Turkish charity groups are putting the final touches on preparations to help the less fortunate both in Turkey and across the globe during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), which begins on Nov. 6.
It is that time of year again in Turkey, as aid organizations such as the Turkish Religious Foundation, Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There?), the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) and Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) get ready to distribute food, clothing, money and other forms of assistance to the poor in most of the country’s 81 provinces and in more than 120 nations around the world during this year’s Eid al-Adha.
For Muslims across the globe, Eid al-Adha is one of the most important religious holidays of the year. During this four-day holiday, they recall the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead.
Muslims likewise sacrifice an animal to demonstrate their obedience to God during Eid al-Adha. The meat from the sacrifice is divided into three parts — the family keeps one-third, another third is given to friends and neighbors and the last share is donated to those in need. Today many in Turkey opt to pay someone else to sacrifice an animal in their name instead of heading down to the butcher to do it themselves.
The Turkish Religious Foundation’s General Director Süleyman Necati Akçeşme, in a statement to the Anatolia news agency last week, said: “Every year we organize this campaign for those who cannot slaughter the animals themselves with the goal of providing sacrificial meat to those who need it most.” The foundation has been performing sacrifices for Eid al-Adha since 1993.
İHH alone will distribute aid to a total of 96 countries and 60 cities in Turkey during the holiday, according to the foundation’s Eid al-Adha campaign organizer Kemal Özdal. Vice President of the İHH’s Orphan Department Murat Yılmaz told Sunday’s Zaman, “We are completing all the necessary preparations for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.”
In addition to its many other humanitarian aid activities, İHH is building orphanages around the world. “Our foundation is thus far holding the hands of 21,741 orphans in various regions of the world,” Yılmaz said.
“Thanks to donations from Eid al-Adha, we will be able to continue work on the construction of orphanages in Malawi and Patani,” he said. İHH also plans to distribute aid to three orphanages in Pakistan during the four-day holiday.
According to Kimse Yok Mu spokesperson Esra Tur, the charity is planning on sacrificing 19,000 animals this holiday.
Kimse Yok Mu Konya branch President Hasan Kıratlı said last week to Anatolia that the aid organization aims to extend its support to the needy in every province of Turkey as well as across the globe this Eid al-Adha. The sacrifice of animals takes place in modern facilities, Kıratlı explained. “The names of the donors will be read one-by-one and after the sacrifices are made we will visit the families and deliver the meat,” he explained.
Turkish charities reported last week that the vast majority of donation requests received thus far have been for poverty-stricken East African countries, especially Somalia.
Tur told Sunday’s Zaman that Kimse Yok Mu has received a flood of donation requests for drought-stricken Somalia, where the charity has been on the forefront of humanitarian assistance. “We are going to send a team — 15 volunteers plus staff — from Turkey to Somalia to distribute the sacrificial meat and aid to the Somali people during Eid al-Adha,” Tur explained.
Özdal remarked to Sunday’s Zaman that the foundation has already received 10,000 donation requests for Somalia, but they expect this figure to double by Nov. 6. The İHH is also organizing assistance for other East African countries such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda this Eid al-Adha, and Özdal said they have not forgotten Syrian refugees in Turkey and Lebanon.
Turkey has risen as a leader in the international community in its outpouring of support to the drought-stricken country. But Kızılay President Ahmet Lütfi Akar told Anatolia last week that the increase in aid to Somalia can also be explained by the drastic difference in price. “Sacrifices in Somalia are extremely cheap compared to Turkey,” he said, adding, “Because the animals are supplied in the country and the cost of animals is very cheap there, the price of a sacrifice in Somalia falls between TL 100 and 150.”
Likewise, a sacrifice to be donated through the Turkish Religious Foundation costs TL 550 inside the country, while a sacrifice to be sent to those in need abroad costs TL 380.
Last year the Turkish Religious Foundation reached 27 countries, including Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Russia and Kazakhstan. But this year Akçeşme said the foundation is adding East African nations like Niger, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and particularly Somalia to the list.
Nonsensical misconceptions of Eid al-Adha in Turkey
Dr. Reşit Haylamaz, editor-in-chief of Kaynak Publishing Group in İstanbul and author of many books on the life of Prophet Muhammad, told Sunday’s Zaman in an exclusive interview that Eid al-Adha is a joyful time for Muslims, filled with an abundance of prayer, an outpouring of charity and visits to friends and family.
Eid al-Adha centers on the community, Haylamaz said, unifying and strengthening all members of society through an eagerness to serve God and others. “When we study the nature of the Prophet Muhammad, we see an effort to share equally with everyone in society,” he said.
But that does not stop some in Turkey from misconstruing the beautiful meaning of the Islamic holiday. “Some people in our country look upon the holiday with an evil eye,” Haylamaz began.
But the renowned religious author argues that this negativity is directed not solely at Eid al-Adha but on the religion of Islam in general. “Such people have drawn attention to the slaughtering of animals, wanting it to be perceived as an atrocity. This handful of the bourgeoisie views itself as the elite of Turkey,” he said.
Haylamaz said the hypocrisy is clear: “But meat is not absent on the dinner tables of these same people who oppose sacrificing animals during Eid al-Adha. In other words, some people in Turkey, because of their stance against religion, oppose the slaughtering of animals that actually goes to the tables of the less fortunate.”
30 October 2011, Sunday / ALYSON NEEL , İSTANBUL