The following is an editorial written by Prof. Hayrettin Karaman. He is a highly respected Turkish public intellectual. Amongst Turkish students and Turkish intellectuals he is often referred to as the authority on Islamic Law. He has written a number of books on Islam, including a ten volume set dealing with legal issues and concerns for Muslims living in a secular society. He is now an emeritus professor at the Theology Faculty at Marmara University, in Istanbul. He maintains a regular column in a daily newspaper called Yeni Şafak (The New Dawn). Last year he wrote a column that caused a bit of a stir in Turkey, which is translated below. It accurately portrays the new sense of confidence sweeping Muslims in this region. It can be read as a fresh new take on Muslim morality in the face of globalized liberalism.
Tahammül or Tolerance?
August 7, 2011
If it is at all possible, a Muslim hopes to live in a society where Islamic norms, morality and etiquette flourish, and where they cannot be publicly violated. Similarly, if it is at all possible, provided that he does not perpetuate further harm, every Muslim should command the right and forbid the wrong.
In an [ideal] Islamic society, non-Muslims are allowed to freely practice their beliefs. But if these practices begin to negatively influence Muslim life and morality, or the piety and education of the young, some precautions such as quartering off particular space for their un-Islamic behavior is recommended.
What should a Muslim do when he is deprived of the above option and rather finds himself living in a thoroughly integrated multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi- moral society?
Such conditions do not allow one to correct another’s un-Islamic behavior as imagined in the ideal society. Nor can one choose to live in a separate quarter according to one’s own beliefs. It seems the only remaining option is for us to live side by side.
Thus we find ourselves living, in our apartment buildings, in our neighborhoods, and on our streets with different people, such as: homosexuals, drunks, couples living outside of marriage, gamblers, those who publicly display their shameless love making and nakedness in public and even those who hate Muslims. Facing this kind of situation, how is a Muslim to respond, both, internally and externally?
Let us begin with the proper internal response:[In his heart], a Muslim should never take a liking to this kind of behavior. In fact, he should hate these actions, and he should always keep intent on commanding the right and forbidding the wrong whenever he encounters such behavior.
Externally, when a Muslim encounters such behavior, he should without hesitation stare down the shamelessly defiant with clear disapproval. And while holding a feeling of clear disgust he should pass by without even giving a polite smile.
In order to describe this latter response, I am using the word “tahammül” (resistance/endurance) —not “toleration”—to denote the kind of obligation facing a Muslim living in a pluralistic society.
After reading this, some might respond by saying that these ideas are “discriminatory, divisive and they undermine unity and solidarity”—I know. But a Muslim, living amongst those who are clearly different from him, is obligated to be aware of the fact that he is different. The biggest peril in terms of one’s piety occurs when the consciousness of being different disappears. So, I say it is one thing to endure in the face of difference (while respecting the other’s rights), and quite another to tolerate the intolerable.
The original can be found here.
M. Owais Khan, the translator, is a doctoral student in the Religion Department at Syracuse University