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World - Europe

Turkish faithful question meaning of devastating quake

For many Muslims in Turkey, the meaning behind last week's quake is still being debated

CNN's Walter Rodgers goes to a mosque to learn the thoughts of religious Turks on the earthquake
Windows Media 28K 80K
A country lies shattered

The story of a rescue
Chronology of major earthquakes over the last 20 years
Turkey Quake
Click here to listen to reactions to the earthquake in Turkey

August 27, 1999
Web posted at: 7:44 p.m. EDT (2344 GMT)

In this story:

Divisive debate


From Correspondent Walter Rodgers

GOLCUK, Turkey (CNN) -- Muslim faithful gathered in mosques across Turkey on Friday in a mass outpouring of grief, many praying to understand the meaning of the disastrous earthquake last week that killed more than 13,000 people.

In the hardest-hit city of Golcuk, men wept as the mufti prayed "God, never again send us a disaster like this earthquake."

The prayer leader reminded Muslims of the prophecy of the Koran -- that on Judgment Day there will be earthquakes and other natural disasters. This quake was a warning, he said, a call to repent.

Though Turkey is officially secular, its population is overwhelmingly Muslim. Many devout followers see the quake as divine punishment for turning away from Allah.

Too much sin, immorality and infidelity plague society, some conservatives believe. Others accuse the secular government and military, which have struggled for decades to keep religion out of Turkish politics, of defying God's will.

During this month's total solar eclipse in Turkey, there was too much revelry, one worshipper in Golcuk said. "We got what we deserve because we forgot Islam," he said.

Divisive debate

The question of why the 7.4-magnitude quake struck Turkey has divided many Muslims in an inconclusive theological debate.

"I still believe in the mercy of God," one Golcuk resident argued to another. But he failed to convince his colleague.

"We're bad, bad people," the other man countered.

Others merely pick through what's left of their lives and scoff.

"Are the Americans punished because they have tornadoes?" one woman sneered.

And despite their trauma, most still refuse to blame God for the suffering.

"If we blame this on God, it's unfair to the dead and their families," one Turk said. "Are those who died so sinful and we are so innocent?"

While it's unlikely Turks will reach consensus on why such a catastrophe hit the nation, there is one prayer they all can agree on: "Please God, don't show us anything like this again."

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Turkish Republic Earthquake Relief Fund
Mercy International USA
Disaster Relief from
American Red Cross
Doctors Without Borders
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
World Relief
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc. Turkey Earthquake Relief

Survivor message site (in Turkish)
Turkish Daily News Online
USGS National Earthquake Information Center
Global Earthquake Response Center
Newton's Apple: Earthquake Info
Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute
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