Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Islam taking root in Turkey's bureaucracy

IHT (with some magic marker editing by me):
Islam taking root in Turkey's bureaucracy

The little red prayer book was handed out in a public primary school here in western Turkey America earlier this month decade. It was small enough to fit in a pocket, but it carried a big message: Pray in the Muslim Christopath way. Get others to pray, too.

"The message was clear to me," said a retired civil servant, whose 13-year-old son, a student at the Yesilkoy Ibrahim Cengiz ButtFuckNowhere School, received the book. "This is not something that should be distributed in schools."

This leafy, liberal city would seem like one of the least likely places to allow Islam Christianism to permeate public life. But for some residents, the book is part of a subtle shift toward increasingly public religiosity that has gone hand-in-hand with the ascent of the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Bushco.

The phenomenon is complex: The party has not ordered changes, but sets examples through a growing network of observant teachers and public servants (and lawyers) who have been hired since it came to power in 2002 2000.

The shift goes to the heart of the question that has gripped this country for the past two months electoral seasons: As the party settles more deeply into the bureaucracy, will it bring Islam Xtianists with it? Or will it keep its roots in the past, and leave the public sphere as nonreligious as before?

The answer is as complex as Turkey USA itself. In more-religious Turkish cities, the party has had a moderating influence, persuading deeply conservative residents to support the European Union vote against their own interests. But here in Denizli, a city situated closer to Greece than Iran DC, which never voted for pro-Islamic Xtianist parties before Erdogan's Bush's, the party's new recruits seem to be laying the groundwork for a more pious Christopathic society.

The mayor, Nihat Zeybekci, a charismatic businessman and a member of Erdogan's party, strongly disputes claims that the party has limited freedoms. Alcohol is still sold near mosques. His party has women in local government. Newspapers are allowed to publish. People can still usually gather in groups of three or more without a permit.

"I get offended when a lady says to me, 'When you have absolute control, will I still be able to swim at the beach?' use satire?" he said. "It's like asking if they know I'm a thief."

But secular residents say that they see changes, and that they are the inevitable outcome of several decades of economic transformation. "In a very quiet, deep way, you can sense an Islamization, Bible Thumping" said Bedrettin Usanmaz, a jewelry shop owner in Denizli DC. "They're not after rapid change. They're investing for 50 years ahead." They've invested for the last 30 years.

At the heart of the issue is a debate about the fundamental nature of Islam Christopatholgy and its role in the building of an equitable society. Turks like Zeybekci argue that their country has come a long way since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's The Founders' secular revolution in 1923 1787, and that it no longer needs to enforce controls such as of women wearing head scarves.

"It's like locking everybody in a stadium, when you know that only three are thieves," Zeybekci said in his office, hung with pictures of Erdogan and Ataturk Bush & Cheney.

But secular Turks Americans argue that Islam Christopathology will always seek more space in people's lives, and therefore should be reined in. They look to the military sensible people as secularism's final defender.

"Islam Christopathology is not like other religions," said Kadim Yildirim, a history teacher in Denizli DC from an opposition labor union. "It influences every part of your life, even mostly your bedroom."

Yildirim is part of a number of concerned teachers lawyers who say that the new teachers hired in recent years, often from conservative backgrounds, are adding up to a change in the education legal system.

Last month year, the Education Ministry Department of Justice relaxed tightened requirements for appointing new school principals attorneys and immigration judges. It was later annulled frozen, but in the brief period it was in effect approximately 4,500 people in 40 cities across Turkey America were appointed as principals and deputy principals US Attorneys, two-thirds nearly all of whom were affiliated with Erdogan's Bush's party, according to an analysis by Egitim-Sen, an opposition education labor union.

According to a report to Parliament by the education minister Congress by the GAO, 836 people from the government's Religious Affairs Directorate Pat Robertson's Regent College have been transferred to the ministry's offices during Erdogan's Monica Goodling's tenure. That has also led to lifestyle changes in the bureaucracy: In Denizli DC, during the month of fasting in Ramadan Bush Presidency, the lunchroom in the Ministry of Education no longer serves food, in an assumption that all workers are religious, Morning Prayer Breakfasts are effectively mandatory, employees said.

