Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Religion and secularism in Turkey

"In a country where the government is so overtly secular, and where you are reminded of the secular nature of the state in a thousand ways on an almost daily basis, why does a government-issued identity card have a space for “religion?”
And why did this friend’s identity card say “Muslim” when she is one of the most unreligious people I have ever met?"

"Remember that the Republic of Turkey is little more than 80 years old, and the early vision for the nation was a radical departure from what came before it. Generally, the idea was that if you were inside the national boundaries and your allegiance was to the Republic, that was enough to be a Turk. It didn’t matter what your religious or ethnic background was."

". . . the state uses a Muslim umbrella to bring together most of the people inside its national boundaries.
The building of a secular state and the unification of a diverse population on religious grounds go together like oil and water. However, while the revolutionary concepts of allegiance to a secular state take hold, religious affiliation serves as an already-existing umbrella to hold everyone together in the meantime. The secular state’s dependence on religion for survival was built right into the revolution."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Appreciating Turkey while packed in a dolmuş

Funny take on one of the many wonderful experiences of Turkey:

I don’t like hot, crowded places, and I don’t like to let other people drive. And yet, here I was, weaving in and out of traffic on a hot, crowded dolmuş, on the Asian side of Istanbul, with a nearsighted madman at the wheel... and I was smiling. Something was wrong with me.

First, they call this little bus a “dolmuş” because just like the Turkish and Greek dish, “dolmuş” (that grape leaf thing they fill with rice), they keep packing it until it is stuffed. And this little blue bus was stuffed today.

Continue Reading about Dolmus Ride

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ancient Church to Reopen After Renovations

"The Akhtamar Church on an island off the southern shore of lake Van in eastern Anatolia is expected to be opened on April 15 after completion of an ongoing renovation. Turkey has already spent YTL 3 million (nearly $2 million) to restore the church, Koç said in an interview with Turkish daily Today's Zaman. Asked whether the renovation was an attempt to counter Armenian genocide claims, Koç clearly dismissed it.
"We repair the houses of worship of not only monotheistic but also polytheistic religions," said the minister. "We consider them our inherited legacy. … We consider them as our wealth."

Notice how common it is for Muslims to refer to any Christian religion as polytheistic.
JTW Interview - 'Armenian Diaspora Invited to Church Opening'

Monday, February 12, 2007

Descendant of Muhammad Converts to Christianity] :..

"A Turk, who claims to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, has converted to Christianity in Germany.

Sedar Dedeoglu of Luedenscheid is involved in Christian outreach programs among Muslims. As a result he frequently receives death threats from Muslims unwilling to accept his conversion. His relatives also regard the apostasy as shameful.

If Dedeoglu returned to his native country, he would very likely be killed. Despite this threat the German Federal Migration Office and several courts of justice have rejected asylum applications by the Dedeoglu family. They claim that Christians are free to practice their religion in Turkey."

..: JOURNAL CHRETIEN [Descendant of Muhammad Converts to Christianity] :..

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Trabzon's growing culture of violence - Turkish Daily News Feb 09, 2007

"First the youths fantasized about killing. Then they carried out the crimes, emboldened by their violent imaginations."

"Like many mid-size Turkish cities, Trabzon has the ingredients for social discontent. Unemployment is high, education is poor, and facilities are few.

Solak suggested the spate of extremist crimes may even be linked to the regional character. �The Black Sea person's cultural characteristics are different. He is more open to heroism, to bullying, to being a daredevil. Children are introduced to guns when they are young."

When there is no industry, when the economy is poor, the young feel they have nothing to lose and they tend toward fanaticism, Solak said."

"All but a tiny minority of Turks are Muslims, and hard-line nationalists view Christianity as an encroaching power, echoing historical animosities in the region that date back to the Crusades. Some condemned Pope Benedict XVI, who angered Muslims over comments about Islam when he visited Turkey in November on a trip that was otherwise viewed as a reasonably successful effort, at least temporarily and in symbolic terms, to unite faiths."
Trabzon's growing culture of violence - Turkish Daily News Feb 09, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007


"Turkey’s Catholics extended reconciliation to this tense Black Sea city yesterday, exactly one year after a local teenager shot an Italian priest while he was praying in his church.

