EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCILS
Having launched services in 1971 towards citizens living abroad in various countries, the service range of the Presidency of Religious Affairs expanded after 1990 when the collapse of the Eastern Bloc led to emergence of needs in religious education and religious services for millions of fellow Muslims and it began to meet those needs within the bounds of possibility. Our Presidency decided to convene the Eurasian Islamic Council in order to both ensure that friendly republics and fellow Muslim communities, which began to build their national and religious identity after gaining independence, benefitted from much-needed knowledge and service and also to achieve the required exchange of ideas and coordination on how to meet those needs.
1st EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The first of these meetings was held in Ankara on 23-27 October 1995 titled “Consultation Meeting for Turkic Republics, Balkan & Caucasian Countries, Turkish and Muslim Communities” with the cooperation of the Presidency of Religious Affairs and Türkiye Diyanet Foundation. The meeting addressed what to do in order to develop all sorts of relations between participant countries and communities to offer religious services and to provide continuity for such relations. The final declaration reached a consensus on issues such as the Presidency of Religious Affairs continuing to send needed religious officials and publications to countries it operated in, achieving cooperation on building or repairing mosques and masjids, developing and improving relations between institutions on offering religious service, and achieving continuity in these relations. An eight-point Final Declaration was published afterwards.
2nd EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
Now a traditional occasion, the second Eurasian Islamic Council was held in Istanbul on 21-24 October 1996. 58 official representatives from 32 countries and communities attended the council. Through 6 sessions, the council covered issues such as the role and quality of religious publications based on scientific research in informative and illuminating activities towards every segment of society; types and methods of missionary activities and measures to be taken against them; how to offer religious education today; and how to train religious officials that can answer modern needs. At the end of the council, resolutions consisting of 5 points were shared with the public under the title “Istanbul Declaration.”
3rd EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The third council was also held in Ankara on 25-29 May 1998. 49 religious leaders and representatives from 35 countries attended the council. In short, the 5-day council reached a consensus on issues such as “Improving the current cooperation between countries and communities; carrying out necessary efforts to revitalize historical, religious, and cultural ties; representatives of member countries and communities informing their own societies about the Eurasian Islamic Council Organization through all sorts of media, publications, and visual tools; and ensuring cooperation on sending students to Turkey from member countries and communities for religious education.” Council’s 18-point Final Declaration was declared to the public.
4th EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The Presidency of Religious Affairs marked a first by holding the 4th Eurasian Islamic Council Organization Meeting in predominantly Muslim Bosnia. Held in the capital city of Sarajevo on 24-28 July 2000, the meeting saw participation from religious leaders of the Catholic, Jewish, and Orthodox communities in Bosnia & Herzegovina as well as a total of 47 representatives from 16 countries and 10 special districts. The four-day Council informed the public in detail about the issues of “Islam and Democracy,” “Democracy and Liberties,” “Strategies of Religious Services,” and “Interfaith Dialogue and Tolerance.”
Following the Council in Bosnia, a consensus was reached on measures Turkey wanted to be taken against reactionary movements; it was decided that efforts would be initiated right away for a contemporary interpretation of Islam, religious days and holidays would keep on being observed on dates determined by the Presidency of Religious Affairs, and Turkish would be adopted as the common language in Eurasian Islamic Council Organization Meetings. The 30-point Final Declaration was subsequently published.
5th EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The 5th Eurasian Islamic Council was held on 15-19 April 2002 in the city of Famagusta in our foster-land, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In four sessions, the council laid emphasis on these issues: “Intensifying Missionary Activities in our Countries and in Host Countries of our Communities”, “Islam’s Universality, Its Understanding of Peace and Tolerance, and Its View on Terror”, “Interfaith Dialogue and Tolerance”, and “Evaluation of Religious Institutions and Religious Activities in our Countries and Communities.”
