Awards for Unifying Turkish World

Turkmenistan18-22 February 1999

Our group, which included academicians, businessmen and journalists, was received in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashkabad by Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Türkmenbaşi. In the ceremony that took place, the Honorable Türkmenbaşi thanked our Foundation for its efforts to re-establish the traditional ties of friendship and brotherhood between our peoples.

The Turkmenistan trip concluded with visits to historical and turistic places.

Kirgizstan20-22 March 1999

After being warmly welcomed by the President of Kirgizstan, Askar Akayev, at the Presidential Residence in Bishkek, the President of our Foundation, Harun Tokak, presented the Honorable Akayev with a special award and a letter from our President, Süleyman Demirel.

Harun Tokak stated on behalf of Turkey how pleased he was by Kirgizstan's decisive progress in the fields of democracy and economic development in Central Asia. After this, the Honorable Akayev indicated that he followed with interest the activities of our Foundation.

Bosnia Herzegovina26-30 September 1999

Bosnia Herzegovine, the most grieved country in Europe, is beginning to heal its wounds. Last year when we went to Sarajevo during the summer, we were met by the yearning of a flower sprouting up among the war ruins. Our group was met by Bosnia Herzegovina President, the Honorable Aliya Izzetbegovich, to whom our group chairman, Harun Tokak, presented the Turkish World and Related Communities Unification Award. The three schools that were opened in Sarajevo with the contributions of our Foundation were visited by our group, which was mainly composed of businessmen and journalists. The scars of war can be seen everywhere in Sarajevo. In this city of Ottoman heritage where life and death intimately embrace, there were some very emotional moments for those who visited a football field that had been made into a graveyard.

Mongolia26-30 September 1999

After visits to historical and touristic places in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, official meetings were held on September 29th. In welcoming ceremonies attended by Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi and the Minister of Education, our Foundation's traditional awards were presented to the Honorable Bagabandi.

The common foundation of our two countries in the Turkish World's vast geography was recalled. Visits to some of the first Turkish monuments, the Tonyukuk monument and the tent of Jenghiz Khan, were included in the program.

Georgia27-30 October 1999

In the visit to Georgia there was a rich and colorful group that included former State Minister Refaattin Sahin and singer Fatih Kisaparmak and his wife Sebnem Kisaparmak. After the presentation of an award to President Edvard Shevardnadze, the group attended the celebration of the Founding of the Republic at the Suleyman Demirel College.

In speeches made at the ceremonies, attention was givin to expansion that could result from Turkish-Georgian relations in Avrasia, which was being watched worldwide. Also an agreement was signed to develop mutual projects between the Georgian Film Producers Union and the Journalists and Writers Foundation.

In an attempt to find solutions to the country's problems by bringing together scholars and intellectuals of all colors, who can be considered to be Turkey's heritage, the Journalists and Writers Foundation organized workshops for discussing "Islam-Laic" and "Religion-State" relations in the second week of July in 1998 and 1999 at Bolu/Abant.

The decisions made at the meeting and the final declaration, which were passed on to the public by means of the media, aroused broad repercussions and received interest from a large mass of people.

After the First Abant Platform held last year, President Süleyman Demirel received a delegation that included foundation representatives and commission chairmen headed by Professor Mehmet S. Aydin. The President expressed his approval of the meeting and said that Turkey needed similar meetings.

Also, President Süleyman Demirel's public claim regarding "Religion-State Relations" which was the topic of the Abant Platform, was a reflection of it.

The following were participants of the 2nd ABANT PLATFORM, which took place between July 9-11, 1999 at the Bolu/Abant Palace Hotel and which was mutually organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation, the Unity in Democracy Foundation, the Tolerance Movement Association, the Turkish Religious Education Foundation and the Writers and Artists of the Turkish World Foundation:

