SHAFAQNA- Turkish theologians have voiced strong condemnation of a deadly attack on France’s satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a publication firebombed in the past after publishing cartoons lampooning Muslim leaders and the Prophet Muhammad.
“I strongly condemn this attack,” said theologian Hüseyin Gültekin. “I do not believe those who have a correct understanding of Islam can be involved in such an attack,” he continued in remarks to Today’s Zaman.
Black-hooded gunmen shot dead 12 people at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, with French officials labeling the attack as a terrorist one. The violence comes amidst calls from Islamist extremists to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.
The satirical weekly has a history of drawing outrage across the Muslim world with crude cartoons of Islam’s holiest figure. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in November of 2011 after it published a spoof issue that “invited” Prophet Muhammad to be its guest editor and put his caricature on the cover.
A year later, the magazine published more drawings of Prophet Muhammad amid an uproar over an anti-Muslim film.
Also late last year, a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) injured 13 by ramming a vehicle into a crowd in the eastern city of Dijon. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at the time France had “never before faced such a high threat linked to terrorism.”
Gültekin said conducting such an attack most possibly “in the name of Islam” is unacceptable as every Muslim knows even Prophet Muhammad himself was forgiving against those who deeply insulted him during his life.
“If these people really do these in the name of Islam, they are either far away from the spirit of Islam or they are betraying Islam in return for some interests. Islam has never been represented in this way throughout the history. Such actions also close the doors before those who are willing to get to know Islam. In this regard, those who cause Islam to be lumped together with terrorism await a difficult reckoning in the hereafter,” Gültekin said.
Noting that Muslims during the life of the Prophet when he was in Mecca, when they were in the minority and were subjected to torture and insults, were advised to be patient and to never respond to such attacks, Gültekin said he does not believe those who carry out terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are real Muslims.
Cihat Şeker from Fatih University’s theology department agreed with Gültekin, saying terrorism is against the spirit of all religions, including Islam. “It is impossible to put religion and terrorism side by side. Terrorism is against the basic values of all religions,” he told Today’s Zaman.
“Those who result in putting the name of Islam, which is derived from a word which means peace, alongside terrorism damage Islam itself,” he said.
Noting that the life of Prophet Muhammad was centered around peace, Şeker said “war” was the last option for him and that too was just for self-defense.
“Peace is the basis of Islam as Islam can flourish only in an environment of peace. No religion can see such an attack as legitimate. Other forms of motivations should be sought in such attacks,” he continued.
Islam is not alone in being singled out by Charlie Hebdo’s satire. Past covers include retired Pope Benedict XVI in an amorous embrace with a Vatican guard, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking like a sick vampire and an Orthodox Jew kissing a Nazi soldier.
Professor Emeritus Saim Yeprem of Marmara University’s faculty of theology said Islam is not a religion that can be defended with terrorist attacks. “Everything should be decent in Islam. If you criticize something, this should be in line with legitimate procedures of our age. Resorting to violence is unacceptable.”