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11/19/03 - SYNAGOGUE BOMBINGS IN TURKEY - 2003-11-19

With the suicide bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul on November 15th, Turkey has joined the United States and Indonesia, among other countries, on a special list of terrorist targets: democratic countries that allow people of diverse faiths to live together in peace. The bombings killed six Jewish worshipers and about three times as many Muslims, including a guard, shopkeepers, and passersby. More than three-hundred others, mostly Muslims, were wounded.

Turkey is home to more than twenty-thousand Jews and has cordial relations with Israel. The Istanbul neighborhoods where the bombings took place are well known for their ethnic and religious diversity. In a statement condemning the attacks, President George W. Bush said Istanbul is a place “where Turkey’s diverse religious communities of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian believers have flourished together for centuries.”

Bayram Sezgin is a Kurd from southeast Turkey who has run a greengrocer’s shop near one of the Istanbul synagogues for twenty-five years. Speaking of his neighborhood, he told the Lebanese newspaper, The Daily Star, “This is a very special area. People from all different communities live here, and we’re all friends.” Mehmet Sen, a Muslim whose shop windows were shattered by one of the bombs, said, “This bombing was not the work of true Muslims. This is not Islam.”

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says murderers who purport to be good Muslims betray their faith in a drive to power:

“We are dealing with a tiny minority of the Muslim world that wants to impose a kind of fascistic notion of their religion on the hundreds of millions of believers who I don’t believe share their views. Our long-term battle has got to be that those people are isolated and marginalized and ultimately defeated. And our greatest allies in doing that are going to be the hundreds of millions of Muslims who want a life not unlike that which we enjoy in the free and democratic West.”

As President Bush made clear, the U.S. “stands resolutely” with Turkey and the many other countries committed to defeating the terrorists.