By Mahmut Geldi and Ramazan Turgut
RIYADH (AA) - Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, who is now in Saudi Arabia for an official visit, spoke at a Monday conference in Riyadh entitled, "The religious teaching experiences of the Religious Affairs Ministry inside and outside Turkey".
At the conference -- which was attended by officials from Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance Ministry -- Erbas spoke about the problems the Islamic World was facing and Turkey's international religious training programs.
Stressing the need to understand Islamic civilization, which is of especial importance in terms of science, he said: “Muslims have achieved historic breakthroughs in mathematics, religion, medicine, philosophy, physics, chemistry and astronomy.”
“Muslims didn't hesitate to accumulate ancient knowledge,” he added. “The Romans, Persians, Indians and others were challenged by this; human knowledge was advanced through the melting pot of revelation.”
Recalling the radical changes the world has undergone over the past two centuries, Erbas asserted: “Everything in the world has changed. The western approach towards science has tried to redefine the human relation with metaphysics."
“Geographical changes, political problems, and social and cultural traumas after World War I have left their mark on different aspects of the Muslim world, especially on teaching and religious training,” Erbas noted.
He added: “The Islamic world, which is currently experiencing difficult times, must assess the changes of the past 200 years and engage in self-criticism."
Emphasizing that Turkey had made use of the Ottoman experience and tradition in the early 20th century, Erbas said: “In recent years, Turkey developed its understanding of education in which religious training and teaching was included.”
“To ensure that our [Turkish] community gains religious knowledge, subjects like fundamental religious knowledge, the life of Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic history were all added to the curriculum," he said.
Pointing out that there were 2,500 people providing teaching programs abroad under the auspices of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Erbas stressed that they were providing the same religious instruction as that given in Turkey.
"Today, there is an existing Islamaphobia industry engaged in carrying out perception operations,” he said. “But Muslim communities also have problems understanding the religion correctly.”
“False information has hurt the image of Islam, which can be seen in today’s terrorism and ethnic and sectarian conflicts," he added.
Erbas concluded by saying that Islamic civilization needed to raise a new generation capable of understanding its deep and rich history.