"I Find the Government's E.U. Efforts to be Sincere"

How do you find Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

I have not had close contact with him. When he was the Mayor [of Istanbul], we met a few times. However, we have not met ever since he became Prime Minister. Some had fabricated rumors about us, namely of the 'they see each other,' or 'they met,' variety. None of them are true. If you ask me, he is a straight, well-mannered man. I also think he is a hardworking, courageous, and decisive person. I personally praise his performance on the subject of entering the European Union. He does what is needed to be done. Regardless of what he does, however, there will always be some who will not be pleased with him or will not like him. I have yet to see a negative thing about him. I am not a political figure and I have never been involved in a political party. I have never voted, as I did not have the chance. Now, I am here; in previous elections, I was here too. But, I have to make a confession. He will not steal. I recently said that I do not care for politicians that embezzle, but Erdogan does not strike me as one who would engage in such an activity. I could say the same about his close friends. I am of the opinion that he thinks good things about Turkey. However, if there could be more beneficial and a better political formation for Turkey, people would switch to that.

These are things only known by Allah. For now, Almighty Allah gave him the opportunity. To me, they should do what is required for Turkey. No one should stand in the way of these positive things. If these actions favor Turkey, then no one should hinder them, regardless of who initiates [these positive things]. If Mr. Bulent [Ecevit] would have done these things, he would not have been obstructed. Today, Almighty Allah has given this opportunity to Mr. Tayyip [Erdogan]. He goes after some of the things courageously. Things should not be prevented. If they are for the good of Turkey's future and if decent people and businessmen accept them, they should not be hindered. There is democracy. If they do not like him, they could always take him down in the elections and bring someone else.

Do you think the [Justice and Development Party] (AKP) is fulfilling its core concept of the "conservative democrat"?

Perhaps, they did not think this way previously. However, people change over time. This needs to be accepted. Muslims were not ennounciating for democracy 15 or 20 years ago. They were not saying, "let us be democratic." Perhaps, people change in time. They now must have found the right path. They can say that they are democratic. They make serious efforts in the subject of democracy. That is understood by their efforts in accession to the European Union and meetings with the U.S. Even more so, it is understood by them going to Russia and holding meetings. Their democratic efforts on that subject - Allah knows best- sound kind of sincere to me. Because, what we call democracy can be interpreted differently. There are many different democracies in the world. During the times when Communism existed, they were calling it democracy as well. Perhaps, the Chinese also say they are a democracy. America calls itself a democracy, as do England and Belgium. Many different types of democracy exist around the world. There are Christian Democrats, Buddhist Democrats, and even Jewish Democrats. People can be both a democrat and also own an understanding, a belief, a philosophy at the same time. There are no drawbacks to blending Islamic traditions and customs with democracy. In my opinion, such democracy could exist.

This could add to democracy even: The needs of a person are not solely made up of worldly needs. Let me have the benefits of freedom of thought, freedom of earning, but, let me also have another side open to eternity. I am created for eternity. I am not satisfied with anything but eternity. If democracy is to be a full fledged democracy, it needs to include things that help to fulfill my desire and it needs to give support to this. That means, democracy requires a metaphysical dimension. It also needs a side that is open to our accounts for the other world, to our unfulfilled accounts. Why not have such a democracy? Now, while they offer [democracy], I still do not know about their intentions. If they offer such a democracy, that means they offer a very modern democracy in my opinion. I believe that they are sincere in their democratic offers and efforts, including their European Union efforts. It is not important how they see me, where they put me, or how they regard me. The purpose of God is grand. That needs to be stated. But there is one more thing. Those who said democracy yesterday do not want to say democracy today. They say: "Religious people and reactionaries will devalue democracy." Therefore, one should not be deceived by the game of democracy. In some places, these are obviously stated.