A 20-point Final Declaration was shared with public in addition to other evaluations made during the Council. The final declaration included important observations and resolutions including thoughts on position of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus such as “Issuing a call for efforts to lift the embargoes and improve relations in all areas with people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, who have been subjected to inhumane embargoes for 39 years and faced attempts to be isolated from the international community, and who are an indispensable part of the Islamic world; as a result of our belief that a fair and permanent solution in Cyprus can be only reached through a new partnership based equal sovereignty of the parties, emphasizing at every opportunity the fact that a new partnership to be formed between two equal and sovereign states would serve the security and well-being of the island and the region” and others such as “condemning ongoing wars, violence, and acts of terrorism in various parts of the world and especially in the Middle East,” “continuing the practice in which religious days and holidays, which have a great contribution in achieving unity between member countries and communities and which were designated in previous Councils, are observed on dates determined by the Republic of Turkey Presidency of Religious Affairs,” “establishing a joint work group to translate fundamental sources of Islam, compiling works and sending them to our countries and communities in order to help establish a healthy understanding of religion based on research in Muslim countries and communities living in Eurasia and to fill the void of knowledge in areas exploited by missionaries.”
6th EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The 6th Eurasian Islamic Council was held on 5-9 September 2005 in Istanbul with 59 participants from abroad and 64 from within the country. The council marked the first time emphasis was put on the matter of identity. Topics such as “Religion, Culture, and Identity from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic,” “Religion, Culture, and Identity in Central Asia,” “Religion, Culture, and Identity in the Balkans,” and “Muslim Identity in the Contemporary World: Ideas and Comments” were thoroughly discussed in sessions by expert scholars with speeches and presentations in an attempt to establish a foundation for the identity issue.
As a result of evaluations at the end of the council, a 23-point final declaration was shared with the Turkish and world public.
In summary, the final declaration underlined the following points: Muslim identity is a unifying and comprehensive supra-identity that does not ostracize geographical, ethnical or national identities and rejects gender discrimination; future vision of Muslims grows weak every passing day; there is an undergoing effort for alienation and defamation strategies by working on an anti-Islamic identity design; certain emergent movements that attribute themselves to Islam are hurting the Muslim identity; Council member countries need self-criticism; there is a need for an inventory of trust properties lost in the Balkans; everyone needs to respect religious leaders elected by the populace; activities of exploitative proselytism are absolutely unacceptable; preservation of religious and cultural heritage is imperative; member countries and communities have great responsibility in resolving current issues; educational work that will provide religious and spiritual experience must be initiated as soon as possible; religious, cultural, and educational efforts between member countries must continue; necessary infrastructure work must begin at once to add an international identity to the Eurasian Islamic Council; there must be representatives or observers from the Islamic world and Europe; goodwill ambassadors must be appointed in case of dispute; regional problems should be addressed in the next council; issuing a bulletin titled “Eurasia Report”; compiling booklets “family series” on family which has an important role in preserving religious belief and culture; translating certain major works from Turkish to local languages and publishing them; launching a “website” for communication; launching a religious-moral program on TRT-Int channel that will appeal to Eurasia.
7th EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The seventh Eurasian Islamic Council Organization Meeting took place in Istanbul on 12-15 May 2009 with participation of 70 guests from 42 countries and representatives and 55 from within the country. Religious leaders, muftis, and representatives of Turkish and Muslim communities in the vast region of Eurasia from Turkic Republics (excluding Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) to Poland and Mongolia, from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to Siberia, attended the council which opened at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, 12 May 2009 with the participation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN and State Minister Faruk Çelik as well as other high state officials. Sessions started in the afternoon which included presentations about “Attitudes and Positions of Religious Institutions in Eurasia Towards Sources of Religious Knowledge”; then another one titled “Age-old Sources of Religious Knowledge in Eurasia and their Actual Value,” before noon and “Current Sources of Religious Knowledge in Eurasia” in the afternoon on the second day; “Generation of Religious Knowledge in Eurasia and Methods of Renewal” before noon and “Institutions Generating Religious Knowledge: Madrasas, Faculties, Research Centers –Method, Vision, Goal, and Contributions” in the afternoon by a Dean of the Faculty of Theology from abroad and five from the country. In addition, expert scholars invited from abroad and around the country also made presentations about the aforementioned topics.
