If only we had dialogue

I'm for dialogue, I always have been. Dialogue is infinitely better than having to conduct a one-way flow of ideas that leads nobody anywhere. I generally accept invitations for the exchange of ideas, especially if they're with foreign colleagues. The opportunities for dialogue that I've so far happened to take up have all been stimulating and inspiring.

I went to Kemer in Antalya last week for the annual Turkish-German journalists' gathering with the hope that my vision will improve to the extent that I'll better comprehend the direction in which the world is heading. Some of my hopes have been more than satisfied in the end. Together with some prominent journalists from Turkey, I set out with even more experienced and harder-to- convince counterparts from Germany.

The Germans, as you might expect, are very much interested in Turkey, not only because my country is on the way to becoming a member of the European Union in which Germany is a leading member, but also because of the presence of almost 3 million Turks who live in their midst. Whatever happens in Turkey, it's also of concern to the Germans.

When our session for discussion was opened up, German journalists rightfully raised the issues of mutual importance. Honor killings, for example, are shameful acts which we should do everything in our power to stop. A young female member of a Turkish family, who indulges with a youngster in an illicit way, and runs away with him or gets pregnant out of wedlock, is gravely penalized. The penalty mostly comes in the form of murder.

Our friends from Germany didn't mince their words on their unhappiness when a young girl is killed in Turkey by a member of her own family to pay for her indulgence. Some Turks commit honor killings in Germany too. We, the Turks, were ashamed to hear of what some of our compatriots do out of sheer ignorance. It's not easy to accept ignorance, but I took the burden of confessing it upon myself on behalf of those who commit honor killings.

The same goes for "imported brides." Turks have been living in Germany for the last 40 years, they have settled there, making it their permanent abode. Many, who were initially of the opinion of leaving Germany as soon as they retire, have now changed their minds and started to buy slots for themselves in Islamic cemeteries in their assumed country. Their ways, at least true for many "guest-workers," resemble those of Germans with one major exception: marriage. German girls don't fancy Turkish boys and vice versa, and even if they do fancy each other they don't end up marrying. Mixed marriages don't work in Germany too. More and more Turks choose their better halves from their own ilk, but mainly their ilk from Turkey.

The German journalists I encountered in Kemer, Antalya, complained about the phenomenon of "imported brides" and we, the Turkish journalists, found it very hard to defend this practice. I did my best to try to convince the audience that we shouldn't interfere in young people's love lives, but my German friends became even more infuriated by my defense and seemed to favor putting a legal end to the practice.

Dialogue is a two-way street; you listen to a complaint and react to it by giving your opinion, if your view gains acceptance you feel content, even if it gets a negative reaction you don't resent it, especially when the dialogue is between people of equal intelligence. Our dialogue in Kemer went smoothly and it was up to standard until it was time for us, the Turks, to raise our concerns.

Vakit, a Turkish newspaper published simultaneously in Germany, faced an irregular hardship there. After publishing a news item about a German politician, it was accused of anti-Semitism and the federal authorities decided to stop its publication without a court order. Otto Shilly, the German interior minister, didn't hesitate to put his signature to the decree for the closure of Vakit's European operations.

When I took this issue up in the symposium, only one of our German colleagues found it interesting enough to pursue. It's impossible to close down a publication in Turkey without first getting a court's say-so. A German journalist, in our on the spot discussion, suggested that the paper could go to the German court to reverse the administrative decision. I laughed a bit, reservedly.

Another important development concerning both Turks and Germans is the election of the new pope. The former Cardinal Ratzinger is German, and his election to the papacy was welcomed with euphoria by the German press. A popular German paper went even to the extreme of declaring, "We have become the pope." I took up the issue of the ideas presented by the new pope, Benedict XVI, concerning Islam. I added another German name for the same concern: Hans Peter Raddatz. Herr Raddatz, an influential German intellectual and a close associate of the newly elected pope, has published three books recently on purely Islamic themes, all of them unsympathetic and hostile to Islam.

My concerns didn't stir any reply from our German friends. This lack of interest on their part might have stemmed from my inability to underline the importance of the issue in the minds of Muslims: I believe that this matter will certainly come to the forefront when and if Pope Benedict XVI, with the help of close associates like Herr Raddatz, starts to deviate from the path of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The council set the rules for the Catholic Church in its dealings with non-Christian beliefs, a gigantic step indeed, since until that time the Church did not accept the relevance of Judaism and Islam in today's world.

Regardless of my minor disappointment concerning not being able to effectively convey the importance of some issues, I greatly enjoyed the discussions in which I participated in Antalya. Although, other guests at the seaside hotel overlooking the best of Mediterranean scenery might have regarded us, the Turkish and German journalists oblivious of their beautiful surroundings, a bit eccentric.

I don't blame them.

From The New Anatolian, May 17, 2005


  • From Cairo with love - May 10, 2005

  • Eyeless in Gaza - May 3, 2005

  • A partner is still needed in Cyprus - April 26, 2005

  • 'My name is State, Deep State' - April 19, 2005

  • Greed kills - April 12, 2005

  • From the observation deck - April 5, 2005

  • The mirror has cracked - March 29, 2005

  • Remembering things past - March 22, 2005

  • I invite you to use your imagination - March 15, 2005

  • A time for encouragement - March 8, 2005

  • The proof in the pudding - March 1, 2005

  • Hail to the Columnist! - February 22, 2005

  • It is in our blood, we do not waver - February 15, 2005

  • Excuse my question - February 8, 2005

  • A friend in need - February 01, 2005

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