Muslim Armenians Vital to Our Nation

Vahram Aghajanyan, Editor-in-chief “Third Power”
Stepanakert, 7 August 2011

In response to readers’ requests the author has provided a variation of his article "Ինչո՞ւ Չենք Օգտագործում Մուսուլման Ներուժը" in English.-Ed.

Many Armenians have the false opinion that the root of all the misfortunes of the Armenian people is Islam with its warlike ideology and historic intolerance of Christians. Some Armenians, with inherent passion, like to condemn the "dangerous essence of Islam or Pan-Islamism for Armenians," without considering that they only contribute to anti-Armenian agitation in Muslim countries by Azeri emissaries and thus activate an anti-Armenian mood. They seem to forget that in 1915 Muslim Arabs saved the lives of thousands of Armenians. If it weren’t for the friendly attitude of Iran towards the Armenian people, blockaded Armenia and Karabakh would be in acutely worse economic condition.
 

Vahram Aghajanyan, Editor-in-chief “Third Power”
Stepanakert, 7 August 2011

In response to readers’ requests the author has provided a variation of his article "Ինչո՞ւ Չենք Օգտագործում Մուսուլման Ներուժը" in English.-Ed.

Many Armenians have the false opinion that the root of all the misfortunes of the Armenian people is Islam with its warlike ideology and historic intolerance of Christians. Some Armenians, with inherent passion, like to condemn the "dangerous essence of Islam or Pan-Islamism for Armenians," without considering that they only contribute to anti-Armenian agitation in Muslim countries by Azeri emissaries and thus activate an anti-Armenian mood. They seem to forget that in 1915 Muslim Arabs saved the lives of thousands of Armenians. If it weren’t for the friendly attitude of Iran towards the Armenian people, blockaded Armenia and Karabakh would be in acutely worse economic condition.
 

Tens of thousands Armenians still live in Arab and Muslim Central Asian countries, where, according to reliable sources, there are powerful anti-Turkish forces, ready for close cooperation with the Republic of Armenia (RoA). Not building bridges with them means ignoring or being blind to our interests.

It is no secret that due to historic circumstances, many Armenians, hoping to be spared the Turkish sword, adopted Islam at the beginning of the 20th century, while retaining their national traditions. Thousands of citizens of Armenian ethnicity, who adopted Islam, currently live in Turkey and in the North Caucasus. In spite of the severe Sharia laws, Islamized Armenians enjoy certain religious liberties, and most importantly, they haven’t assimilated with Moslems.

Every year Muslim states and communities convene an Islamic Conference, which, along with other issues, regulates assistance (including military) to Muslim countries. At these international gatherings Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus are represented by spiritual leaders such as Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshyukyur Pashazade of Azeri origin. The latter often devotes the main part of his speeches to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Meeting no resistance from other attendees, Azerbaijani and Turkish delegations give a religious character to the Karabakh conflict and receive huge financial aid from participating states. We all know how they spend that money. If we had a Muslim Armenian delegation at these conferences, the Azeri and Turkish delegations would face opposition and might not get the automatic backing of conference attendees, not to mention that such Armenian participation would activate pro-Armenian forces in Muslim countries.

With the above in mind, in or outside RA, it would make sense to assist Armenian Muslim groups form a "Union of Muslim Armenians". I foresee opposition from certain devout Christian Armenians, although we tolerate Hari Krishna, Buddhists and even Jehovah’s Witness groups of Armenian origin, which try to penetrate the RoA army, agitate for the inadmissibility of armed struggle, and who are visibly damaging their motherland. So why not invite the participation of Armenian Muslims, especially in light of more than one-billion-strong Muslims in the world and a number of Islamic states, like Iran or the Arab League participants, which probably would support the activities of such a Muslim Armenian organization? Even if the creation of such an organization elicits historical-psychological complexes in RoA or in the Diaspora, the activities of Muslims of Armenian origin living outside will not encounter serious obstacles.

