Saturday, February 26, 2005

Santa Claus statue row in Turkey

"Residents of the Turkish province of Antalya have held a rally to denounce the removal of a statue of St Nicholas, commonly known as Santa Claus."

"The Russian artist who sculpted the statue, Gregory Pototsky, reacted angrily to its removal.

"It is not decent to do such things with gifts. There is nothing about religious tolerance here," he told the web site."
BBC NEWS | Europe | Santa Claus statue row in Turkey

Friday, February 25, 2005

Can Turks be Christians?

"Can Turks be Christians?" To give a short answer, "yes they can." Saying that "Turks can never become Christians" is an ordinary claim and empty wish.

Identifying any race with a religion is not absolute. A person born a Jew might either become Christian or Muslim through his/her mother. The idiom "Turk means Muslim and Muslim means Turk" is a superstition that surfaced after the19th century."

"People of any religion and race may change their religions and Turks may also want to change their religions individually or communally. Turkish citizens other than Turks may also choose another religion by quitting Islam. What we should focus on is under which terms and under which influential factors do the change in religion occurs."

"Islam cannot develop by enclosing itself. On the contrary, it reveals its realities when it interacts, enters into discussions and negotiations with other religions."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ancient Hagia Sophia Mosaics Still Wait for a Savior

"Experts are dismayed that pieces of mosaics portraying the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and Christian saints are being stored unprotected in boxes. Art historians criticize their continued storage despite the public outcry and say it is gross negligence and insensitiveness to leave them where they are. Saying that the Hagia Sophia is suffering serious problems from the mismanagement of its restoration, Professor Semavi Eyice says that the scandal is a national shame for Turkey. The monument has been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World", but pieces of its mosaics are being treated like rubbish, and Eyice has called on officials to take action. Professor Said Basaran, Chair of Istanbul University's Cultural Heritage Conservation and Restoration Department has said that the abandoned pieces are as valuable as the ones decorating the dome and that the mosaics should be transferred to a secure place."


Tomb of Saint Paul Found?

"A tomb that may contain the remains of Saint Paul, one of the Christian church's most important leaders and the author of much of the Bible's New Testament, has been unearthed in Rome, according to a Vatican Museums archaeologist."

"Archaeologists discovered the sarcophagus on what would have been the ground floor of the 4th century basilica. It was found under the altar next to a marble plaque that reads, "Apostle Paul, martyr."

"Nobody ever thought to look behind that plaque," said Filippi, who indicated that he and his team were surprised when they found the tomb."
Discovery Channel :: News :: Tomb of Saint Paul Found?

Turkey grants student amnesties

"The Turkish parliament has granted an amnesty to 677,000 men and women who have been expelled from university over the past five years.

The amnesty includes those expelled from university because their refusal to remove the Islamic headscarf."

"The secular establishment insists that the ban maintains the separation of religion and state enshrined in the constitution.

More orthodox Muslims and human rights campaigners complain that it is an abrogation of freedom of expression and worship.

A clear majority in Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, would like to see the ban lifted.

In parliament, one deputy complained that his governing party was being too timid - he wanted the ban removed altogether.

But the government appears to have accepted that it cannot legislate against the will of the secular establishment.

Those who continue to wear a headscarf may now reapply to university, but they will not be allowed to study."
BBC NEWS | Europe | Turkey grants student amnesties

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Noah's Pudding: An Ancient Tradition

"Next Saturday is the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. That is to say Noah's Pudding Day. If you have been submerged into mundane activities and have forgotten that Muharram 10th is approaching, shops selling legumes, herbs and dried fruit shops will hang "Noah's pudding" recipes at the most visible places this week, and hence, remind us of how close this day is. Ladies, who respect this day will be involved in a secret, but sweet "keeping up" with each other just to have a whiter and more delicious Noah's pudding. Neighbors will knock on each other's doors and very delicious Noah's puddings will be presented. It is true that the number of homes, where Noah's pudding is being prepared is gradually decreasing every year, nonetheless, this custom, with different layers of meaning encoded in it, as well as an ancient tradition, continues to preserve its spirit and vitality, even though it has lost several original aspects, belonging its ancient ceremonial patterns, during the modern ages."


Friday, February 18, 2005

Wall street journal slams Turkish media

When Freedom of the Press goes dreadfully wrong:

"Under the headline "The Sick Man of Europe -- Again," writer Robert Pollock describes events and stories he heard during a trip to Ankara last month and how the "special" 50-year relationship between the NATO allies is suffering from absurd examples of national paranoia on the part of the Turks."

"Then there's the "eighth planet" theory circulating around the Turkish capital. The theory, says Pollock, "holds not only that the U.S. knows of an impending asteroid strike, but that we know it's going to hit North America. Hence our desire to colonize the Middle East."

Who believes such stuff? According to Pollock, "such stories are told in all seriousness at the most powerful dinner tables in Ankara. The common thread is that almost everything the U.S. is doing in the world -- even tsunami relief -- has malevolent motivations, usually with the implication that we're acting as muscle for the Jews."
Turkish Daily News

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Religious freedoms back on the agenda

"The commission report included a list of recommendations, a list apparently discussed beforehand with the Turkish government, which contained, among many other points, a mention of the need to scrap the reference to religion on identity cards and the elimination of compulsory religious courses in Turkish high schools."

