The first session held on Sunday was presided over by the president of the center, Abdul-Munim Said and Mete Tunçay, a lecturer at Ýstanbul Bilgi University and the chairman of the Abant Platform. During the first session, the journalist-researcher Ali Bulaç, the vice-president of the center Wahid abdul-Majid and Yasin Aktay from Konya Selçuk University talked about the parallel experiences of Turkey and Egypt with modernization. The thinkers, journalists and academics, who are discussing "Islam, the West and Modernization," emphasized that any attempts at modernization which leaves out the values of people were bound to fail. President of the center Said underlined the fact that the two countries were among the most important elements in the region and were facing similar problems in the fields of political, social, and economic development.
Muslims are being looked at as terrorists, particularly after September 11, Said stressed, and added that Muslims had to prove that this prejudice was wrong.
Said also noted that the problems occurring due to the second article in the Egyptian Constitution which regulate relations between the state and religion could still not be resolved, and that Turkey had many exemplary experiences in many fields. He also emphasized that the Islamic world did not have to accept everything in the name of modernizing.
Vice President abdul-Majid said in his speech that the ascension of Governor Mehmed Ali Pasha to power in 1805 commenced the history of westernization in Egypt, however a very bad modernization strategy had been followed during his time in power, and the people were thus looked down on. The strategies followed in that time were sometimes met with serious resistance, abdul-Majid said, noting that the people were not raised to a level where they could be receptive of the attempts at modernization. He also remarked that there had to be a line drawn between the tribal mindset which rejected modernization in toto, and the traditional resistance offered by forces like nationalism. He further noted that the culture of criticism had to be fostered.
Yasin Aktay said that modernization was not a term that exclusively belonged to the West, and that it was a very complicated ideology. Unlike what is told about them, Muslims never rejected innovations in their most powerful eras, and did not shy away from reproducing the weapons of their enemies; and therefore the Islamic world did not have any complexes, he concluded.
Ali Bulaç, on the other hand, said that the Islamic world had been imitating the West for over two centuries but was still just "marking time." The United States placed two measures for modernity, "traditional and global," Bulaç said, and added that the change was being taught to us by others.
Egypt willing to benefit from Turkey's EU experiences
Retired ambassador Jamal al-Bayyoumi, who presided the session on the second day, noted that Turkey's EU accession process was a very important model for Egypt and that they were wishing to benefit from Turkey's experiences. Another Egyptian attendant of the session was Ibrahim Bayyoumi, who is an expert on Turkey and a lecturer at Cairo University, who said that he had been deeply affected by Fethullah Gülen's methods of reaching humanity and humans. Bayyoumi also remarked that the success of the Abant Platform in bringing together from totally different backgrounds, through the influence of Gülen's tolerance-based ideas, would be a good model for Egypt.
Speaking on the second day of the platform, Þahin Alpay from Istanbul's Bahçeþehir University noted that the Turkish people's support for the European Union had dropped to 35 percent from 70 percent and this was stemmed from various reasons. Particularly four reasons stood out amongst others, Alpay said. The first was that the union was not offering Turkey a full membership. The second was that France and Austria keep insisting on a "privileged membership," rather than a full membership. The third was the accession of southern Cyprus despite their refusal to accept the conditions of the United Nations, and the fourth was the endorsement of the ban on the headscarf by the European Court of Human Rights.