At a New york city alcoholic drink reception, a man approached my Turkish close friend and me and also started speaking about just how much he admires Arab ladies. Obviously thinking that he was complementary us both, he continued, extolling the perfect mix of feistiness, appeal and stamina he viewed as particular of Arab femininity.
My Turkish friend and I listened for some time, understanding that he saw us as in some way the very same, though I am an Arab and she is a Turk. To him, we were both Muslims as well as hence equivalent. Actually, however, our ethnic, etymological as well as cultural identifications play very essential functions in our lives past our religion.
After the guy had babbled for some time with the kindest of intentions, my close friend disrupted him: “Turks are not Arabs!” Most of us chuckled together as he tried to remedy his generalization of the two societies as well as eventually escaped from our company.
Recently, costs extended durations in Istanbul to get ready for a brand-new media task on females in the Center East and also North Africa, I locate myself viewing his misunderstanding via a different lens.
Turks are not Arabs, however the stress this distinction increases, thinking about the overlap in spiritual identity, holds political value beyond a great laugh at a mixed drink event. The friction between Arabs and Turks has, in reality, now become headline information in the area.
Historically speaking, the Arab view of Turks is paradoxical: on the one hand Turks are viewed as the colonizers of the Arab world during the Ottoman period from 1517 to 1918. On the other hand, there is an interest as well as aura surrounding Turkey, its being the Muslim culture most highly identified with innovation and Westernization (a process that started with Ataturk’s efforts, starting in 1920, to create a secular country state).
The stress between appreciation as well as bitterness is something seen amongst Arabs given that my youth in Iraq. And also some Turks do turn nose up at Arab nations as their former colonies. The religious and linguistic ties between the cultures are not easily cut.
The language of the Quran is Arabic, and also Muslim Turks locate themselves hearing it over speakers throughout the day as the call to prayer is issued because language. Also in modern Istanbul, the religious beliefs, the Quran, the petitions, and all of the rituals are quite based in Arabic language as well as, by extension, the Arabic globe.
Today, this harshness appears itself in political terms. The Turkish management, it is claimed, is attempting to place itself as a moderator of the fights within Islam, factionalism that surpasses Sunni and also Shia to various brands of fundamentalism, preservation, moderation, and also reform.
Every day, Arab and also Turkish leaders exchange attacks, as the Arabs ask the Turkish leadership not to interfere in Arab politics– so a lot so that Turkey’s reputation is transforming amongst mainstream Arabs from that of a modern state to that of a state that is sustaining ISIS and its route of carnage in nations like Iraq and Syria.
Exactly how is all of this experienced on a very personal level for somebody like me, that has lived fifty percent of my life in Iraq and also the other half in the UNITED STATE, as well as that now goes back to the region to deal with Arab and Muslim women? It is, in brief, disorienting.
Points that are forbidden in the Arab globe– public expressions of affection between guys and also females, short skirts as well as sleeveless tee shirts that reveal ladies’s skin– are the standard in Istanbul. It is equally regular to see females in headscarves, and households in public that are as conventional in their actions as the majority in the Arab world.
Such diversity is stunning in many ways, particularly when it also includes Jewish and also christian populaces. In Istanbul alone there are 3,200 mosques, 400 Churches and 10 Synagogues. A street scene that includes people from various religions on one edge is an extremely typical picture in Istanbul. What has actually stunned me most as an Iraqi Arab Muslim is the level to which religion is component of life also within the most secular course in Turkey.
I always thought that secularism in Turkey suggested a complete being rejected of faith. Incorrect! It is in nonreligious homes that I found myself returning to traditions, prayers, and also events that I grew up with in Iraq, and also that I had not experienced because I left there 25 years back.
It is in Istanbul that I located myself in the midst of Quranic prayer settings up, or Sufi magical celebrations, or discussions on just how both faith as well as a contemporary feeling of identification can coexist. I began to see a means to integrate my identity as a females’s rights protestor with my identity as an Arab and also a Muslim that loves God.
Turks are finding a new room to reconcile religious ideas and also secularist worths, modernity as well as belief, and a new area for the country within the Muslim world. Arabs are duke it outing the same difficulty, a battle that is exposed in the personal lives of people as well as in the headlines.
Turks are not Arabs. However currently, all Muslims I come across are doubting their identifications as concerns Islam, also at Turkish mixer, where every person knows the difference between Arabs and Turks.