Sunnyside Queens and the Pope

DECEMBER 3, 2006
In a small storefront Mosque neighbors gathered for Friday services.
The Turkish Community of Sunnyside, situated within and beside Latino, Irish, Asian populated areas of Queens are a tightly knit group whose fundamental beliefs range from a keen awareness of the Koran as well as of it's neighbors. There, at the Turkish Islamic Cultural Center, as well as elsewhere in the Turkish immigrant community, the Pope’s discourse and subsequent visit to Turkey this week were very much on people’s minds.
Merve Taskan Theatrical Director "I saw the video of his visit. I think he was very sorry and ashamed that he said all those things. Even some Catholic people reacted, “What are you saying?” And he’s thinking, “Oh my God they’re going to kill me if I go there!” And some people from Turkey stood up and said “We don’t want him here.” But the government was very precise and careful to see to it that he would be very secure. And Turkey is very forgiving to start with. He came . . . and the people are clapping! Its, “Hi, can I touch you? Blah, blah, blah.” I’m thinking, these are my precious people here! But the way he was looking, he was shocked. “Look at these people, how they are welcoming me. They don’t want anything from me; what do they want? They’re all, “Hello. Can I take a picture?” And I think he said, “I should think about that Moslem part one more time. Because these are Moslems too."
Imam Kamil Oktay Turkish Islamic Cultural Center “The Ottomans left us with this culture, from all the way East to Vienna. We had this big culture and this culture brought us to the belief that we can mingle with different religions.”
Turkay Demirel Tiling Business “As a result of his original comments, Arabs may have less trust in Catholics. We Turks don’t have that kind of reaction. We’re trusting before you do anything. They don’t just jump. They think before they do anything. They formed some protest within the laws. We don’t do anything wild.”
Arif Denk Building Superintendent “They should call terrorists by whatever country they are from. They should say “Iraqi terrorists”, “Arab terrorists”, instead of saying “Islamists”. These people are doing their own work and using religion, in every terrorism act. Somebody puts the terrorism name next to Islam. And we’re trying to clear that name.”