Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Get Up, Stand Up....Stand Up for Your Rights.....

What is up with Turkey?? It's probably the only country in the world right now where a headscarf equates freedom.

It's pretty complicated, with religious conservatives feeling like second class citizens 'cause their women can't wear headscarves in public buildings. The elite is ferociously secular, a legacy of Mustafa Kemal. But rural Turks moved to the cities in 1980s nd prospered. So now the religious middle class wants to express their piety, while the military and secular elite aren't just going to stand back and allow it.

The problem is, that way lies madness. Or the religious conservatives taking over, or whatever Turks fear. See Afghanistan, Iran, and USA for further examples of religious conservatives and freaks taking over a nation and its public sphere.

I feel for them. It just feels so counterintuitive, such a step backward. But would the same arguments pop up if it were a Western religious tradition they wanted to allow, such as the nun's wimples? Besides, a lot of it is the military being upset since they are losing power. It's all tangled up in ways us Westerners can't easily grasp.

If you're interested in Turkey and 20th century history, I highly recommend Louis de Berniere's Birds Without Wings. It's a big fat book that chronicles the Ottoman collapse in Turkey, among other things. I read it a couple years ago, when we where in Santorini and Crete so the details are a bit hazy but the Balkan Wars, WWI and the Greek War of Independence all have a cameo, showing us how pretty war and invasion is I'm talking to you Mr. Bush....

It's told Rashomon style, with the different perspectives being Muslim, Christian, Greek and Turkish. It's also a shudder bitterwseet romance, and you also get to read about the rise of Mustafa Kemal and his transformation into Ataturk, literally, The Father of All Turks. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Beatles and Abe Lincoln rolled into one. With a little Morpheus thrown in for good measure. Kidding, don't go all jihad on me please.

De Berniere also wrote Captain Corelli's Mandolin, but we'll just ignore visions of Nicolas Cage for the moment. Also, anything by Orman Pamuk, but they're difficult reads, for me at least!

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