ANKARA: Dreaming of Europe

Dreaming of Europe
by NEVVAL SEVINDI

Zaman, Turkey
Sept 29 2004

One of the most prominent names in Ottoman Istanbul was a Jewish
doctor named Giacomo di Gaeta, who escaped from Italy’s Renaissance
intolerance, and took refuge in the empire.

In the streets of Istanbul, where Greek, Armenian, Albanian, Bulgarian
and Serbian languages were spoken, besides Turkish, Persian and Arabic,
the attitude that defied nationalism lasted for centuries.

The mutual love and respect that existed in this multinational
and multicultural empire, have not been experienced in Europe yet.
Neighbors celebrated Greek, Armenian, and Turkish festivals together,
one after the other. Istanbul was the place of religious festivals.
Furthermore, they visited each other’s churches and holy graves
together to light candles and pray, as it is today. While Dante
threw Prophet Mohammed into his “hell,” Mevlana called upon all
mankind, saying, “Come whoever you are!” He also said, “This is
not a door.of hopelessness.” When we look at an expanding Europe,
we see that Europeans still have a long way to go. Continuing to see
Western culture as the “superior culture,” in an elite manner, it is
nonetheless incumbent upon Europeans to dream of a new Europe. Along
with the different languages, religions and cultures, Islam will
enter the continent legally for the first time with the help of
Turkey. Turks coming from a culture, where nations and cultures blend
together, can bring a new understanding to the knights of the castle
and the princedoms. Is multiculturalism an ideology that the West
opposes, as Huntington said? Is it not necessary to put and end to
this “only supreme Western Christian culture” ideology of the West,
whose traces from the Middle Ages and later periods have still not
been erased? Europe, which is borderless and multicultural, resembles
a dough that can be reshaped. You can make heart-shaped cookies as
well as bastions. However, can the various cultures from neighboring
countries brought into Western culture form a multicultural world? Or
will the racist views continue, like a caricature published in the
supposedly esteemed Stern magazine? Europe has to cross-examine
itself. It did not do this during the Bosnia War; at least it must
do so while it is expanding.

If Stern can rain insults on Turks as easily as it did, then Neo-Nazis
entering the parliaments in the former East German states should be
no surprise.

Even after 50 years, the existence of strong racist roots, the rise
of neo-Nazism and the far-right indicate that Germany has not yet been
able to grasp the spirit within the EU. Please, dream of a new Europe!

If Europeans, through cross-examination, do not come to face with
their identities and the new multicultural situation in the expansion
process, then this will be left to the fascists and neo-Nazis.
Europeans and Germans, who will be living with Muslim neighbors,
should start opening up their inner senses for discussion right now.
And the Turks have to understand that the European identity is not
only about the economy. The common denominator is humanism and to
share human values.

The debate on whether or not Turkey is a model is on a naive track.
Turkey has become a model as much as it could. It has established a
lifestyle envied by Middle Eastern and Arab countries. It is not an
80-year model, but an-800-year model. Belittling this does not earn
us anything. Does it earn the West anything? For the “alternative”
is Turkey with a working model of Muslim identity. The prejudiced view
of Westerners is normal. Anyway, childish reasons such as Arabs should
not be offended, are by no means materials for books. I hope the hate
channel among nations, divided by artificial borders and antagonism
after the Ottoman rule, will not be Turkey. This is a topic that can
be better understood after reading a little bit of history.

While Europe is admitting us into its fold, it has to dream of
internalizing: A European dream. In this dream, there is love and
toleration of other cultures.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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