Every issue, especially issues related to state and national interest, must be approached from a pragmatic position. Whether we desire it or not, Armenian Muslims do exist. A negative stance towards this fact is not realistic, and would be based on purely emotional perception. Such an emotional approach would alienate a part of our nation, which eventually, could fall under the influence of other states. An Armenian Islamic organization, even a symbolic group, which participates in the conference of Muslim nations, would benefit Armenians generally and Armenians in Muslim countries specifically. Let’s not forget that, according to the most modest estimates, the number of Muslim Armenians in Turkey alone exceeds several hundred thousands.

11 comments
  1. An Erroneous view of Islam

    Let me clearly state that anywhere where Islam gained foothold in sizeable numbers, there is strife and conflict with the non-muslims, and ultimately separation from them, with examples abounding: the Balkans, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, East Timor, etc. etc. So, admitting the so-called Muslim Armenians into the political life of the Armenian nation, and settling many of them in the territory of present-day Armenia as a separate religious minority (or majority?), will be creating a fifth column or bringing in the Trojan Horse. As if we do not have enough national problems facing us, we shall heighten it and add another one through the presence of Muslim Armenians in our lives. The long-term effects of their presence in Armenia and Armenian life will be disasterous, considering also that there is no such thing as moderate muslims. So, for dubious and precarious short-term gains, it is dangerous to delve into such a misadventure, which the author supports in his article. Our main issue should be to try to convert these Armenians back to Christianity; otherwise they will be problem to us. 

  2. Muslims and Armenians

    Very interesting article for a number of reasons.

    First, even Turks have started to differentiate between Islamists and Muslims. It seems the Muslim connotation is more positive to them.

    Does it make sense for Armenians to feel threatened by semi-Muslim Armenians when we already have Jewish, Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, and cults, in addition to the Apostolic Church?

    Today, we all start from different origins, beliefs and religions. Only if we recognize truth under the Son of God, will the Armenian nation be set free–united and prosperous.

  3. Muslim Armenians

    Vahram Aghajanyan wrote an interesting article, proposing a radical change of paradigm. I like changes and new ideas. Nevertheless, I have to agree with Onnik K. because some points of view in the article are fallacious.

    Let me ask a question (maybe it will trigger a new debate): Would it still be Armenia if most of Armenians become Muslims? In my opinion, Muslim Armenian, although they enjoy some liberties ("some liberties" aren’t synonymous with liberty), they are into an assimilation process. For instance, do they retain their Armenian names in Turkey?

    I’m not judging the Muslim Armenian, but talking about their future and that of the rest of Armenians. I hope a deeper analysis–not one based on convenience–but also on values, principles and national identity. I agree with Onnik.: I don’t want to bring to my town a Trojan Horse. Thank you very much.

    1. Pablo, Are You Serious?

      Pablo,

      Are you serious when you ask: "For instance, do they [Hamshens] retain their Armenian names in Turkey?" I do not know any Hemshintsis, but I read quite a bit about them and know how most of them try to maintain their Armenian culture in spite of the difficulties they have faced throughout their history. 

      I wonder when you try to make a judgment call about one’s Armenianism because of their non-Armenian name while you bear the name Pablo. It makes me wonder about your judgment and knowledge of Armenian history. I suggest you read history first to understand why some Armenian names were changed and Turkified before you attack one’s name, Pablo.

      I am an Armenian from Turkey; a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. I am also a graduate of an Armenian school, fluent in reading and writing, plus lecturing in Armenian. Due to the "soyadi kanunu" of Turkey, our last name was changed by my grandfather in Thirties. What difference does the name make if one feels Armenian or not, Pablo?
       

  4. Most of you writing about muslims

    To most of you writing about muslims or Armenian muslims a simple question;  who do you prefer to deal with as an Armenian?

