"We hate what we do not know" is a quotation from the book "Islam and Europe" by Dr. Ingmar KARLSSON, the Swedish Consul General in Istanbul, which was cited in the NPQ magazine edition dated 6/2/2004; it is a saying by the fourth caliph of the shiites, Ali Ibn Ebu Talip, nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammed.
Today, the same saying still holds true for both the Western and the Muslim world. The Modern Western world and the Muslim world are continuously creating hostile stories about one another due to the lack of knowledge, and the feelings of fear and contempt. As the Modern Western world sees itself as having proper common sense and the Eastern world as backward, it does not want to acknowledge the Eastern world as a side with the same rights even in negotiations.
Muslims are considered as capricious and dangerous people for the West. Therefore, an approach shows itself in the Western world, which tends to require to refrain from dialogue instead of establishing one with Muslims. Since many Muslims find themselves having to continuously defend their own faith and culture against reprobations and prejudices, feelings of mutual hostility keep feeding one another and are reinforced.
Besides posing a clear threat to the dialogue that is attempted to be established between the two cultures, this situation also provides support for those who think that the gap between the Eastern and the Western cultures could not be surmounted. The West should refrain from developing its own scenarios against the perceived hostility and trap scenarios of the East, and show that these "theories" are nothing but hearsay by trying to find out their causes to emerge via cooperation and concrete projects instead of showing tolerance to such scenarios. The very first condition to be able to create this state is to understand that expressions with religious repercussions in fact lack any religious content. Such expressions are generally formulated for the purpose of economic, social and political exploitation, which on the face of it are of secular nature, having nothing to do with religion.
Self-deception in the name of religion and religious hypocrisy, is as popular among the politicians in the East as it is in the Christian culture. Just like Christianity, Islam, too, is used as a means to reach economic, social and political objectives. It is unnecessary to fear religion. We should actually be careful with those who conduct their policies under the flag and in the name of religion.
Obviously, this blind bigotry and dogmatism do very much exist in the Muslim world today, which demonstrate themselves in the forms of terror, suppression of women, violation of human rights. However, the true reasons for these problems are not the religion of Islam. Similarly, we cannot say that the serious problems the Western countries have originate from Christianity.
Yet, whenever bigotry and irrationality raise their heads in the East, these concepts are directly associated with Islam; whereas everywhere such problems arise from social, economic and worldly reasons. The real threat is authoritarian ruling, expansionist policies and terror. These threats are known threats in history which are not new, and only if they are defined as they are can they be overcome without pain. The primary way out for getting rid of these prejudices and mutual scenarios of threat is to search for avenues to dialogue. In this context, the process of negotiations Turkey has started with Europe on October 3 should be touchstone of this dialogue.
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