"Jewish-Christian Fighting Cannot be Good, Especially for the Middle East"

Sir, last evening I went to see "Passion of Christ". It describes the last 12 hours of the Prophet Jesus. To me, it was extremely provocative. It tells, in a strikingly impressive way, how Jews and Romans tormented Jesus. If I were a Christian, I would have left the movie with animosity for Jews and wanted to slap a few Jews. In your opinion, could such a film serve for peace?

No matter how much the ways of peace are searched for in the world, basically the same things have been done since the old days. I have seen many different versions of the film. As a matter of fact, Ben-Hur runs in a similar vein. In that film, the Prophet Jesus is treated very roughly. There is also a film done by Belgians.

An actor that fit the mold of the Western type played the Prophet Jesus. That is, a man with green eyes and blond hair. Generally, [an actor] who resembles the Middle Eastern type is cast in the role of Jesus. But, it was not the case [with this Belgian film]. In that film, Jesus is treated very poorly as well. Of course, the betrayers were still Jews and the torturers were Romans. I did not see [Mel Gibson's] 'Passion' movie. They talked about it. The same things are in it. It is the type of film that could elicit from the response from Jewish people that, "anti-Semitism has returned from the dead."

This is, in fact, in the souls of some Christians. The existence of Islam essentially brings some Christians and Jews together. They are getting along because Islam exists. They enunciated it as a European civilization, a Judeo-Christian civilization. Now this is perhaps alarming in a way, because their foil happens to be Muslims.

It is mainly in the human soul. It is in America as well. There are people who feel that they are Americans and feel that they are the natives of America. There are people who accept the first group as immigrants-- refugees. Just like, Jews living in Turkey who had come from Spain… There are people who think this way about those who took shelter with the Ottomans; it is the same here with Americans. Even more so. In some cities we traveled to, people said, "This neighborhood is like this, that neighborhood is like that." There is a serious attitude against each other harbored in these two neighborhoods. Some people feel they are American and in addition some people feel they are Jewish. Here [in America], there is certainly a serious Jewish power. I believe it was former Malaysian President, Mahathir Muhammed, that said, "Jewish power is dominant in the world." Such words were considered anti-Semitic. A considerable attitude formed against it.

So, as far as I understand, you find fault with the film's approach?

In a word, people seek peace. So, in my opinion, this film was inappropriate. It is even so between Jews and Christians. In America, the present administration and the Democrats vastly act together in different ways. Jews are among them. However, Jewish-Christian fighting is especially bad for the Middle East. At the very least, an island of peace must be formed somewhere and the problems in other places must be solved in this way. But, if there is no place that you feel safe and fighting is all around you, you cannot achieve peace in the world.

After September 11, Muslims became the "outsiders" of the world. With this film, could the concept of "outsider" be changed? It cost US$30 million and it paid for itself with ticket sales from opening day. Could it be the case now that Muslims might think, "Ahh, this is great. Let them pick on each other, we will slip away"?

There could be Muslims who think such thoughts. When the matter is looked at on the surface, they might even be right. It could be said, "Good, let Christians and Jews pick on each other, we will slip away." In a way, this is logical. But, it is the logic of one level. Accepting this as is is a different issue. To presume that it could be and to say, "That could be thought", are two completely different issues. I mean what I say. Many people who think like this might appear in America as well, because they [Muslims in America] are also very disturbed in America. They [the American government] keep track records on them. One who says, "I am a Muslim," is perceived as a radical and terrorist. They [Muslims] experience the anxiety of being monitored while they are on the way to mosque. When it is the case, they might say, "Let them pick on each other." But when it is looked at worldwide, it is not the case.

If you were the director, what kind of a movie would you have made about Jesus? How would you present those final 12 hours?

There is no such thing in the Koran and sunnah as the last 12 hours of the Messiah. There are the final minutes. It is mentioned in the hadith. It is in the Koran in brief. It [the Koran] gives it in many verses but particularly in surahs about Meryem [Virgin Mary], Al-i Imran, and En'am. A fair amount of space is allocated to both the Messiah and to Meryem.

Here, Mu'mins [believers of Allah] read these verses of the Koran while they are in contact with various spiritual leaders. They convey the words of our Master Prophet (peace be upon him) in that direction. This is both a means for reconciliation and agreement. Islam's view of the Messiah is very glorifying in nature. Since it takes him in his real position, there is no exaggeration. Since there is no exaggeration [ifrat], it does not give birth to an understatement [tefrit]. That is who the Messiah is. He is a noble servant of Allah. He is created by the soul of Allah and the breath of Allah. He does not have a father. His mother is a holy woman. She is the only woman mentioned in the Koran by name. With this side, wherever Islam puts forth its considerations about the Messiah, it gives rise to pleasure, I believe.

