Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Religion in Istanbul

Turns out, although religion is a big part of the Turks' lives, for a whole lot of them it’s a personal matter as in, internally they may have a lot of faith, but just like many Christians they are not devout and vocal about their beliefs.

Maybe it is old news to everybody, but it’s a bit new to me. I don’t really watch TV, but I do follow several liberal and independent (at least I like to think they’re independent) media and even from them the impression that I had was that all Muslims pray 5 times a day, basically go on and on about religion all the time and are adamant about Islam being the world’s “best” religion.

Nobody I know here has gone to a Mosque at least once since my arrival. I was surprised to find out people don’t know the times for the 5 calls to prayer. I can tell time by four of them now. Alcohol is not uncommon (although acknowledged as a sin) and every one has their own stance on premarital sex and sex in general.[At the same time, if you're interested, pork is nowhere in sight, tampons are hard to come by.]

Nobody really asks what your religion is and people only talk about their faith when I bring it up (I have tons of questions). I wonder if I come across some atheists with a Turkish passport during my stay here and what their stance is.

I’ve been told Turkey is the most liberal country whose population practices Islam. I guess that makes sense to me now, although I have no evidence to back this opinion up as I have not yet to visit another country with a high density of Muslim population. Iran is the most conservative country.

In the process of writing this post, I was also browsing my Google Reader and stumbled upon this article, The rise of Islam and the future of secularism. In the first half of the article the author expands on the same thing I was just on about and in the second half she states the number of devout Muslims is on the rise, mostly as part of some statement. Curious.

At the same time, I don’t know how I feel about Eid al-Adha I believe it is too cruel a custom. I don’t know if it’s widespread or not, but something tells me it is. Makes me wonder what vegans think of this practice. I find it admirable that the main purpose of this is sharing with the poor, but killing animals and sort of making a show about it is too much for my liking.

And before I forget, two more articles from columnist Charlotte McPherson


julochka said...

i think that secular character of turkey is what i love about a way, it's the best of both get all of the amazing muslim architecture without all of the rest of the trappings. i'm jealous you're in istanbul. it's one of my favorite places. even the "new" part over in taxsim is wonderful. i was just thinking this morning about a fantastic antique book fair i ran into there near taxsim square the last time i was in instanbul and how i wish i'd bought a big box of old photos that i saw there...*sigh* enjoy!


True story said...

This city is full of unexpected surprises, yes. I must say I thoroughly enjoy my stay here, not a big fan of traffic and how hard it sometimes is to go from one place to another, but I love the spirit of Istanbul. And its beauty, of course.

Maria said...

Bing has a former student who did work study in Turkey every summer of his college years and is now planning on moving there now that his college is completed.

He says that when he is in the states, he hears Turkey calling him back to his "real" home.

Loeffle said...

Very interesting!

I also had those thoughts about Islam from what I heard and saw in Europe - but often those European Turkish muslims left Turkey because it was not conservative enough anymore - but in Malaysia and partly also Indonesia I saw a very different version.

While most Malaysian muslims practice the religion to some decree, most of them are very open. E.g. married females talking to foreign males, drinking alcohol, enjoying life etc.
On the other hand there is also a conservative part of the Muslim society and they might be on the rise. Especially in Indonesia this is very visible.

Nevertheless I know quite a number of very religious Indonesian muslims living a quite wild - very Western - life. The big porn scandal by some known artists is just one example for it.

True story said...

All of this is very surprising, isn't it? Which just shows that portrayal of life in the aforementioned countries and/or Muslim societies is not accurate. I'm curious to see if this changes somehow in the upcoming months due to the recent events in Pakistan.

Ümit Orhan said...

Were you looking for an atheist carrying a Turkish passport? Hello then. I guess thats me. :)
"Eid al-Adha" is cruel yes, but it is never more cruel than eating meat! I found it dumb when meat lovin people says something like that. Actually i think every meat eater should cut his/her animal himself/herself. When you buy it from supermarket, you dont see the blood and pain behind it, but when you cut it yourself, it makes you aware of the real price of the meat to an animal. Many vegetarians that i know became vegetarian because of this Eid.

True story said...

I understand Eid al-Adha occurs in public places, where kids could see it. That's more the point I was going after. Also, it's not about the meat per se, it's about the need to "sacrifice" and kill for God. How does killing relate to loving God?

Ümit Orhan said...

Its kindof forbidden to cut the animal in public places in big cities... And there is a punishment for those who doesnt obey. But in rural areas, it happens just in every garden.
Also killing for god is not a new concept. :) Its not the death of animals that we should watch out its the humans that the religious people kills in the name of god. A muslim would LOL when you argue such a thing. They kill it but its always forbidden to waste; so they eat every edible part of it. This behavior can be clarified in every family of animal kingdom.
Another point, these animals people cut have mostly been raised in the mountains of eastern Anotolia. So they have a kindof healthy life in their habitat. Its not a regular factory-raised, steroid fat cannibal cow also being cut in a factory without even seeing the sunshine. My crucial suggestion here is that, if you were to eat a dish with meat only once in a year, it should be the meat of that animal.

True story said...

I'm talking about sacrificing and killing, you're talking about eating meat. Different things.

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