Last month, an international meeting in which [Bill] Clinton participated was held in Saudi Arabia. Even though women and men were under the same roof, they were separated by a curtain. In your opinion, how much does this reflect the essence of Islam? Is there something stopping women and men from discussing their problems under the same roof? Besides, Clinton had said something that attracted much attention: "If The Prophet Muhammed were alive, his wife would be driving a car. Moreover, she would be leading the automotive industry." Some regarded this as disrespectful and some regarded it as a reality. What is your opinion on this?

Now, the subject has a religious side. Within the measures set forth by the religion, it is mostly the case that women and men sit together and meet each other. Women were also visiting our Prophet. They had matters. They had questions and they asked. Sometimes, without going to one of the families or Mother Aise, they asked Him directly. If there was something related to private issues for women, they entrusted it to Mother Aise. There are similar subjects in the strong hadith (words of The Prophet Muhammed) sources, such as of Buhari and Muslim. On the subject of praying, women were praying with men. However, they usually were forming a line behind the men. In particular, whether or not they were praying for what we call husuf, qusuf prayers, solar eclipses, or for rain is another issue. Among Islamic scholars there are various studies. When everyone went outside to pray for rain, they did so together. However, while standing before Allah in the name of maintaining purity of the heart, such a separation was put into practice. The men stood at the front and the women stood behind them. These things occurred. It is not right to overlook them. However, it is required that we find the underlying reason in terms of the fiqh methodology that directed them to behave in such a manner.

In my opinion, women and men could sit together side by side in armchairs. One could sit in one armchair and the other could sit in the other armchair. I personally do not anything wrong with this. They can get into cars together, walk around at the shopping malls, study at the same school, and they can be together while they are going to and coming from school. If they were together for such an important subject [as the meeting in Saudi Arabia], they could sit together as well. This is the one side of the issue.

The other side is, if people give importance to their being separate, that is they see it as a religious obligation, then one must respect that. [The Saudis] see it this way. I once saw Yemen's Parliament on television. I saw that women who had their heads covered were sitting together with men in the chairs. In some places, they are more comfortable. I believe they are separated in Iran. In some meetings, they are in the same places but women behind and men in front. On one hand, the position of the issue in religion must be determined. Experts must say this. On the other hand, if there are those who believe that respect is required for the feeling and judgments of people, then in my opinion, we should be respectful to them.

As for Cinton's statement about our Prophet... Perhaps our Prophet did so, or perhaps He did not; but, a person should not talk about our Prophet with that much ease. Since Clinton said that, I will not say anything, because he is not in a position to offer comments on the Prophet. His judgment on the Prophet is very narrow. However, if a believer of Islam would have said this, I would criticize him/her. You cannot know, where and how our Prophet will act. He was a person of duty. How He behaved was just, because He behaved in the command of Allah. Saying such a thing there [meeting] was not on him [Clinton].

How do you see Mr. Deniz [Baykal]'s concept of opposition in this period? Is he a bit ill-tempered?

In fact, Mr. Deniz [Baykal] is not an ill-tempered person. However, I think, he has to act according to those around him. He also has supporters and the floor. People think differently and in order to walk along with his/her circles, they take general feeling of the circle into consideration. I think he has to take the feelings of his circle into consideration. Or at least he thinks so. Other than that, at best I know him from a distance. I know him in terms of his character. That is, he is not ill-tempered. But, I think, occasionally people cannot stand still.

Last month, a [military] junta (1) -like discussion was experienced. It started with an article in the newspaper Cumhuriyet. The article had the headline "Young officers are in discomfort". After that article was published, discussions took place. You probably watched.

As I watched in the media, whether or not there is really such a thing, leaders of that institution and some important people there know about this. If they know, I believe, they are doing what is required not to spoil that unity. If there is, I truly wish that it is not a junta. They would be discredited if it were. They eliminated them and give them many chances. After the events of May 27th, a pro-junta mentality is incorrigible. I know this institution. Talat Aydemir was trampled on. In that period, I was fulfilling my military service in Mamak. From this angle, I would not know if there is one. It could be. Regardless, the junta is incorrigible. If they do anything today, tomorrow the power of Almighty Allah will wear them down.

(1) Military Junta: A military administration comes to the power without an election.

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