"Some prominent members of the AKP, such as Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç, immediately accused Europe of prejudice against Turkey, while others, like State Minister Mehmet Aydın (who is responsible for religious affairs) publicly questioned whether European law would eventually prohibit the Turks from teaching Islam to their children."

"These arguments are only natural, but we have to learn from the mistakes of others that these discussions are also futile. The Islamic-rooted AKP might be very sensitive on the religion issue, but at the same time they must understand that many people in this country consider it discrimination to have to state to which sect of Islam they belong to on ID cards.

Do all the people in this country belong to the Hanefi sect? While many Turks belong to other Sunni sects, a substantial portion of this society is Alawite. Some Turkish citizens also believe in religions other than Islam.

Omitting the reference to religion on ID cards, is, therefore, a requirement of a truly secular state.

Similarly, why should all Turkish children be taught the Sunni understanding of Islam? Isn't this some sort of torture to non-Muslim or Alawite children?

It's good that this religious freedom issue has appeared on the country's agenda once again because of the Council of Europe commission report. Perhaps this discussion will help to enhance religious freedoms in Turkey."
Turkish Daily News

Majority of Turks are happy, despite all...

One columnist view on the people's view towards the state . . .

"At the end of the day, one sees 70 million Turks, mostly young, happy and full of hope for a better life, and, conversely, moral hazards and an increasing crime rate."
Turkish Daily News

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Reactions To European Council's Report

Apparently, they didn't like this report:

"99 percent of our country is comprised of Muslims. Are we not going to teach Islam to our children? Whether or not they follow Islam is their own responsibility. There is a religion called Islam. This religion is that of the society. We must provide the most up-to-date information on Islam in order to complete the cultural education. Those individuals who are not informed about a religion can not make sound decisions. Religion must be looked as a social reality,'' indicated Aydin."

''The decision of the European Council is questionable. Turkey does not have to accept everything suggested by the European Council.''
Reactions To European Council's Report

European Council calls for religious reforms in Turkey

"A report prepared by the European Council on religion in Turkey has called on Ankara to implement a series of reforms to bring the country’s standards into line with those of Europe."

"The report said that the identity cards issued to all Turkish citizens at birth should have the religion section removed and that schools should abolish compulsory religious classes."
European Council calls for religious reforms in Turkey

Sure it's fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel

A novel by two Turkish authors is feeding paranoia and anti-American sentiment. Please pray that these continual challenges do no damage to the work here.

"The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.

This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest- selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey's public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality."

"Adds another US diplomat, who declined to be named: "Just like sex sells, anti-Americanism sells right now. Unfortunately, it's nothing to laugh at, because it's damaging to both American national interest and to Turkish national interests. We're really pulling our hair out trying to figure out how to deal with this."

A particularly striking feature of the book - one that may say a lot about recent changes in Turkish opinion - is who saves Turkey from defeat: Europe and Russia.

For decades, the European powers were derided in Turkey as the ones that tried to carve the country up after World War 1. Russia, which invaded Turkey in the early 20th century, had always been viewed here with great suspicion. In fact, the potato-and-mayonnaise concoction known in most places as Russian salad is called American salad here."
Sure it's fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel. |

Saturday, February 12, 2005


". . . announce that Dr. Ergun Caner, a converted Sunni Muslim and son of an ulema (Muslim scholar), was to be the first former Muslim to become the dean of an evangelical seminary in the United States."

"A Turkish immigrant who converted to Christianity in 1982, Dr. Caner immigrated with his family to America to build mosques in the Midwest. It was while he was in high school in Ohio that a young friend invited him to church and led him to Christ. He was subsequently disowned by his family."

"Prior to coming to Liberty University as professor of Theology and Church History in 2003, Dr. Caner taught for two years at The Criswell College in the same field. He came to national attention in 2002, when his book “Unveiling Islam” (Kregel) became a best seller and eventual CBA Gold Medallion Award winner. Writing in tandem with his brother, Dr. Emir Fethi Caner, he has written 11 books in the field of world apologetics and history. The books have sold a combined quarter of a million copies and garnered three national book nominations."
The Conservative Voice - News

Friday, February 11, 2005

Gibson relaunches "Passion of Christ" with a new cut

"Hollywood mogul Mel Gibson, will release a new, low-violence version of his 2004 surprise mega-hit "The Passion of Christ" next month."
US News

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Missionary Work and Minorities

"The reason the West attaches great importance to the different groups with religious or ethnic minority status in Turkey or in another country, and its interference in the internal affairs of that country by exploiting the conditions of the minorities, which to a great extent need to be bettered, is its desire to use the minorities as tools while deepening and expanding its fields of influence. Throughout history, European countries have used minorities as the Sword of Damocles."

"It is obvious that missionary work is not solely related to the spread of a religion or proselytization, which starts and ends in the conscience of people. Behind these activities, there are geopolitical, strategic, economic and military benefits for the countries concerned. The missionary institutions have a nearly 200-year experience in Turkey and a historic reflex on Turks. I think these activities serve more than one purpose. One of these aims is to form "a new minority" within the country. Undoubtedly, they want to recruit this minority from the country's current population."

