Thursday, January 10, 2013

Peace Talks and Gulen's Statement

 Peace is beneficial (khair), Benefit (khair) is with peace (“Sulh hayirdir, hayir sulhtadir...”)

The Turkish government has reinitiated peace talks (or cease fire negotiations) with the terrorist organization[1] PKK, and it has become the number one topic of public discussions in Turkey.  A recent video clip[2] shows Fethullah Gülen joining the conversation and sharing his opinions about the latest peace talks.
Terrorism has been a big problem for Turkey and the PKK has been on the scene for the last 30 years causing nearly 37.000 casualties including PKK militants, Turkish armed forces and civilians[3].  The Turkish state has spent billions of dollars to tackle this issue, however, terrorism remains, in general (and PKK in particular) as one of the biggest problems facing Turkey.

Gülen and Peace Talks

Gülen and his statements regarding the peace initiative have faced a barrage of comments. It appears that the media have received Gulen’s statements as a supporting position for the government initiative concerning the peace talks between them and the PKK[4] which at first sight appears to be the case in general terms. But what exactly is Gülen saying in his message? I will try to explore a few of the details within the statement that I believe it is important to highlight.

Gülen quite simply claims that peace is beneficial and essential for all parties. He suggests any attempt to achieve peace at any level (“whether in families, communities, in cities, at a national and global level”) is good no matter how hard it is. Apart from this intrinsic value of peace (sulh), it seems that it is particularly important for Gülen to achieve a peaceful solution for the matter at hand. Although one would expect Gülen to be in favour of peace as a renowned peace activist[5] , this statement from him supporting the current peace talks is rather an important one which has particular political value for the Government.

The Turkish population is quite divided on this matter because of the sensitivity of the issue. Nationalists claim that to even negotiate with terrorists demonstrates a weakness on the part of the Government. Gülen recognizes and acknowledges this concern and asks for a peace which would undermine “national pride”. There are intellectuals who question his position as they do not understand “how it is going to be possible to achieve peace without compromising national pride?” They  believe that it is impossible. Gülen places careful  emphasis on the matter , accepting their concern but then claiming that parties (of negotiaters) should take some risk for the sake of solution.

I think the most vital point in his statement is the example he provided to support his point.  Gülen gives the example of the Hudaybiyyah[6]  agreement where the Prophet (pbuh) agreed to sign a peace treaty with the Meccans although the conditions were degrading. Gülen reminds us how the Prophet (pbuh) preferred peace over conflict (even when the terms were unacceptable or unfavourable for him) and highlights that this was andremains the way for us to follow. The example suggests that “these peace talks can be concluded with a sustainable peace” in the country. The Hudabiyyah example also implies that the treaty may appear as a loss for the Turkish state right now, but in the mid-term and long term the peace will in fact be a “real victory”.

He implies to his listeners (and the wider audience) that peace might seem costly but it should be achieved for the greater good. According to Gülen, the Prophet (pbuh) agreed to more severe terms in order to achieve peace and was proven right and victorious at the end of the process.

In my opinion, Gülen provides not only moral (religious) support for the peace talks but also prepares people to be ready to compromise for peace to be attained. He reminds us that compromising one’s personal pride can be necessary (and even more virtuous) when it is a matter of achieving peace (sulh).  

With the Hudaibiyah analogy, Gülen gives us a timely reminder that peace is achievable when our approach is right so let us hope a solution can be reached and the problem is not bigger than it may at first appear.

[1] it has been accepted as a “terrorist organization” by US and EU

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