Prof. Mehmet AydinIzmir, Dokuz Eylul University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Hayreddin KaramanIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. O.Faruk HarmanIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. M. Akif AydinIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Mehmet PacaciAnkara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Toktamis AtesIstanbul University, Faculty of Law
Prof. Burhan KuzuIstanbul University, Faculty of Law
Prof. Ali BardakogluIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Huseyin HatemiIstanbul University, Faculty of Law
Prof. Niyazi OktemIstanbul, Bilgi University
Prof. Bekir KarligaIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. A. Yuksel OzemreIstanbul University, Former Dean of Faculty of Science
Prof. Mahmut KayaIstanbul University, Faculty of Literature
Prof. Mehmet BayraktarAnkara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Ibrahim CananIstanbul, Marmara University, Faculty of Theology
Prof. Kenan GursoyIstanbul, Galatasaray University
Prof. Elisabeth OzdalgaODTu Member of Teaching Staff
Prof. Serif Ali TekalanErciyes University, Faculty of Medicine
Asso. Prof. Ismail KilliogluIstanbul, Marmara University
Asso. Prof. Durmus HocaogluIstanbul, Marmara University
Asso. Prof. Busra ErsanliIstanbul, Marmara University
Asso. Prof. Gulper RefigIstanbul, Mimar Sinan University
Asso. Prof. Emin KoktasIzmir, Dokuz Eylul University
Asso. Prof. A. Turan. AlkanSivas, Gazi University
Dr. Kadir CanatanHolland, Rotterdam University
Dr. Ilyas UzumSophia, Institute of Theology
Dr. M. Ali KilicbayAnkara University
Dr. CuneytUlsever Journalist/Writer
Dr. Ergun YildirimResearcher/Writer
Dr. Aylin AkpinarResearcher, Sweden
Attor. Kezban Hatemi
Nevval SevindiJournalist/Writer
Gunduz S. AktanPresident of TESEV, Retired Ambassador
Baki OzResearcher/Writer
Riza AkcaliMember of Parliament
Bulent ArincMember of Parliament
Ali BulacJournalist/Writer
Latif ErdoganResearcher/Writer
Avni OzgurelJournalist/Writer
Halit RefigFilm Producer
Mehmet BozdemirBureaucrat, President of Unity in Democracy Foundation
Rusen CakirJournalist/Writer
Mehmet OcaktanJournalist/Writer
Besir AyvazogluJournalist/Writer
Yahya AkenginPresident of Writers and Artists of the Turkish World
Seref OguzJournalist/Writer
Mustafa ArmaganJournalist/Writer

Second Abant Platform Final Declaration

As a group of scientists and intellectuals in Turkey, we came together on July 9-11, 1999, at Bolu/Abant. Discussing subjects that we believe occupy an important place on the country's agenda, we decided to convey to the public's attention the following matters:

Reason-Divine Inspiration Relationship

1- Identifying and determining in a sound way the relationship between the reason and divine inspiration carries a vital importance for the future of our country, the Islamic world and all mankind.

2- Islamic inspiration addresses the reason and it should not be seen as a rival or opposing factor. For this reason, in the history of Islamic thought it has been considered a religious necessity to use the reason in a positive direction. However, from time to time the Islamic world has not fulfilled this requirement sufficiently.

3- According to Islam, the essential duty of understanding what divine inspiration has informed us of falls to the reason. We should be careful to take into consideration the whole of divine inspiration when we are trying to understand and interpret its variables, and we should be aware that satisfying results cannot be drawn from fragmented approaches.

4- Regarding the reason/divine inspiration relationship, it should not be forgotten that inspiration is a divine method of conveying knowledge and that, even in the broadest sense, the reason is a human vehicle for obtaining knowledge.

5- The acceptance that there is discordance between divine inspiration and the reason gives birth to tension between religion and knowledge, between the state and religion and, in fact, between life and religion.

6- When it is claimed that there is discordance between divine inspiration and the reason, then there is a question of incorrect evaluation of the reason or divine inspiration. In this case, it's possible to solve the problem by reconsidering it, because the growth of our accumulation of knowledge will help us better understand the truths put forth by divine inspiration.

Religion-State Relationship

7- Considering the religion-state relationship only from its legal and political aspects would be deficient and misleading. When taking a scientific approach to the subject, sociological, cultural and historical variables, events and time processes must be taken into consideration. This relationship and its offspring, laicism, have been placed on a relatively sound foundation in the West today after long struggle and disruptions. This situation in the West cannot be explained by the claim that Christianity is amenable to democracy and laicism, whereas in the Islamic World, Islam is not amenable to the development of democracy. The conflict between the church and state in the West rests on historical foundations, and the social structure and economic developments have a big share in it.

A strong theocratic political structure's dominating the West from the time Christianity was accepted as the official religion and dominated the government until the bourgeois revolutions is an indication that Christianity isn't as amenable to laicism as is thought. With one or two exceptions, in the legal establishment of Western States, there are references to religion in the Constitutions. Together with this, the religion/state relationship was placed on a laic foundation. Modernization efforts that began in 19th century Ottoman society and made a big leap forward with Ataturk took an attitude not against the essence of religion itself, but against traditions, appearances and worn out institutions that passed as religion. It is natural in this process of development that some difficulties and friction occur as they did in the West.

