News / Middle East

Turkey Fears ISIL Radicalism Could Spill Over From Syria, Iraq

FILE - Fighters with the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS by some) wave flags as they take part in a military parade in Syria.
FILE - Fighters with the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS by some) wave flags as they take part in a military parade in Syria.
Dorian Jones

With the Sunni jihadist group ISIL stepping up attacks in Syria along the border with Turkey, concern is growing in Turkey that the violence could spill over.

Earlier this month, Istanbul’s Jafari Muhamadiye Mosque a mosque belonging to Turkey's Shi'ite Muslim minority was burned down. The attack was blamed on ISIL and is seen as a possible harbinger of future ISIL attacks, which could threaten Turkey's complex social fabric. 

Istanbul is home to large numbers of adherents of both Sunni Islam and Shi'ite Islam -- or Jafari Islam, as the latter is known in Turkey.  But tensions between the two groups have been rising following the arson attack.

Speaking in the burned out ruins of his mosque, Imam Hamza Aydin said he has no doubt sectarianism was the motive for the attack.

Aydin said that just before the attack, a group of men came to the mosque, and said that Jafaris “worship stones” and threatened to set fire to the mosque.

He said mosque authorities went to the police, but they did nothing.

Turkey’s neighbors Iraq and Syria have seen growing sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shi'ites, blamed mainly on the emergence of ISIL, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State. The group regards Shi'ites as heretics.

Analyst Sinan Ülgen of the Carnegie Europe Institute in Brussels said fears are growing that ISIL's sectarian war is coming to Turkey,

"There are allegations that some members of a network that claim to be close to ISIL have engineered this,” Ülgen said. “Some of these militants groups have been able to establish their networks over the years, at the time the Turkish government turned (a) blind eye to many of these opposition groups. It just shows you Turkey is not going to be safe from all the instability from Syria."

Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party is one of the main supporters of the rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime. The arson attack on the Istanbul mosque has not been the only such incident. Shi'ites in Istanbul claim they have been the target of increasing sectarian violence.

A shopkeeper in one of Istanbul’s Shi'ite neighborhoods said that recently, a man shouting he was from ISIL starting attacking Shi'ites outside another mosque in Istanbul.

Electoral politics could be also be a factor behind the rising tensions. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is running for president in next month’s elections, and he is rallying his largely conservative Sunni religious base. Critics accuse him of increasingly using sectarian language aimed at Shi'ites. He also resisted calls in the media and from Shiite groups to condemn the Istanbul mosque attack.

But Mehmet Gomez, head of the Diyanet, the state body that administers the Islamic faith in Turkey, did visit the burned out mosque

“We will rebuild the mosque together,” he said at the site of the mosque. “We are all Muslims, we use Korans and mosques. We will replace the burned books in the best possible way together, he said, and then we will gather here again and pray together.”

Observers say such gestures could prove crucial amid rising tensions and concerns over the growing danger of radical groups like ISIL.

Still, ISIL flags and bandanas are increasingly visible at protests organized by Islamic groups, indicating that at least some Sunnis in Turkey have sympathy for the group. Analysts warn that ISIL's increasing presence is likely to test the cohesiveness of Turkish society.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid