German university refuses to comment on guest theologian’s anti-Semitic remarks

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Cevheri Güven

The University of Münster has responded to Turkish Minute’s inquiry about its invitation to Professor Mustafa Öztürk, who in Turkey had made headlines with his anti-Semitic and anti-West discourse. In an e-mail, the university’s press and public relations specialist, Norbert Robers, provided brief information about the invitation to Öztürk while declining to comment on Öztürk’s anti-Semitic remarks in the past.

The e-mail said the university’s Center for Islamic Theology was very interested in modern theological discourse and that Öztürk was invited as a guest lecturer for the 2021 summer semester. During his stay Öztürk is also going to attend conferences, workshops and seminars as one of few Muslim theologians who engages in historical criticism of the Quran, the statement said.

Yet, the university’s response left unanswered Turkish Minute’s questions about Öztürk’s anti-Semitic rhetoric. The statement declined to comment on it on the grounds that it would not affect Öztürk’s duties at the university.

Turkish Minute had sent to the university the video of a TV show on which Öztürk was seen engaging in anti-Semitic discourse.

“Professor Öztürk in a show called Sözden Öte (Beyond the Word) of 24TV on Nov. 8, 2014 referred to the Jews with the comments ‘descendants of snakes,’ ‘cursed’ and ‘God damn them.’ What should we understand from his joining … Münster University despite his anti-Semitic remarks?” Turkish Minute had asked.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric: Jews deserve to be cursed

Öztürk has a record of outspoken anti-Semitism. In November 2014 he appeared on a program on the pro-Erdoğan 24TV where he said that Jews deserve damnation.

“These ‘descendants of snakes,’ as Jesus called them, are seeking to provoke unrest by making their way to the mihrab of the mosque in Jerusalem, trampling with their boots the things we hold sacred,” Öztürk said, referring to Israeli soldiers’ raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “These are a breed that ground down Moses and Aaron. I am not being anti-Semitic here, anyone interested can take a look at the Book of Nehemiah and read from their own book what acts of ingratitude their people committed against God. They deserve to be cursed, as the Quran said. God damn them.”

Öztürk’s remarks are found between 04:12 and 05:05 in the video

On the “Sözden Öte” (Beyond the Word) YouTube channel, where Öztürk was a regular guest, his comments on Jews appear to have been removed, although the program is available on other YouTube channels. His remarks were also reported by a number of newspapers and news websites and are still accessible.

His rise during Erdoğan’s rule

Öztürk’s rise in popularity occurred during the nationwide Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013, which at the time were considered by many the Turkish version of the Arab Spring. Starting in İstanbul, the protests took over the country after millions joined. They were brutally suppressed by the police on the instructions of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, with the resulting violence claiming the lives of 10 people and injured hundreds.

As the drama was unfolding Öztürk, who was a lecturer at Çukurova University, attracted the government’s attention with his politically charged publications. Later on, he was appointed to Marmara University. In his columns published in the pro-Erdoğan Star newspaper, he alleged that countries like Israel, Germany, France and the UK were behind the protests. According to him, with Erdoğan at the helm Turkey had become an economic power to be reckoned with, and these countries were orchestrating the protests to stop Turkey’s ascent.

“Barons. They are the ones who from outside the country managed the Gezi Park incident in Taksim in an attempt to turn it into a widespread uprising. To expose their identity, it would suffice to take heed of the news reports coming out of Israel. Likewise, the attitude taken by countries like Germany, the UK and France could give enough of an idea that these barons are an international coalition. Their problem is that the new Turkey is a bit too much. Their problem is that Justice and Development Party [AKP] rule has been a source of irritation for them, especially in the economy, by spending the country’s money in investments beneficial to the public such as the third bridge [over the Bosporus], Marmaray [the undersea tunnel below the Bosporus] and roads and highways instead of spending all of it to pay interest,” Öztürk wrote in a column published on June 15, 2013.

Invitation from German university

A while ago, Öztürk made headlines in Turkey with the remarks about the Quran. After video footage taken by a student during his lecture at Marmara University, Öztürk’s views caused a controversy on social media. Following the adverse reactions, Öztürk retired.

On March 15 he announced that he had received an invitation from the University of Münster and that he was going to settle in Germany to pursue his academic work.

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