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from issue no. 06 - 2011

An interview with Bekir Karliga

“Seeking democracy without ideological polarities”

Islam presents itself as the last link in a long prophetic tradition. The other religions are part of its heritage and must be defended

Interview with Bekir Karliga by Lorenzo Biondi

There is a close link between the AKP’s moderate Islam and dialogue between religions. We discuss it with Professor Bekir Karliga, adviser to Prime Minister Erdogan. The professor is also president of the Turkish National Committee of the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN body created in 2003 by Erdogan and the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero.


Bekir Karliga [© Lorenzo Biondi]

Bekir Karliga [© Lorenzo Biondi]

How has political Islam changed in Turkey?

Bekir KarlIGa: The religious factors rooted in the collective memory and everyday life of Turkish society – set aside at the birth of the Republic – re-emerged after the Second World War, with the introduction of a democratic and pluralist system. The party founded by Necmettin Erbakan and the AKP are two examples of the same political line. But what is different about the AKP is that it seeks to implement democratic values without populism, without locking itself in to ideological schemes, and to connect with the country’s history and geopolitical reality. In foreign policy, the AKP aims at a new economic and political order in line with the principles of universal justice, equity and solidarity, in accordance with the international community, without reducing itself to being a satellite of other countries and keeping away from prejudged ideological polarization.

Is it a valid policy outside of Turkey also?

The ten years of AKP government have produced an irresistible change in the country and the world. At the base of the stirring events that the Middle East is experiencing is the aspiration of Islam to meet with democracy. The model is Turkey, under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Does the Islamic religion contemplate the idea of ​​dialogue among religions?

Islam presents itself as the last link in a long prophetic tradition. The other religions are part of its heritage and must be defended, even beyond the dialogue with them. The prophet Abraham also has an important position: the three religions who worship the one God are the representatives of a common faith. In the Islamic States the religion, the traditions and the customs of Jews and Christians should not be hindered. Thanks to this approach, millions of people who belonged to more than twenty religious and ethnic groups lived together for centuries in the Ottoman territories. From this point of view the experience of Turkey can be important for the young European Union, which has a rather shorter history of coexistence.

What is the state of relations between Turkey and Europe?

Turkey has tried, in sincerity and good faith, to stabilize relations with the European Union. Unfortunately, Turkey has been kept at the door, creating discontent in our public opinion. The Turkish nation has been established in Europe since the fourteenth century. In 1959 the partnership agreement was signed between Turkey and the European Community. Today the Union has forgotten that story.

In recent years the relations between East and West were read from the point of view of a clash. The Alliance of Civilizations is an experience that runs counter-current...

It was a breath of fresh air for a humanity that wanted to get out of the whirlwind of the ‘clash of civilizations’. Twenty-one international institutions and 106 States have joined the group. In Turkey there is a national committee coordinated by me that studies the dialogue between cultures, religions and civilizations in the country. In Istanbul an ‘Institute of the Alliance of Civilizations’ has been created, in which students of different nationalities can obtain high level education, to spread a culture of peace and tolerance in the country and in the world.

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