Erdogan strives for Muslim unity

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first Turkish Sunni head of government to attend ASHURA ceremony organized to commemorate the tragedy at Karbala about 1,370 years ago.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he sees the problems faced by members of all religious groups in Turkey as his own, as he appealed to thousands of Jafaris in İstanbul who mourned the murder of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son of Imam Ali, and 72 of his companions in 680 in Karbala, part of modern-day Iraq.

“We have been feeling the pain of Karbala for 1,370 years. We have to feel that pain in our hearts. We remember Hussain whenever an innocent person is killed,” the prime minister said as he began his speech.

“This country is ours, these lands are all ours, this history, this civilization is ours. Nobody can claim superiority to any other. We are equal to each other and we are all brothers in these lands. We are all first-class citizens of this country. The problems of all religious groups in my country are mine. That’s why we are struggling to address century-old problems through consensus. Aren’t there those who oppose us? Of course, there are. But we will overcome this with patience,” the prime minister said.

In addition to the prime minister, State Minister Faruk Çelik, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Secretary-General Süheyl Batum, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) İstanbul Provincial Chairman Aziz Pabuşçu were in attendance.

The leader of Turkey’s Jafaris community, Selahattin Özgündüz, said the prime minister’s participation in the Karbala commemoration ceremony had disappointed those who hoped to cause conflict among different sects in Muslim society

Shias make 20% of Turkey’s 75 million population (99.7% Muslim) – largest after Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan. Shias in Turkey, commemorate the event by donating blood to Turkish Red Crescent instead of inflicting self-wound as is the normal practice in other parts of the world.

Shia Islam was brought into Persia by Turk Shia Sufis, who later established the Safvid Dynasty.

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