    1) An Armenian who is the priest of an apostolic church and declares he doesn’t mind if his kids are married to an odar as long as they are christian

    2) An Armenian who is a Christian & is the grandson of a priest, never aknowledeged being Armenian, served in Turkish army and calls himself a Turk

    3) An Armenian who has converted to islam or most probably born as an islam aknowledges that he is Armenian?

    There are more sensitive examples, and we should explore and find out who is worthy to be called an ARMENIAN.

    Shame on us if we call Hamshens just Muslims. These people for ages have preserved the Armenian language & tradition in captivity.

    Shame on us if we call AYNJAR capital of Jabal Moussa. 

    1. Way off the topic, specially Ruzan’s comments

      I think some comments are way off the topic, specially Ruzan’s. The article is not discussing  whether the Muslim Armenians should be repatriated to present day Republic of Armenia or Artsakh. That’s not the major thrust. The author is not telling Muslim Armenians in Turkey to immigrate to Armenia. What I read in between the lines he is, on the contrary, in favor of them staying on their lands in Turkey. What he is advocating is having a representative association or a similar structure for Muslim Armenians to advocate on behalf of Armenian interests within Muslim circles, exposing people who use religious jargon to confuse the real issue of Karabagh, which is political and not religious. What’s wrong with this proposal?

      Ruzan is at best confusing matters and I might add probably deliberately, because she can’t visualize an Armenian without being Christian, and an Apostolic Christian at that. Secondly, in her statements she is exhibiting an overt anti-Muslim sentiment against which the author is cautioning for very good reasons, and  Samvel has pointed out the flaw.

      In this day and age confounding ethnicity and religion is at best inappropriate for any intellectual, and at worst shows ignorance of complexities of how societies, people, nations and countries evolve.

      If Ruzan is so worried then she should make a priority of "cleansing" Armenia from so called "Christian" elements that are corroding the country from within rather than engaging in futile treatise of hypothetical situations.

      I wonder whether she has met any Hamshen. Let me assure Ruzan that the Hamshens in Rize and Hopa are on their lands and they have no wish or intent to leave for corrupt Armenia.

      I would suggest that she shows some tact on how she addresses the Muslim Armenians, and think hard of what Tigran Hamam Amatuni is saying.

      1. Address the Issue

        Nareg,

        Instead of writing a few lines criticizing Ruzan, it behooves you to write in Armenian and do something regarding the needs of Hamshen Armenians, instead of offering empty talk and rhetoric which only builds nations and countries on the clouds.

        I agree with Tirgan Hamam, too. Nareg, go to Hamshen and help him. Meanwhile, I agree with Ruzan heart and soul. Yes, if your Christian faith means nothing to you, it is everything to us!

  5. To Ruzan: Muslim Armenians

    Parev, Kalimera, Hi,

    Finally someone who can think normal: Vahram Aghajanyan.

    Some commentators forget what they want. Do they want lost brothers and sisters or just Christians? Do they want Armenians or only Christians? Have you asked muslim Armenians, what do they want or who they are? No! 

    Off the hat they determine who is Armenian or is not. We don’t need them. We are living on our historical country.  We are not happy, because we lost our language, our culture.. we have no more time to hear some stupid opinion.

    We need radios, TVs, books, websites and finally we need solidarity. I would rather have smart-intelligent enemies than stupid friends

    Tigran Hamam Amatuni – hemsin basköylü ermeni from Hamshen

    http://www.network54.com/Forum/677257/

     

     

  6. ԱԶԱՏ եք ինչի՞ց. To Tigran Hamam Amatuni

    Ձեր ուղարկած կայքէջն ամբողջությամբ թուրքերեն է։ Դուք անգամ հայերեն չեք գրում, այսինքն՝ արդեն մեծ նահանջ կա հայկական ինքնությունից (էլ չեմ խոսում  կրոնի մասին)։ Մեզ համար հայ լինելը և հայոց լեզուն է, և հայոց կրոնը, և մշակույթը, և Հայրենիքը։

