political aspirations. I would appreciate any such work for the sake of our country. The government, likewise, should also be appreciated without any carping, for any of their acts that are worthy.