Since the last quarter of the 20th century, the whole world has been experiencing as a social phenomenon a return to religion and the spiritual sphere. If at first there appear efforts to continue the historical and traditional formation, social segments experiencing the process of turning towards religion are aware that there is compatibility between the contemporary democratic and liberalistic goals and economic dynamism of the Republic and the high values in the essence of Islam. For this reason, this visible contemporary tendency doesn't show any similarity to the traditional reaction in the period of the Ottoman collapse and yearning to return to the past.

8- When placing the religion-state relationship on a sound foundation, instead of taking only one Western country as an example, our country's social and historical conditions should be taken into consideration when benefiting from implementations in democratic states based on law.

9- In religion-state relationships, social, legal and political reconstruction should be made in accordance with the requirements of contemporary democracy. In regard to this, the requirements of human rights and freedoms mentioned in international agreements and declarations to which Turkey is a party, especially freedom of thought, religion and belief, should be carefully protected. Basic rights and freedoms that are democratic and egalitarian, with an eye to justice and equity, and that are the basis of legitimacy should be given priority in a concept of a legal state based on universal moral principles. The protection of the state's unbiasedness before ideas, political inclinations and different systems of belief and sects and its approaching the individual in an unbiased way carries great significance in the concept of a contemporary state.

10- As long as there is no insult and cursing or slander made or as long as no concrete and clear call is made to violate others' human rights, the freedom to express one's ideas should be unlimited in principle. In arrangements on this subject, the body of current international law and the law's general principles should be made use of.

11- The right of freedom to express ideas brings with it the right not to express ideas. No one can be forced to express his ideas. However, violations of human rights and protests contrary to the principles of a democratic state based on law can be questioned. No one should be reproached for statements that are not contrary to the principles of a democratic state based on law.

12- In the usage of freedoms other than the freedom to express one's ideas, the opportunity to exercise these rights cannot be taken from anyone as long as there is no violation of others' human rights or the civil order of a democratic state based on law, or as long as there is no action to take over the state that constitutes a clear crime according to the law.

13- The state should not take an oppressive attitude towards the freedoms of thought and belief. Such an attitude can lead to the individual becoming alienated to the existing social structure and an increase of offended groups.

14- The duty of a contemporary social state is to provide opportunities and open the way to develop people's economic and social rights and the freedom of belief. The state is a vehicle for making a contribution, not obstacle, to the individual and society's intellectual and sp

15- Some of the difficulties in our country in the field of religion-state relations stem from a breakdown of communications, misunderstanding and mutual distrust between the individual, with his request for civil rights, and the liberal representatives of the government. Taking the problem under consideration on this plane will facilitate a solution.

16- In order to attain a social structure that is based on peace, freedom, contemporary democracy, tolerance and dialogue, responsibility of a universal dimension befalls, first of all, the government, civil organizations, intellectuals and especially the media. In this manner religion/state relations can rest on a rational and humane foundation.

Religion-Society Relations

17- From a social perspective, religion is a truth that manifests in different forms in the lives of the individual and society.

18- Every child is born into a culture and his religious identity is formed within the family. Religious identity is individual. It is chosen and lived with the individual's free will. No one can be prevented from choosing a religious identity, living it as an individual or within a community or changing it.

19- Religion is one of life's and culture's main components and a basic source of common values. In order for a person to sufficiently experience his religiosity and build it with consciousness, a religious life based on free will, rather than on force from outside, is necessary.

20- On the condition of remaining within the order of the law, organization in the civil field, even if it is on a religious axis, should not be prevented. One of the requirements of democracy is developing a living area where differences can co-exist.

21- Just as there is no uniform modernization, there is no absolute conflict between religion and modernization.

22- The progress-reactionaryism axis that is debated in the historical process that a society lives should not be grounded in religion. All reactionaries are not religious and all religious people are not reactionary.

23- Problems experienced in religion/society relations can be overcome by making various scientific investigations.

24- Polarization and intolerance among different segments of society damage social harmony.

25- From a social perspective, religious pluralism (various sects and religions) should be accepted as an enriching and positive value in the society.

26- Neither traditions that are presented as religious-based nor politically or ideologically forced issues should restrict women. A woman naturally possesses the right to act with her own free will in both the private and public spheres.

27- In order to place religious-social relations on a sound foundation, the quality of religious education and religious services should be raised.

28- Cultural and religious values are an important bridge in Turkey's foreign relations.

29- The principle, "A journalist cannot directly attack the cultural values and beliefs (or disbeliefs) of a country, society or individual," stated in the Turkish Journalists' Association's Proclamation of the Turkish Journalists' Rights and Responsibilities, should be made operative and valid for the whole media.

Note- The articles in this declaration were mostly accepted unanimously; some were accepted with a majority of votes. Written views of dissent or different recommendations that were given by members.

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