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Turkey, a country with differences

September 7, 2013
85th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Re...

85th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey (Photo credit: –Tico–)

Turkey is a very interesting country, because the history of this country is unique. Starting out becoming one of the biggest countries of the world, it’s size reduced but it’s influence didn’t, in contrary. Nowadays Turkey is still a very important country in world politics and it’s a country with a big economy. Of course the geographical position of Turkey is one of the most important reasons why the country is an influential country. It borders to Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Iraq. These are all very different countries, but Turkey can be seen as a passage from one of those countries to the other. The United States have a good relationship with Turkey, which is extraordinary since it’s a Middle Eastern muslim country, but it’s very likely purely because of the geographical position that the United States want to have such a big influence in this country. In order to get access to economic resources, a country which has direct access to the area can be very helpful. The question though which is important is if Turkey is an European country.

Turkey, part of Europe?

Istanbul is part of Europe and it’s part of Turkey, thus you could say that Turkey is part of Europe. If you look at it geographically you could say that Turkey is European, but we still have to take a good look at the culture. The Turks are of a different origin, they originally came from East Asia and they went to the west, finally reaching modern-day Turkey where they settled. Before that they were converted to islam by muslims and after that they were a very important country in spreading the islam, especially in other Turkic states like Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. This is one part of the culture of Turkey, it became a mix of both islam and an old primitive culture which believed in ancient Turkic gods. The belief in those Gods is probably gone, maybe some Turkic tribes in Siberia still have a belief in them, but most likely they are too much influenced by Russian politics.

Portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first presi...

Portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first president of the Republic of Turkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After that period a man was born who was very important in giving Turkey it’s identity back after it was in decline in the 19th sanctuary. In the 20th sanctuary Atatürk brought some important reforms to the state and there was a seperation of state and religion, because according to Atatürk a country could only be prosperous if the religion didn’t decide what has to happen in a country and he introduced a Roman alphabet, in order to reach out to the west and there would be a parlement and democracy. He also forbade wearing veilings in universities for women. He respected religions though, Atatürk said the following about religions:

  “Religion is a matter of conscience. Everyone is free to obey the order of their conscience. We respect religion. We are not against thinking and ideas. We just aim to ensure that matters of religion do not interfere with issues of the state and nation.”

From this we can see a different view in relation to the west. The Enlightment in the western part of the world was led by influential persons like Voltaire and Immanuel Kant. Voltaire however was less respecting than Atatürk. Some quotes from Voltaire are:

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.

Which is more dangerous: fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion whereas fanaticism does; atheism is opposed to crime and fanaticism causes crimes to be committed.

In 1930, leaving the parliament after the 7th-...

In 1930, leaving the parliament after the 7th-year celebration meeting. İsmet İnönü, the second President of Turkey, is to the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contrary to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Voltaire wanted to get rid of religion because he considered it as being something which led to intolerance and violence. It is true of course that followers of religion often use violence in order to get others to do what they want, or, what God wants. Religion in itself is not necessarily bad, some aspects of religion are aspects with which atheists will not disagree, they are aspects which fit in a both religious and humane way of dealing with other people. The question we can ask is: Why does religion lead to violence? It is likely that if you are following something important, in this case God, we want this being to be respected, which is of course very understandable. If someone says something bad about my father or mother, that would be a big insult and wouldn’t be regarded as being right. The same way is the way in which religious people think, their God is like a mother or father for them, since they are created by it as they believe and if you attack their God, you are attacking the most important thing which exists in their life. The thing which creates a seperation between religious people and atheists and which provokes the problems between them is the fact that atheists don’t believe in their God. That gives them the permission to say anything about their God what they want, because they talk about something which doesn’t exist for them. Because of this, what an atheist says has no limits and a religious person can feel harmed in the worst way because the other person has in a certain sense a permission to do so. Now that we understand the perspective of the religious person it’s of course also very understandable that an atheist does this, he or she wants that religion doesn’t influence our views on reality and keep us in a decline while we can improve our society in a way which they view as right. The science which is led by atheists of course has also contributed a lot to society, but there are still a lot of problems between atheists and religious people which lead to fights and sometimes even assaults by religious people. What’s the solution? I think that more respect and tolerance from both sides and an understanding why the other person acts in his or her way is the most important thing. A religious person should understand that an atheist doesn’t act in such a way in order to act the religious person.

Now let’s get back to Atatürk and Voltaire. The first thing which makes conspicuous is that the approach of Atatürk and Voltaire to religion is very different. Atatürk wants respect and tolerance for religion, but a state which isn’t brought in a decline by it thus wants a secular state. Voltaire too wants a secular state, but the big difference between Atatürk and Voltaire is that Voltaire has no respect or tolerance for religion at all, but the opposite. This could be due to different thinking patterns in the west and the east. We have to keep in mind that Atatürk was raised in a culture where religion was viewed in a different way and where the religion was different, but also the religion was different.

There are different conspiracy theories circulating about Atatürk, some of them being that he was either Armenian or Jewish. Of course a very controversial thinker or person against a certain movement can provoke a reaction and it’s likely that, in order to protect their own movement, people decided to think up theories about him. Another possible explanation is a mistake, the place where he lived was a place where a lot of people lived from a certain Jewish movement. It is very hard for a religious person to keep his or her identity if he or she makes concessions to different views, which could also be an explanation why it’s so hard for these people to not think in this way.

A muslim state?

Turkey is considered as a muslim state. Actually it is one of the only muslim states which is secular, the prime minister Erdoĝan however seems to want to bring Turkey back to a more religious country. A lot of Turks have protested against this, which shows the importance of Atatürk in Turkish society. Although Turkey is an islamic country with about 98% muslims, we would very easily forget with these statistics that the Kemalists and secularists are a very important movement within Turkey, because of the huge changes of Atatürk. That’s why Turkey could be considered as a country with very big differences, on the one hand you have secularists and Kemalists, on the other hand you have very religious people who consider Atatürk as an atheist who harmed Turkey.

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