World Bulletin / News Desk
Addressing the fifteenth annual MAS-ICNA convention launched late Monday in the U.S. city of Chicago, Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar told the story of the July 15 coup attempt that shook Turkey to its core but was defeated by the collective defiance of the people.
She began by conveying “warm greetings from Turkey – from our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan” to a thunderous applause.
Touching on the theme of the convention, Bayraktar said: “I experienced at such a young age the pain of having to choose between my religious duties and civic obligations.”
She said she studied at the University of Indiana, just a few hours’ drive from Chicago, because of a “hijab ban” enforced for years in Turkey that prevented Muslim women with headscarves to attend school.
She then narrated the story of the defeated coup on the night of July 15, when the overwhelming majority of Turks were caught off guard by the news that a fraction within the army was attempting to overthrow the government by force.
The troops, organized and directed by the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO), killed civilians, and bombed the parliament and critical state buildings with artillery fire and F-16 missiles.
They also made a move on the life of the president and his family but missed them by 15 minutes as Erdogan flew to Istanbul to be with the citizens whom he invited to the streets, Bayraktar said.
“Something that has never happened before in the history of our republic took place that night,” she said. “The people went to the streets to take back their democracy."
“It was the memories of past tragedies and the awareness of foreign interventions that motivated us. It was the knowledge of dangers that we’d be faced with if democracy was lost,” she added.
“And of course, it was the love for our nation and our faith that caused the Turkish nation to face the tanks, F-16 jets, attack helicopters and heavy artillery of the army with just flags in their hands.”
The ensuing clashes left 248 civilians martyred and nearly 2,000 wounded.
“Dear friends, imagine for a second, that the White House or Congress was bombed by a terrorist group,” Bayraktar said. “How would you react? How would you like your government to react in the face of such violence? You would want retaliation and restoration of justice within the rule of law. That’s exactly what the Turkish people want.”
She said Ankara was taking steps to “weed out those who support the attack on democracy”.
FETO, listed as a terrorist group in Turkey, is more dangerous than Daesh, Bayraktar said. “It is easier to turn some hopeless, desperate, uneducated people into militants. They have little to lose. When someone comes and promises them with paradise, they may give it a try.
“FETO on the other hand takes possession of the minds and hearts of well-educated doctors, engineers, generals, scientists for its highly hierarchical and closed system using the method of dissimulation.
“We are at a better position now vis-a-vis FETO for it is unmasked. Our state will defend the integrity, security and public will of our country with full vigor and force and all of this will be within the rule of law.”
Bayraktar said Turkey was deeply concerned for and took action to help the global Muslim community. Ankara hosts three million Syrians within its borders while having received next to no international assistance despite pledges, she said.
The Turkish government is sensitive to problems of the global community, she said, helping Palestinians, Somalis, Rohingya and the people of Haiti.
She said the global Muslim community has a “very powerful common denominator, a bond: Islam.
“We must always remain aware of the great value of this bond and we must do everything we can to protect it,” she said.
Hussein Ata, the convention chair, personally thanked Bayraktar and her husband Selcuk Bayraktar, as well as Ankara’s Ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, for taking the time to attend the event.
“We all pray for a safe and prosperous Turkey under the leadership of President Erdogan,” Ata said.
Abdool Rahman Khan, who heads the Shari’ah Council of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), said the convention “comes at a time when American Muslims are forcibly put on the front burner, both nationally and internationally.”
“This year the hate crimes against American Muslims soared to their highest level since the aftermath of 9/11 -- in fact, since the history of the United States of America.”
He added: “It is time for Muslims to stop bickering over petty issues and utilize their resources at the community and national level, and exemplify the great virtues and values of Islam. No one can do it for us.”
Ousama Jamal, chair of UN Council of Muslim Organizations, said in his speech Donald Trump’s election victory last November was “divine inspiration that forced us to focus on what are our obligations and duties as American Muslims in this country.
“Allah has pushed us to rise to the challenge, because we have much more to offer to America and to humanity, of our great values Allah has entrusted us to convey to the people,” Jamal said.
Omar Suleiman of Yaqeen Institute, a scholar of Islam gaining popularity among American Muslim youth, said in the years ahead, the American Muslim community needs to confront the questions of “Who are we?” and “What do we stand for?” if it wanted to grow and stay relevant.
“Have we stood on the side of the disenfranchised in this country?” he asked. “Or have we allowed for racism to not only persist in societies outside of our community but inside our community as well?
“We complain on the Palestinian cause -- when people who are simply trying to exist in their homeland are portrayed as terrorists and the media portrays them in a certain light, but we have no problem when the same media portrays African-Americans as thugs so that they can perpetuate their injustices against them,” Suleiman said.