Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turkey aims to reopen old seminary

Turkey aims to reopen old seminary - The National Newspaper
Almost 40 years after it closed down its only training school for Greek Orthodox priests, Turkey is moving closer to reopening the seminary, a step that would remove a high-profile obstacle on the country’s march towards membership in the European Union, statements of two senior government ministers in Ankara suggest.

The fate of the seminary on the island of Heybeliada, or Halki in Greek, in the Sea of Marmara close to Istanbul, has become a symbol for the state of religious freedom in Turkey. US President Barack Obama, during a visit to Turkey in April, joined demands by European officials that Ankara reopen the school, which has been closed since 1971. Because there is no other institution in Turkey that trains Greek Orthodox priests, the clergy in what used to be Byzantium is in danger of dying out.

“My own inclination as well as my general impression are that the school will be opened,” Ertugrul Gunay, the culture and tourism minister and a leading reformer in the cabinet, told the news channel Kanal 24 last weekend, adding that there was “no political problem” with that decision.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Turks increasingly turn to Islamic extremism

Turks increasingly turn to Islamic extremism - Los Angeles Times
Reporting from London -- In an audio message from a hide-out in South Asia this month, an Al Qaeda chief did something new: He sang the praises of an ethnic group that once barely registered in the network.

"We consider the Muslims in Turkey our brothers," said Mustafa Abu Yazid, the network's operations chief. Lauding Turkish suicide bombers killed in recent attacks near the Afghan-Pakistani border, he declared, "This is a pride and honor to the nation of Islam in Turkey, and we ask Allah to accept them amongst the martyrs."

The message is the latest sign of the changing composition of Islamic extremism, anti-terrorism officials and experts say. The number of Turks in Al Qaeda, long dominated by Arabs, has increased notably, officials say. And militant groups dominated by Turks and Central Asians, many of whom share Turkic culture and speak a Turkic language, have emerged as allies of and alternatives to Al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan.

"We are aware of an increasing number of Turks going to train in Pakistan," said a senior European anti-terrorism official who asked to remain anonymous because the subject is sensitive. "This increase has taken place in the past couple of years."

Turkey's secular tradition and official monitoring of religious practice for years helped restrain extremism at home and in the diaspora. But the newer movements churn out Internet propaganda in Turkish as well as German, an effort to recruit among a Turkish immigrant population in Germany that numbers close to 3 million.

"We are seeing almost as much propaganda material from these Turkic groups as we are from Al Qaeda," said Evan Kohlmann, a U.S. private consultant who works with anti-terrorism agencies around the world. "Turks were perceived as moderate with few connections to Al Qaeda central. Now Germany is dealing with this threat in a community that could be a sleeping giant."

Sunday, June 28, 2009


A suspected “middleman” between the alleged masterminds and young executors in the stabbing murders of three Christians here failed to appear at a hearing on Friday (June 19) because of a procedural error.

The state prosecutor’s office failed to set aside funds to transport Varol Bulent Aral to the southeastern city of Malatya from Istanbul, where he is held, the court announced. Aral is the second suspected middleman connecting the five young murderers to “deep state” masterminds who allegedly plotted to kill Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske.

Holy people to compete to convert atheists on Turkish TV show

Holy people to compete to convert atheists on Turkish TV show
According to a report on the Hurriyet DailyNews.com Web site, a new Turkish TV show is set to air in September that will challenge holy people to convert atheists to their brand of godliness. The show, which is loosely translated as "Penitents Compete," will feature a "Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi... a Buddhist monk" and 10 atheists.

The holy folk will compete to see who can turn the most atheists into followers of their given religion. Their goal is to convert at least one non-believer each week. According to Ahmet Özdemir, Deputy Director of Kanal T which will air the new show, "'The project aims to turn disbelievers into [believers in] God.'"

The premise of the show, according to the report is that "[e]ach week, a different group of atheists will appear in front of the religious leaders. The producers of the show are well aware that there is a chance none of the atheists will be convinced by the arguments presented to them. Yet if an ex-atheist is 'persuaded' to start following one of the religions, he or she will have the chance to travel to that religion’s center, whether Jerusalem for Christians and Jews or Mecca for Muslims or Tibet for Buddhists." The main goal of producers for the show is to teach people about a variety of religions.

‘Churches of İstanbul’

‘Churches of İstanbul’
İstanbul is home to some of the most amazing churches in the world. The glory of the Hagia Sophia has been marveled at by visitors throughout the centuries, ever since Justinian exclaimed, “Solomon, I have surpassed you,” demonstrating his belief that this new church outshone the Temple of the Old Testament.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Since Iranian native Nasser Ghorbani fled to Turkey seven years ago, he has been unable to keep a job for more than a year – eventually his co-workers would ask why he didn’t come to the mosque on Fridays, and one way or another they’d learn that he was a convert to Christianity.

Soon thereafter he would be gone.

Never had anyone gotten violent with him, however, until three weeks ago, when someone at his workplace in Istanbul hit him on the temple so hard he knocked him out. When he came back to his senses, Ghorbani was covered in dirt, and his left eye was swollen shut. It hurt to breathe.

His whole body was in pain. He had no idea what had happened.

“I’ve always had problems at work in Turkey because I’m a Christian, but never anything like this,” Ghorbani told Compass.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Intolerance in Turkey

Survey: Neighborhood pressure is rare in Turkey, but intolerance is not
"although a majority of the respondents said diversity is an asset for societies, most respondents gave answers suggesting that there is widespread intolerance toward those who are different. Seventy-two percent said they wouldn't want to have neighbors who consumed alcohol, and 52 percent said they wouldn't like to have any Christian neighbors, while 64 percent said they wouldn't like to have Jewish neighbors. Sixty-six percent do not want irreligious people as neighbors, while 26 percent wouldn't like to have a neighbor of a different race. Unmarried couples, Americans, daughters who wear shorts and gay people are among the kinds of neighbors a majority of Turkish people said they would mind."