On a visit to Turkey in 2011, I visited the Belek “Garden of Tolerance,” where a diminutive mosque, church, and synagogue are housed close together in an emerald-green park, apparently a testament of Turkey’s acceptance of other faiths. Members of the Sufi Gülen movement had brought me there to highlight their own dedication to broad-mindedness, humanitarianism, and the well-being of other faith-based communities. It was a sweltering, humid day, and the AC had only been turned on in the mosque. Nevertheless, as an American Muslim I was impressed by the symbolism of inclusivity, too rare in many Muslim countries today, and in our increasingly polarized and intolerant world in general. At that moment, I felt immensely proud both of the idealistic Turkish Muslims who envisioned and built it, and of the complex faith of Islam, which inspired that beacon of verdant life and hope. The garden is a fertile manifestation of a strong commitment to interfaith dialogue, in which I profoundly share. This value motivated my own participation in the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative in Jerusalem in 2015 and 2016, where I heard from a wide range of Jewish voices on their connections to Israel and diverse experiences of Judaism. A year ago, my half-Palestinian daughter married the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor, and my own beautiful first granddaughter, like the garden, also reflects the celebration of difference. At the garden’s inauguration ceremony in 2004, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised that he would “remove any remaining obstacles to religious freedom in Turkey,” and stated that Turkey would be “the guarantor of peace and brotherhood in its region.”
Unfortunately, that was a blatant lie.
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