There are the things in sunnah about the Messiah's last moments. He advises his companions. "One of you will betray me," he says. It is to be Judas. Christians accept him too. There was a time that this had been argued. And later, with the coming of Islam, they had said, "Let's not make these kinds of things a topic of discussion for now. There is such a situation based on logic and peace. I mean, this isn't emotional. There is bitterness inside; however, there are such things as logic and peace. They had passed over it lightly.

In the past, there were always inter-religious problems. Moreover, even with the Buddhists who are thought to be the least problematic, problems occurred in recent times. There were problems between Christians and Jews. At one period, some Christians did the same things to the Jews as they had done to the Muslims in the Crusaders. This is a wound that bleeds inside. And it is talked of all the time. In particular, in the churches of the East. At that time, the Eastern Church opposed the Crusaders. Now, when these incidents had taken place in the past, Muslims had also to wage wars for defense. There was war when their camps were attacked; there were wars to protect their countries. For us to resist against the Crusades and form a front is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither the battle of Alpaslan [chieftain of the Seljuks], nor Kilicarslan's [a Seljuk Sultan] coming to close quarters against the Crusaders at the Nigde Plain, nor Nureddin Zengi's [Seljukian sultan] wars, nor Selahaddin [Eyyubi]'s [first sultan of the Eyyubi dynasty] fight against them are nothing to be shamed of… They were very just. The attitude of the Caliph Omer had been displayed. But, it did not finish there, but continued up to the Ottoman Era. Istanbul had been invaded. The commander of the invading force said, "Now, the Crusade is over." These are the cases. And they have been considered; they have turned out to be provocative elements inside the people. Breakups occur. Those who were broken try to take strength from someplace else when they do not have enough strength. New factions have come into existence. It used to be that there was a Democrat side and a Communist side. Now, there are many sides. One should not do the things, which caused conflict in the past, a means to make new conflicts today by carrying over old ones into the present. They must be buried in the past and forgotten. From now on, we should think good things for the sake of humanity. "The past was ruined, let's pursue revenge and ruin today," in my humble opinion this has no meaning and logic.

A group in Turkey claimed that you are a missionary of Christianity. Would you like to say anything about that?

Out of jealously, one group says, "Americanist," and the other says, "Collaborator". Yet another says, very oddly, "He is pro-Shariya. He will bring religion and make it dominant in life." These are such opposite things to one another that if all are claimed about me, then these attacks could conjure up many different thoughts; therefore, many things are still up in the air. Another group views approaching Christians as supporting their free and comfortable travel, propaganda, church institutions and activities. In my humble opinion, there is jealousy and grudge. They [those groups] cannot stomach these things.

I did not invent tolerance and dialogue. Its meetings have been held in different places of the world for a long time. Muslims were also invited. These [meetings] were held in the Arab World, in the Far East, the Vatican, Europe and America. Scientists from Turkey were also coming [to these meetings]. But, they were producing the scenario themselves.

They were fabricating those, walking around in comfort; they were even performing missionary works. Muslims are not involved in this line of work. They were not able to speak their thoughts, to say, "Let's do this." They would not say, "let's hold it in Abant or Harran." You have to have a thought; you have to be involved in the planning in order to have an influence on the planning. As much as they benefit from tolerance and dialogue in their thoughts, you have to benefit from your religion and be religious. They either cannot see or do not know this. Jealousy made some blind.

I don't know of any person that, with the start of this tolerance and dialogue process, converted to Christianity. There are people in Turkey who convert to Christianity. A friend of ours told me about a book. It is a book written in the 14th-15th century. He mentioned that at that time the Christian institution said to the Armenian and Assyrian minorities that were living under state protection, "Stay where you are, as you are; conceal your opinions, act as if you are one of them; one day, everything will change and we will come there."

The ones who were previously Christians did not convert. Now, among us there are many who manage this. And with Turkey's philosophy nowadays, they are comfortable. There is something related to Sabiha Gokcen that a commander once talked about. According to [Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk, whoever feels himself/herself to be a Turk is a Turk. Now, we do not talk about this. The Jews said, "You are the real child of this land." I said, "Honestly, I would not know." My ancestors came from Ahlat [a county of Bitlis, an eastern Anatolian city] two or three centuries ago. You came here 500 years ago. Now, it should be talked who is from Istanbul?

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