    Բայց դուք ձեր կայքէջում արդեն պարզ ասել եք, թե դուք ով եք։  Գրել եք՝ ՄԵՆՔ ՍԵՎԾՈՎՅԱՆ ԱՎԱԶԱՆԻ ԱԶԱՏ ԱԶԳԵՐՍ (We Aree Free Nations Of Black Sea)։ Սա ի՞նչ է՝ նոր ա՞զգ։ Իսկ ինչու՞ չեք գրել՝ ՄԵՆՔ ՀԱՅԵՐՍ (WE ARE ARMENIANS)։ Դուք ձեզ ՀԱՅ չեք համարում։

    ԱԶԱՏ եք ինչի՞ց

    Եվ հետո՝ ի՞նչ է նշանակում ԱԶԱՏ։ Թուրքիայում ե՞ք ԱԶԱՏ, որ խոսում եք թուրքերեն, դավանում եք իսլամ։ Ուզում եք ի լուր աշխարհի ցուցադրել, թե Թուրքիայում ազգային փոքրամասնությունների կյանքն այնքան բարեկեցիկ է, որ դուք ԱԶԱՏ ե՞ք։

    Թե՞ Գերմանիայում եք ԱԶԱՏ։ Բայց եթե Գերմանիայում եք, ինչու՞ եք գրում՝ we are living on our historical country: Ուրեմն Հայրենիքի անունը մի շահարկեք։

    Դուք իրականում միայն ազատ եք Հայկական ինքնությունից, Հայ ազգային շահերին ծառայելուց, Հայկական Հարցին հետամուտ լինելուց, Հայաստանի զինված ուժերում ծառայելուց։

  7. On language issue

    To ALL

    Եվ ընդհանրապես,  հայկական ինքնության մասին քննարկումը պետք է ընթանա հայերեն լեզվով, եթե ցանկություն կա օբյեկտիվ քննարկել այն։ Նրանք ովքեր չեն տիրապետում հայերենին, արդեն չեն կարող անաչառ լինել։ Այն մարդը, ով արդեն հրաժարվել է մայրենի լեզվից, նա հեշտությամբ կհրաժարվի նաև ինքնության մյուս բաղադրիչներից, այդ թվում՝ կրոնից։

  8. Muslim Armenians

    The matter is not one of black and white. Either you are (Christian) Armenian or else you are a (Muslim) Turk and anti-Armenian. This is a very simplistic look at the problem, whereas the question is a complex one and needs a studied, human approach.

     

    Expecting from Hamshen Armenians to advocate Armenian interests in the Islamic world seems to me a far-fetched desire. Also it should not be expected from them to renounce their identity and become a “pure Armenian”. That is neither practical nor necessary. They should remain what they are. Because, they are unique in what they are. Yes: Muslim Armenians. If they think of themselves as Muslim Armenians how can we tell them you are not? There are increasing number of Christian Iranians these days and no one tells them you are not an Iranian.

     

    Many Armenians and Christians were forced to convert under the pressure of the Ottoman rulers. The majority of them lost their ethnic-national identity in the process as well. By keeping their Armenian consciousness while being forced to convert to Islam, Hamshen Armenians have performed a remarkable feat of survival.

     

    As they are what they are, they can best be a bridge between the Armenian and the Turkish peoples, because they have the cultural ingredients of both. No one should try to change that, unless they themselves do it voluntarily. Remember, there are many descendants of the forced converts in Turkey who increasingly become conscious of their ancestral identity. Many search their roots. It would be inhumane to reject them or expect them to renounce their past out of hand in order that we may accept them.

     

    As I said before, expecting the Hamshen Armenians to represent Armenian interests in Islamic circles would perhaps be a too optimistic presumption. But, what we could do is to strengthen our bonds with them and offer them the richness and diversity of the Armenian culture. Hopefully, they will choose to develop and strengthen their Armenian side of identity further.

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