Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fuss Over 'Fez' Hat As Christians and Secularists Look To EU (BosNewsLife In-Depth) | Turkey | Europe

"The cylindrical 'fez' hat, with its dangling black tassel, provokes feelings of resentment, humiliation and grim memories of repression among many proud, nationalistic Turks."

"Welcome to Turkey, physically split between Europe and Asia by the Bosphorus Strait which now hosts expensive real estate along its shores amid seafood restaurants, a modern art museum, and lovingly restored mansions.

This East-meets-West crossroads hopes to join the European Union. Turkey's new generation is becoming increasingly hip and globalized. Islam competes to survive. Young foreign tourists boast to awe-struck Turks about beer bongs and Western girls, but someone discreetly clicks off the radio's rock music when the neighborhood mosque's muezzin calls faithful Muslims to prayer via minaret-mounted electric loudspeakers."

"Ataturk's secularist cultural revolution banned the fez, the Whirling Dervishes, and other behavior he perceived as Islamic fundamentalism, backward rituals, and other hurdles to liberation. Today, belly-dancers and less risqué entertainers add "Ottoman cuisine" to their live shows, to attract tourists.

Hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops include the title "sultan" in their name to create a bit of exoticism. But a simmering bloody struggle, between Islamists and secularists, vexes Turkish society and often kills people on both sides.

Perceived as pro-Western by Muslim militants, and definitely not wearing fezzes, Turkey's minority Christians seem often in the crossfire-- especially in areas far removed from major cities such as Istanbul. "We need peace more than anything at the moment and prayers," said Isa Dogdu, a theological teacher at the Syrian Orthodox Church in the medieval city of Midyat, about 150 kilometers (94 miles) north of Silopi a border town near Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq."


His church is the main denomination of local Christians, also known as 'Syriac people,' aChristians in Turkey try to survive amid a fight between secularists and Islamic fundamentalists. reference to the dialect they speak. It has close ties with roughly 750,000 fellow believers across the border in Iraq who mainly belong to the Assyrian Church of the East with its spiritual centre in Nineveh, now Mosul, where the Bible says Prophet Jonah brought the message of repentance.

They speak Syriac, based on the Aramaic language which Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken. But it's not a tradition that has been welcomed by Islamic groups fighting against what they see as the growing influence of "Christian" America and "secularism" in the region.

In the last decade up to 30 Christians, including some women and children, were murdered in Turkey's border region, local Christians told BosNewsLife. Other families have been threatened by a variety of Islamic groups, including the radical 'PKK'-group that is fighting for an independent Kurdistan in Turkey and Northern Iraq, BosNewsLife established.

In addition Christians have been threatened and attacked by the militant Hizbullah organization, which fought the PKK, as well as village guards and Turkish security forces."
LETTER FROM TURKEY: Fuss Over 'Fez' Hat As Christians and Secularists Look To EU (BosNewsLife In-Depth) | Turkey | Europe

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