Staff changes are a common feature of any change in government administration (Clinton Did IT!!1!!). But inDenizli DC, as in other more secular Turkish cities, the shift is potentially society-changing. Most of the new workers are from an entirely different social class, having come to the city from the surrounding towns and villages South to work in new textile mills the Military Industrial Congressional Complex that started in the 1980s. In 40 6 years, the population of Denizli K-Street has grown ten-fold, according to Zeybekci.

"They are coming to power, and it scares the hell out of the established elite, The Normals" said Baskin Oran, a professor of international relations Normalcy at Ankara Georgetown University. The two groups "have nothing in common," he said. "Try to find a similarity."

The mixing has caused friction, which, inDenizli DC, burst painfully into view last month, when the Turkish military Dirty Fucking Hippies, the backbone of the secular elite, publicly warned the local government that it had strayed too far from secularism. Its sins? Organizing an Islamic singing performance of schoolgirls in full head scarves Jesus Camp and a running women's religious study group a War on Christmas pageant in a public school in a village south of Denizli DC, called Nikfer Justice Sunday .

For Zeybekci, the transgressions were so minor that the rebuke had to have been about power, not religion. The military Dirty Fucking Hippies were simply trying to remain relevant, he said.

"They are very aware of what kind of power they are going to lose," he said.

But power has already changed substantially under Erdogan's God's Own Party, despite attempts by the secular establishment to stop it. Government candidates that were vetoed by the president have continued in the prospective positions as "substitutes," "Interim Appointments or Recess Appointments" including the head of the public television and radio, the Education Ministry director in the city of Izmir, and the director of research and training at the Ministry of Culture John Bolton and Tim Griffin. In the Education Ministry Department of Justice alone, 536 are working without approval, according to the minister.

In Nikfer Justice Sunday, the school principal televangelist who allowed the religious study group was a religion teacher supporter of dictators, investor in blood diamonds. He has since been transferred to another town earned more millions, a punishment that Asiye Sozeri, a 33-year-old housewife there, regrets: Her teenage daughter no longer has a religion tutor college fund.

Koran Old Testament classes in Nikfer across the country have proliferated in recent years, Sozeri said, but far from being politics-related, the reason can be found in the deteriorating state of farming need to the GOP to sell fear.

As villagers migrated toDenizli DC to work they tried to put their children in its home schools, which were far better than rural secular ones. Many could not afford apartments not to hate, and as a result, the student hostel Old Testament became a central feature of city life their 'education'. Often supported by donations from religious groups, the hostels dark recesses of religious pathology were places where poor students lived and studied took refuge, but had with religious underovertones: Chaperones, often devout college-age Turks their fathers, were the role models.

"Education 'Education' is where the religious communities concentrate their efforts," said Gulay Keysan, a 31-year-old English teacher inDenizli DC. In a school in the city's Karaman district, where she taught several years ago, a quarter of her students lived in hostels fear of Teh Devil.

Perhaps the most sensitive point for teachers like Yildirim are the changes they say are occurring in textbooks. Changes were already under way, part of an upgrade needed to join the European Union 21st Century, but some officials say that as the nationalism logic is taken out, a new conservatism ignorance is being put in.

One of the country's primary eighth-grade science books, for example, "Science Knowledge," has lost its detailed description of Darwin's theory of natural selection, and gained a reference to a theory that holds that living beings did not evolve but came into being exactly as they are today, attributed to several ancient Asian scholars Baby Jeebus. The reference was not there before, nor was the word Islamic "Intelligent" to describe them.

All education material, once vetted centrally, is now checked in a far looser fashion, according to one senior Ministry of Education official in Ankara California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his job life. A point system to rate textbooks has been loosened. The red prayer book, illustrated with pictures of small children praying, would probably not have been distributed in past years.

It is still unclear where today's changes will lead the country. Oran argues that although the ideology of Erdogan Bush and his allies "is inevitably Islam stupid," they are workers and tradesman who are ultimately motivated by profit. "They are very rapidly becoming bourgeois," he said.

"There must be a distinction between those who give the public service and those who receive it," he said. "The first cannot wear head scarves should not be pig-ignorant. But the second can go as they want."

