Islam taking root in Turkey's bureaucracy
The little red prayer book was handed out in a public primary school here in
western TurkeyAmerica earlier this monthdecade. It was small enough to fit in a pocket, but it carried a big message: Pray in the MuslimChristopath 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 CengizButtFuckNowhere 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
IslamChristianism to permeate public life. But for some residents, the book is part of a subtleshift toward increasingly public religiosity that has gone hand-in-hand with the ascent of the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganBushco.
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
The shift goes to the heart of the question that has gripped this country for the past two
monthselectoral seasons: As the party settles more deeply into the bureaucracy, will it bring IslamXtianists 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
TurkeyUSA itself. In more-religious Turkishcities, the party has had a moderating influence, persuading deeply conservative residents to support the European Unionvote against their own interests. But here in Denizli, a city situated closer to Greece than IranDC, which never voted for pro-IslamicXtianist parties before Erdogan'sBush's, the party's new recruits seem to be laying the groundwork for a more piousChristopathic society.
Nihat Zeybekci, a charismatic businessman and a member of Erdogan'sparty, 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 ifthey 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 DenizliDC. "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
IslamChristopatholgy and its role in the building of an equitablesociety. Turkslike Zeybekci argue that their country has come a long way since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk'sThe Founders' secular revolution in 19231787, 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 AtaturkBush & Cheney.
TurksAmericans argue that IslamChristopathology will always seek more space in people's lives, and therefore should be reined in. They look to the militarysensible people as secularism's final defender.
IslamChristopathology is notlike other religions," said Kadim Yildirim, a history teacher in DenizliDC from an opposition labor union. "It influences every part of your life, evenmostly your bedroom."
Yildirim is part of a number of concerned
teacherslawyers who say that the new teachers hired in recent years, often from conservative backgrounds, are adding up to a change in the educationlegal system.
monthyear, the Education MinistryDepartment of Justice relaxedtightened requirements for appointing new school principalsattorneys and immigration judges. It was later annulledfrozen, but in the brief period it was in effect approximately 4,500 people in 40 cities across TurkeyAmerica were appointed as principals and deputy principalsUS Attorneys, two-thirdsnearly all of whom were affiliated with Erdogan'sBush's party, according to an analysis by Egitim-Sen, an opposition education labor union.
According to a report to
Parliament by the education ministerCongress by the GAO, 836 people from the government's Religious Affairs DirectoratePat Robertson's Regent College have been transferred to the ministry's offices during Erdogan'sMonica Goodling's tenure. That has also led to lifestyle changes in the bureaucracy: In DenizliDC, during the month of fasting in RamadanBush 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 in
DenizliDC, as in other more secular Turkishcities, 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 villagesSouth to work in new textile millsthe Military Industrial Congressional Complex that started in the 1980s. In 406 years, the population of DenizliK-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 relationsNormalcy at Ankara Georgetown University. The two groups "have nothing in common," he said. "Try to find a similarity."
The mixing has caused friction, which, in
DenizliDC, burst painfully into view last month, when the Turkish militaryDirty 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 scarvesJesus Camp and a running women's religious study groupa War on Christmas pageant in a public school in a village south of DenizliDC, called NikferJustice Sunday .
For Zeybekci, the transgressions were so minor that the rebuke had to have been about power, not religion. The
militaryDirty 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'sGod'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 CultureJohn Bolton and Tim Griffin. In the Education MinistryDepartment of Justice alone, 536 are working without approval, according to the minister.
NikferJustice Sunday, the school principaltelevangelist who allowed the religious study group was a religion teachersupporter of dictators, investor in blood diamonds. He has since been transferred to another townearned more millions, a punishment that Asiye Sozeri, a 33-year-old housewife there, regrets: Her teenage daughter no longer has a religion tutorcollege fund. KoranOld Testament classes in Nikferacross 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 farmingneed to the GOP to sell fear.
As villagers migrated to
DenizliDC to work they tried to put their children in itshome schools, which were far better than ruralsecular ones. Many could not afford apartmentsnot to hate, and as a result, the student hostelOld Testament became a central feature of city lifetheir 'education'. Often supported by donations from religious groups, the hostelsdark recesses of religious pathology were places where poor students lived and studiedtook refuge, but hadwith religious underovertones: Chaperones, often devout college-age Turkstheir fathers, were the role models.
Education'Education' is where the religious communities concentrate their efforts," said Gulay Keysan, a 31-year-old English teacher in DenizliDC. In a school in the city's Karamandistrict, where she taught several years ago, a quarter of her students lived in hostelsfear 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 Union21st Century, but some officials say that as the nationalismlogic is taken out, a new conservatismignorance 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 scholarsBaby 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
AnkaraCalifornia, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his joblife. 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
ErdoganBush and his allies "is inevitably Islamstupid," 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 scarvesshould 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 islandGuantanamo with the Prophet Muhammad and AtaturkVice 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."
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Islam taking root in Turkey's bureaucracy
IHT (with some magic marker editing by me):
Posted by lukery at 5/30/2007 05:39:00 PM