Prior to sessions on the second day, an election was held to elect members of the Executive Board and vice chairmen to President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Ali BARDAKOĞLU, natural chairman of the Eurasian Islamic Council Organization Meeting. Rawil GAYNETDIN (Chairman of the Russian Federation Muftis Council) and Dr. Mustafa Efendi CERIC (Reis-ul-Ulema of Bosnia & Herzegovina) were elected vice chairmen while Allahshukur PASHAZADEH (Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office), Prof. Dr. Absattar DERBISALI (Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan), Muratali Hacı CUMANOV (Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan), and Ismail BERDIEV (Mufti of Muslims of Karatchaevo-Cherkesia and Caucasus in Russian Federation) were elected to the Executive Board. The delegation was received at Dolmabahçe Palace by our President Abdullah GÜL at 15:00 on the same day.
On the fourth day, (Friday, 15.05.2009), a 12-point “Istanbul 2009 Final Declaration” which was unanimously accepted by all representatives was declared to the Turkish and World public with a press conference. The declaration included issues deemed crucial from speeches delivered through four days and six sessions.
Sources, Generation and Renewal Methods of Religious Knowledge were at the agenda in the council. Scholars thoroughly examined issues such as how to analyze sources in the information age, how to produce knowledge according to needs of modern people, how to share knowledge and how to coordinate on the matter. To that end, “The Eurasia Web Page” was launched as a necessity of the information age.
8th EURASIAN ISLAMIC COUNCIL
The eighth Eurasian Islamic Council Organization Meeting took place in Istanbul on 19-22 November 2012 with participation of 70 guests from 42 countries and representatives and 55 from within the country. The council took place at Istanbul Hilton Hotel with participation of religious leaders and muftis from the vast region of Eurasia from Turkic Republics (excluding Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) to Moldova and Mongolia, from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to Siberia and, for the first time, with participation of representatives of Islamic organizations in European countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Britain, and Switzerland). The council opened on Monday, 19 November 2012 at 10:00 AM with the participation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir BOZDAĞ, and other high state officials. Sessions began in the afternoon in the council whose main theme was “Eurasia’s Islamic Horizon from Tradition to Future.” In the first session, presided by President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Mehmet GÖRMEZ, presentations and discussions were made on “Foundations of Age-old Knowledge and Wisdom in Eurasia.” On the morning of Tuesday, 20 November 2012, elections were held to elect Vice Chairmen of the Council and Executive board members prior to the session titled “Islamic Tradition and New Perceptions in Eurasia” presided by Rawil GAYNETDIN, Chairman of the Russian Federation Muftis Council. (In this election; Talgat TADZHUDDIN, Chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, Elshad Isgandarov, Chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, Abdulkadir Said MUKARRAM, Mufti of Tajikistan Muslims, Prof. Dr. Aziz HASANOVİC, Mufti of Croatian Muslims, Rahmatilla Egemberdiev, Mufti of Kyrgyzstan Muslims, Naim TERNAVA, Head of Kosovo Islamic Community, and Ismail BERDIEV, Mufti of Muslims of Karatchaevo-Cherkesia and Caucasus in Russian Federation and Chairman of the North Caucasus Muslim Coordinating Center, were elected as Vice Chairmen and Executive Board Members. The elected members were taken to Ankara with the President on the same day and received by President Abdullah GÜL.) Prior to the session, Prof. Dr. Ali BARDAKOĞLU gave a conference on the topic. In the afternoon, Dr. Tayyar ALTIKULAÇ gave a conference on the issue before the session presided by Caucasian Muslims Office Chairman Allahshukur PASHAZADEH. The issue was discussed at length with presentations and discussions on “Religious Institutions in Eurasia from Past to Future.” The first session on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 was titled “Experience of Coexistence in Eurasia” and presided by Talgat TADZHUDDIN, Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia. Before that, head of the High Board of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Raşit KÜÇÜK gave an opening conference. In the afternoon session, presentations and discussions were made on “Future of Muslims in Eurasia” headed by Dr. Fuat SANAÇ. The closing session was held on Thursday, 22 November 2012 and presided by Vice President Prof. Dr. M. Emin ÖZAFŞAR. Topics covered throughout three days were revisited once again and a 14-point final declaration was prepared and submitted to the general assembly. Approved by the general assembly, the final declaration was declared to the public before the press by President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Mehmet GÖRMEZ.