Turkish faithful question meaning of devastating quake
August 27, 1999
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.
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."
Istanbul probes contractors as homeless total rises
DISASTER RELIEF SITES:
Turkish Republic Earthquake Relief Fund
Survivor message site (in Turkish)
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