Fazıl Say to exile himself; Turkish “secularism”

Since earlier I mentioned the trouble Fazıl Say, a famous Turkish pianist, has run into due to his open atheism, here’s an update. Apparently he has decided Turkey has become too intolerant of religious dissent, and that he would live in exile in Japan. (Where, let’s face it, a classical pianist will be much better appreciated anyway.)

And still, at the end of the news story, there’s the obligatory lazy comment that “Turkey is an officially secular country.”

Well, maybe. Under some loose definitions of secularism, I suppose.

But even before the Islamization starting in the 1980′s, Turkey’s “secularism” included officially organized and supported Sunni orthodoxy (with a slight reform twist). Turkey had, and still has, a powerful Directorate of Religious Affairs through which the state and religion are closely intertwined, an extensive parallel religious schooling system organized by the state, and a pervasive understanding throughout state institutions, including the military, that “our religion” is Sunni Islam. Turkey has never been a state that belongs to all of its citizens equally, regardless of religion.

On top of that, add three recent decades of state-sanctioned—often state-imposed—Islamization. Turkey is not a secular country. Don’t confuse a history of violent conflict over issues such as the role of the de facto clergy in government with a move toward really separating mosque and state.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Taner,

    Thanks for keeping us informed of the theocratic oppression in Turkey. The occurrences in Turkey remarkably parallel events in the theocracy in which I reside–Texas. Now Texas theocrats cannot be quite so blatant about it as in a Muslim country, so the theocratic motives have to be camouflaged with a thin coating of bullshit.

    I'm sure most readers have heard of the Texas sonogram law, which is similar to the one that got so much negative attention in Virginia. The latest escapade concerns a women's health program that has provided health services for hundreds of thousands of low income women in Texas. The majority of these women received services at Planned Parenthood clinics. Now NONE of the clinics involved in this program perform abortions. However, the State of Texas has decided that no money should go to Planned Parenthood because some of their clinics (again, NONE involved in this program) do perform abortions. Though Texas administers the program, 90% of the funding comes from the federal government. The federal government requires, eminently sensibly, that women be allowed to choose which qualified clinics to use, not the state that administers the program. Texas, by denying funds to Planned Parenthood on ideological grounds, forfeited the contribution of the federal government, so sabotaging the program.

    Our governor, Prick Rerry, er, Rick Perry, says that the state will pick up the slack and that low income women of Texas will not suffer from any lack of medical services. Now, if you believe that, then the people who want to transfer Nigerian funds to your bank account would love to contact you.

    The latest is that Planned Parenthood is now suing Texas to prevent being excluded from the program. Texas says that if Planned Parenthood wins the suit, they will just shut down the program entirely. Theocrats will make compassionate noises when it is to their advantage, but the ideological imperative always trumps caring for human beings.


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