Trabzon has come under increasing criticism in the Turkish and international press after the killer of Father Andrea Santoro and the suspected assassin of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink emerged as Black Sea locals. Tight security both in and around the church indicated that authorities did not want a repeat of either incident."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Turkey will stay secular

"On the 70th year of secularism becoming part of the Turkish Constitution, Turkish politicians gave a message to the world: Turkey is secular and will remain so."

“The Turkish people have internalized secularism. The nation is the sole guardian of this principle,” said the prime minister. He reiterated that today Turkey saw and understood the importance of secularism as a guarantee of freedom for different beliefs and lifestyles."

"However, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer warned that though secularism was the guarantee of all freedoms, including freedom of belief, it was more than that."

T.H.Y. To Start Belief Tourism Flights For Jews And Christians

"Turkish Airlines (THY) is preparing to carry Christians and Jews to Turkey and Israel within the framework of faith tourism.

With this new initiative, THY aims to host Christians and Jews in Turkey and enable them to visit sacred places.

"We want Christians and Jews, who want to take part in these tours, to visit (Turkish cities of) Istanbul, Antakya and Konya and ancient city of Ephesus. This will be the first project of its kind,"
The Anatolia Times

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Turkish Police Clamp Strict Security on Christians’ Trial

"Strict security controls surrounded the second court hearing for two Turkish Christians facing criminal charges for insulting Turkish identity under the nation’s controversial Article 301."

"At their January 29 hearing, the presiding judge again closed his court to all observers, with only the defendants and their lawyer present for the defense. They faced seven prosecuting lawyers led by ultranationalist attorney Kemal Kerincsiz, notorious in Turkey for having hounded the outspoken Dink with multiple charges under Article 301."

"Fatih Kose, 23, the only adult among the three accusers, took the witness stand for the first time in the case. In his testimony, Kose reportedly admitted that he had visited Tastan’s church in Istanbul several times of his own free will.

While reiterating his written accusations, Kose contradicted himself several times as to where and when he had heard specific “illegal” statements, and from which of the two defendants. “His testimony was very contradictory,” Polat said, “and this kept angering the judge, who really chewed him out over many of his statements.”

When Polat asked the court whether Kose was a member of any known political group in Silivri, Kerincsiz reportedly shook his fists at Polat, objecting so vehemently to the question that the judge ordered him to stop “making a show.”

"Kerincsiz further embarrassed himself when the judge demanded to know why he had not produced the two teenager accusers in court. The lawyer’s explanation that the two boys had not gotten permission to be absent from school that day fell flat with the judge, who dryly reminded Kerincsiz that all the nation’s schools had closed three days earlier for their annual winter recess."

"In his statements at Monday’s hearing, Kerincsiz reportedly accused Tastan’s church of breaking the law by collecting offerings and tithes from the congregation. The attorney insisted that Turkish law required all domestic institutions to obtain permission from their local civil authorities to collect funds.

“Every mosque in Turkey has an offering box for the donations of the faithful,” Topal commented to Compass. “So don’t we Christian citizens have that same right ?”

"Ever since the case was filed against them, Tastan told Compass yesterday, he has been made aware that his e-mails, telephone calls, home and even movements in the area have been under constant surveillance.

“The day after I visit anyone, whether it’s a relative or some acquaintance in another town, the secret police come around and question them about my visit,” Tastan said. “Am I considered a terrorist, that I warrant such attention ?”

“We don’t know what the results of this trial will be,” Tastan said. “But God knows. And I think that the judge understood on Monday that the people accusing us are not telling the truth.”

Turkish Police Clamp Strict Security on Christians' Trial

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