Turkish Islam = civil Islam?

"Even though we may not consider life in the ‘country of Allah’ to be a bed of roses, Turkish women do actually enjoy the same rights as their European sisters."

"In 1924, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President, stunned the West. He abolished the Caliph, secularised schools, forbade Islamic brotherhoods, and, most surprisingly of all, replaced Sharia law with a civil code borrowed from Swiss law. Turkey therefore became a secular republic, preserving religious pluralism in a social fabric that forms the crossroads of all the different strains of Islam. As Gaye Petek points out, “Turkish secularism is different to the kind of secularism seen in France as it is authoritarian and imposed by those in power. Religion is reduced to an absolute minimum and controlled by authorities.” In order to create a modern Turkey, Ataturk therefore focused on a State that was strong, Jacobean, and nationalist, whilst confirming the role of the army. Today, religion is practised but does not interfere with political life."

"Perhaps the root of the problem is that Ataturk imposed his vision of society without sufficiently explaining it, and changing attitudes that have been in existence for thousands of years takes time."

caf� babel, European current affairs magazine : comment and analysis from Europe

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Religious Education to Counter Proselytizing in Turkey

An alleged former believer shares his fantasies about the work in Turkey and what the "real" motives are:

"The appeal followed revelations by a proselytizer who reverted back to Islam that missionaries attempt to sow a sectarian strife in Turkey by Christianizing a large number of its citizens."

"Meanwhile, a former 37-year-old proselytizer, who reverted back to Islam two weeks ago after converting 20 years ago, warned against politically-motivated plans by proselytizers.

Elgar Shenar said he had been ordered as a proselytizer to intensify missionary work targeting members of the sects of Alawiyyin and Kurds."

"The revelation echoed the Turkish army’s report that said the proselytizers are seeking to pit the Sunnis against the Alawiyyin or the opposite to preach about the Christian faith.

Commanding a wide media attention, the former proselytizer regretted that thousands of Muslims, especially young men, had been Christianized by missionaries in areas densely populated by Turks of Arab or Kurdish descent.

He accused the US Defense Department of standing behind the missionary work in Turkey. He further claimed that he “knew his reverting back to Islam was reported to the Pentagon”."
Islam Online- News Section

Friday, February 04, 2005

When Muslims Convert

You have an opportunity and a responsibility to reach out to those around you. When you reach out in love, you can touch the world from where you live. Also, remember to pray for those who turn to Christ, the pressure they can face can be intense:

"In fact, thousands of Muslims in the West embrace Christianity each year, and the courage they must muster to do so is of an entirely different order from the bravado of someone protesting against supposedly pervasive social prejudice. These converts stand accused, rather, of apostasy, a transgression against Islam whose consequences, even in the sheltering confines of the West, are always serious--and sometimes deadly."

"Converts from Islam, especially those who become involved in Christian ministries, often use assumed names, or only their first names, in order to protect themselves and their families. Thus, Abdullah, whose family hails from Saudi Arabia, kept his new faith secret for many years after converting to Christianity in 1980 while living in London. When asked about his religion, he would describe himself only as a "believer." Even after he became a churchgoer, Abdullah hesitated to talk to fellow congregants about his spiritual journey. His new faith, as he recognized from the start, has placed him directly in harm's way."

"The most common dangers faced by Muslim apostates come from their own families. At a recent evangelical convention in Falls Church, Virginia, a couple of female converts from Islam told a reporter about their fears as new Christians. One woman said that when her family finds out, "I know they're going to disown me if they don't kill me." The second woman had similar fears. "My brothers haven't spoken to me in the last couple of years, and that was only because I married an American," she said. "Can you imagine what they would do if they found out I was a Christian?"

When Muslims Convert

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Reflections of the Hajj

Turkish commentary on the Hajj:

"The Hajj is over. 2.5 million Muslims who came together in Mecca from all over the world have returned to their homes. It is easy to write "2.5 million" but it is an unbelievable crowd for those who experienced it. Only they can imagine the transportation of these 2.5 million people from one place to another.

The Hajj has two aspects. Its individual one helps people to make connection with God, to be purified, to settle down, to become clean. Its social aspect means recognizing other Muslims, having conversations with them and holding an annual meeting. The Hajj should be a platform for Muslims talk about their problems and search for opportunities to act in common, but that level of interaction can not be provided. The main reason is the lack of a common language. Although English and Arabic are spoken, since they are not known in all levels sufficient communication is not provided. The second most important reason is the cultural and social differences. The Turkish Muslims' concept of world and civilization is much different to that of Afghan or African Muslims. Likewise, Muslims from Malaysia and Indonesia look at issues from a different perspective than Nigerians.

We see from an intellectual level that the Muslim world has been extremely politicized. This politicization is so dominant that it prevents us talking about other problems and finding solutions for them. When we speak of Islam, the first issues, which come to mind, are Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since these are so dominant, it seems it makes little sense to talk about other issues."