Ashura is a religious observance marked every year by Muslims. The word “ashura” literally means “10th,” as it is the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year. Ashura is an ancient observance that is now commemorated for different reasons and in different ways among Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
The Anatolian Alevi-Bektaşi Federation also supported the event, called “Muharrem de bizim Ramazan da” (Muharram is ours, Ramadan too). The attendees at the dinner made speeches emphasizing peace.
Çalık highlighted the importance of Alevis and Sunnis gathering at one table. “Today's dinner is important not only for breaking our fast but also for showing love and respect for one another. Let us not provide separatists with any opportunities. Let us embrace each other sincerely,” he said.
The event started with a prayer recited by Süleyman Anlı from the Baba Mansur dergah (dervish lodge) while Beyazıt Mosque imam Suat Gözütok recited verses from the Quran.
Ashura observances mark the seventh century death of Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in a battle near Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, which was a key event in Islam's split into the majority Sunni and minority Shiite branches.
Former Galatasaray Chairman Polat said the Karbala tragedy was the common pain of all Muslims. “We are flowers sharing the same garden. Not only are we fed by the same soil but the source of our water is the same, too. We are the branches of a grand tree,” said Polat, adding, “As long as we are in unity and solidarity, nothing can damage the fraternity of Muslims.”
İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu also made a speech in the evening, wishing for the strengthening of the unity and solidarity between Muslims.
Due to his busy schedule, President Abdullah Gül did not attend the dinner but sent a video message to the attendees. “We all share a common history and future. Our differences and distinctness are our most important assets. We will overcome our problems with self confidence by loving each other, fostering an atmosphere of tolerance and dialogue and respecting each other's feelings and values,” Gül said in his message, adding that he honors those who were martyred in Karbala.
In remarks to Today's Zaman, Anatolian Alevi-Bektaşi Federation head Cengiz Hortoğlu said the organization supports similar events in order to draw attention to the existence of differences in Turkey. “In Alevis and Sunnis, it is common to love Imam Husain by fasting and distributing aşure desserts,” he added.
Among the attendees were Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Beşiktaş Sports Club Chairman Fikret Orman, Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) President Rızanur Meral, Erdem Holding Chairman Zeynel Abidin Erdem, Feza Gazetecilik owner Ali Akbulut and actors Kutsi, Selin Demiratar and Necati Şaşmaz. Today's Zaman is a subsidiary of Feza Gazetecilik.