Speech of Fatih Ates
and upon receiving the Humanitarian Hero Award from the Beyond Genocide Campaign for his support of the Yezidis and those Struggling for Freedom and Dignity.
August 29, 2017
Good Evening, Esselamu Aleykum, Peace and Blessings Upon all of Us
Thank you for this meaningful event, and many thanks to organizers, to supporters and Peninsula Sinai Congregation to host this event. Special thanks to Rabbi Pam Frydman and Rev Will McGarvey and Sister Maha.
It is a privilege for me to receive a Humanitarian Hero reward tonight; I am so honored and humbled. It is also a great honor for me to stand side by side with dear Marvin and Victor.
As an American Muslim, I am here today to show our sincere support to the Yazidi community.
I want it to share a story with you. About two years ago, we hosted a 7th grade student group in our Peninsula Center. Because their history class includes the Islamic faith and civilization, their teacher brought them to us for an educational presentation. I started my presentation with a question that is “When you heard Islam or Muslim, what is the first thing that comes to your mind”. After 5 seconds of silence, a kid raised his voice and said “Terrorist”. It was a quite shocking moment for me and at the same time, that kid reminds me of two things;
- as Muslims, we have a crucial responsibility to join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the cancer of violent extremism,
- as Muslims, we have a special responsibility to help repair the tarnished image of our faith of Islam.
That is why condemning extremism and terrorism is necessary and correct. However, that is not satisfactory/sufficient for me and for many others.
That is why I have committed myself to interfaith dialogue activities, community engagement and humanitarian aid projects in the last 12 years in West Coast states.
At this point, I have to mention and appreciate to Mr. Fethullah Gulen who is a well known Turkish-Islamic scholar and peace activist who lives in Pennsylvania. His teachings have a lot of influence from Islamic Sufism, and his movement is a transnational social movement that is called the Hizmet movement, which means service in Turkish. With Mr Gulen’s thoughts and inspiration, thousands of educators, business people and academicians are mobilized to open schools, humanitarian aid organizations and interfaith dialogue institutions around the globe. The followers of the Hizmet movement actively work in almost all countries of the World, except now in Turkey, where it was started. Unfortunately, the current government has turned Turkey into chaos, where corruption, oppression, dictatorship and the violation of human rights have been taken to unprecedented levels. Thousands of schools and dormitories, and hundreds of universities and media outlets, most of which belong to the Hizmet movement were shut down. Thousands of people, including teachers, academics, journalists, judges, prosecutors, and housewives with their babies have been imprisoned. As of today, more than 17,000 women and more than 670 babies were reported to reside within the cells.
I pray, the Merciful to lead us all into a world of mutual respect and peace. I invite everybody to join together in this prayer.