Interfaith leaders in Istanbul pledge to counter extremism

"We have the opportunity to turn 80 million Muslims into friends," says Ayoob Kara who led the delegation from Israel comprised of rabbis, sheikhs and a priest.

Religious leaders in Turkey (photo credit: Courtesy)
Religious leaders in Turkey
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A delegation from Israel comprised of rabbis, sheikhs and a priest resolved in Istanbul on Thursday to form an interfaith convention – along with their Turkish hosts – that will arbitrate disputes in the Middle East and Muslim world to counter religious extremism and promote peace.
The Israeli group arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday at the beckoning of Adnan Oktar, known also as Harun Yahya, a philosopher and theologian with a large following in the Muslim world. The delegation was led by Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee, Ayoob Kara.
Also taking part in it were Holon’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef, who is the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and part of the Chief Rabbinical Council; Rabbi Avraham Sherman of the Supreme Rabbinic Court; Chief Rabbi of Ohr Yehuda and Sha’ar Hanegev, Zion Cohen; Secretary of the Shas party, Rabbi Zvi Jacobson; the Vatican’s representative to the Middle East, Fr. Giries Mansoer; and Druse Sheikh, Yusuf Hirbawi.
“Through joint efforts, we must find the formula to cancel the legitimacy of people who use religion for religious extremism and bring disasters upon the world,” Kara said after the joint press conference wrapped up a round of meetings.
“When a supreme body that will force all to act according to the Creator’s will shall be formed, the level of religious extremism will drop since God commanded us to not murder and use his name in vain. These imperatives have become vague after certain people used God’s name in vain to break the most important commandment of not murdering, and turned the world into a killing field in the name of God,” he added.
It is Oktar who will be organizing the meeting in Turkey this year, which will host 1,200 religious leaders. A second meeting of the forum will be aimed at taking place in Jerusalem, where a peace accord will be announced along the lines of Oktar’s vision of the Turkish Islamic Union he is promoting – based in Turkey and including dozens of countries from the area, including Israel and other non-Muslim states, which will enjoy the protection of Turkey.
The religious leaders, rabbis and Mr. Oktar talked about peace and brotherhood in the region.
“There are no conflicts in religions,” Oktar’s assistant Seda Aral said. “That’s false propaganda from the point of Islam and Judaism. We are all children of Abraham, and there should be no problem with each other.
Oktar is trying to revive the feelings of brotherhood and compassion and love for each other, though there is cold tension at the moment.
“But [conflict] can’t be done away with political agreement – rather by reviving brotherly feelings and through understandings – which is why we need the involvement of religions leaders. One can’t end violence and terror and expect peace by making more conflict. You can only battle opinions with opinions – violence just breeds more violence. This is our ideological struggle. You can almost call it our jihad,” she added.
Kara told The Jerusalem Post, “we decided on forming an interfaith convention in Turkey that would deal with the surging religious radicalization; attended by Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and any other Arab nation with religious problems ... Israel as well. The convention will also form a religious court that will arbitrate on the disputes in the Middle East and Muslim world.”
Kara explained that the meetings focused on the dangers of religious radicalization and ways to counter it, initiated by Oktar, who also reiterated to the delegates that “Israel has a right to exist in peace, and with sustainable borders,” Kara said.
The meeting was an expression of the desire on both sides to see relations between Jerusalem and Ankara warm up, he continued.
“Turkey is eager to reestablish its ties with Israel. They realize how beneficial the relationship is to them,” he noted.
Acutely aware of the danger of standing out as a political figure amongst religious leaders, Kara – a Druse – said how flattered he was to have the trust of the spiritual leaders who took part in the visit.
Kara said this year’s delegation created hope.
“I am very encouraged by this visit, we have the opportunity to turn 80 million Muslims into non-enemies, and make them once again friends.”