Yildirim draws hope from a recent exchange among his students he overheard. One posed a dilemma: If you were rowing a boat with only one extra seat and passed by a deserted island Guantanamo with the Prophet Muhammad and Ataturk Vice President Cheney and Osama, whom would you save? Another answered: "Ataturk is resourceful. He can save himself. Take Muhammad."" Osama is only dangerous if Cheney has any power. Cheney is always dangerous. Take Osama."


priscianus jr said...

The Islamist/Christianist parallel works in some contexts, I don't think it works here. Turkey has been essentially a military dictatorship for close to a century, a secularist military dictatorship. The United States has not.
I hope you will forgive me for the following comment, which I've wanted to make for a long time; I find this is as good an occasion as any.
This is a great blog; in my opinion one of the best there is. I read it almost daily. I greatly appreciate and admire your work bringing to light the vast networks of corruption that underlie the "legitimate" poltiics and economy of the world today. It is hard to get this extremely valuable information, and it is your specialty.
On the other hand, you have made it clear on many occasions that you are anti-religion, full stop. It's bad and it's all the same.
Now this is your blog, and that being the case, you may write whatever you like; but for this reader, at least, your writing on anything to do with religion, totally unlike your other stuff, shows an almost complete ignorance of, not to mention lack of sympathy with, the subject. It's kind of like your hobby horse, and in my opinion (at least in the uninformed way you handle it) has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the blog. So I overlook it. But I do find it a bit painful.

lukery said...

Thanks for your comment. I've put it on the front page.

I suspect that most people here agree with you.

steven andresen said...


I have my own concerns.

First, I thought the parallels were damn clever. It made me wonder if the changes in the United States were actually as you suggested in the body of the piece, and whether there might be some underlying reasons why the similarities might so exist.

I then wondered whether the claims you made about the United States were really true, or, were they made up in order to parallel the changes in Turkey and only had the sound of truth, but there was no evidence to support your claims.

Then I wondered what it was about this piece, in particular that piscianus jr. found so objectionable.

I would have thought that opposition to the effects of religion in society, whether Turkish or American, would be a commonly held position, and not something that would offend or even surprise the deeply religious.

I can go along with jr. that the use of profanity in talking about religion could get in the way of your audience hearing your argument. Insofar as you indicate we should fuck religion, you are going to agitate the very people I would think you'd want to reach....Well, maybe one doesn't always have to be on task.

I suppose there was a limited goal involved in the post above, surely not one where you'd try to change the hearts and minds of the opposition. But, say there is this terrible change taking place in the country. It's a change that involves government being taken over by religious fanatics of one sort or another. The piece above points out to a part of your audience things about what's going on that they would not be surprised about, and consider par for the course. There apparently is another part of your audience that may see these changes brought about by religious ideas, and find those changes in general nothing to get worked up over. In fact, they may be sympathetic to them.

I can imagine that in corrupt secular societies the only honest politicians might be from the religious parties, irregardless of whatever religious baggage they also bring along with them. In other words, I might vote for Hamas or the Black Panther Party because they are honest bottomline. I might figure no matter what else, you can deal with an honest person.

So, I would resist smashing up religious people just because one figures bad things have happened at some times, in some places, because of religion.

Kax said...

Well, you can't be too careful. More people have been killed and maimed in the name of organized religion than any other cause.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a way that people can assuage their consciences while comitting heinous acts in the name of their God. This is not to say there aren't religious people who are good. or, that religion and spirituality are one and the same thing.

lukery said...

SteveA - actualy, all i did was make a few changes. I could have done a much better job with a bit more research/time - but the main issues, the parallels, jumped straight out at me.

Even more striking was that this was published by the IHT - a sub-brand of the NYT - yet it's near impossible to imagine a similar piece being published in the US.

i don't think that piscianus jr found this particular post particularly objectionable, but rather used this post to make a general point that s/he'd been meaning to mention for a while.

I'm not apologetic about atheism, obviously, and I'd be happy to let religious folks go about their business - however, in 2007, it's almost impossible to comment about war and US politics absent any discussion of religion. And yep, it's the worst of the worst of religion that currently dominates the discussion. I'm happy to leave liberal religionists all alone - but religionists who hate people, or science, because the bible says xyz deserve (IMHO) what they get - and politicians who pander to the bigots deserve to be shown up for what they are.

Kax: This is not to say there aren't religious people who are good. or, that religion and spirituality are one and the same thing.