Conservatism becomes mainstream in Turkish society

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-10-6 8:10:07

 Conservatism both socially and politically becomes mainstream in the society of Turkey today, according to a recent survey by Istanbul's Bogazici University and Open Society Foundation.

The survey also shows that the percentage of those who consider themselves absolutely conservative has dropped along with those who claim themselves liberal compared to the result of 2006.

Those who think themselves as absolutely conservative accounts for 11.5 percent, dropped from 20.4 percent of the 2006 survey result. People who claim themselves as not at all conservative dropped from 12.6 percent of 2006 to only 8.6 percent now.

Turkish people feel more easy about different lifestyles, said political science professor Hakan Yilmaz from Bogazici University who led the survey.

Turks are more tolerate towards those who consume alcohol, couples living together without being married and unveiled women. There is a growing individualism in Turkey as more people favored liberty over equality and solidarity, as the survey revealed.

Also, the liberal Turks could live easily and harmoniously with their conservative friends. Dr. Mehmet Ataozden gave an interesting perspective on this issue. Himself a liberal surgeon, Mehmet has 90 percent of patients as religion conservatives. "My patients are my friends. I have no problem living together with them."

He agreed that Turkey was becoming more conservative and people like him were the minority group nowadays. "People who insist on liberal and secular ideas account less than 20 percent of Turkish population. They cannot represent Turkey any more. The real Turkish people are those from Anatolia, religious and conservative, " Mehmet said.

The survey further shows that the majority of the Turkish public would evaluate political leaders by their religious identity. In the survey, 71.9 percent of the voters claimed they took party leader's religious conviction into consideration during the election.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a pious Muslim himself, has kept pushing Islamic principles into various public discourse through his speeches and is trying to restore Turkey's Islamic root by building more mosques, introducing religion education into school system and advocating for a new law to ban abortion.

Erdogan often openly comments on main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu's Alevi identity to attract the public attention.

Bulent Kucuk, a sociology professor from Bosphorus University told Xinhua that Turkish government supports and privileges a certain interpretation of the Sunni Turkish-Islam normatively and intends to exclude other heterodox religious and cultural practices.

Kucuk was worried that religious or ethnic minorities (Kurds, Alevis, and other non-Muslim minorities like Jews, Greeks and Armenians) have been represented as threats or suspicious aliens to be cautious about.

However, religious people favor and support the government and its policies. Ayten Ciftci, a journalist from Turkey's major newspaper Zaman, said the growing religious trend in Turkey indicated improving democracy.

She said in the past Turkish Muslim women were banned from wearing headscarfs in public universities or other public buildings, which was a violation of human right. But Ciftci believed Muslim girls should have the right to practice religion and wear headscarfs.

Tuba Saka, a computer engineer agreed with Ciftci. "I am Muslim, religion is important to me. I should be able to wear headscarf according to my own will. But when I was in university, I had to take off my headscarf at the entrance of campus, which made me feel very bad."

Muslim girls wearing headscarfs are more common on the streets or even in some universities nowadays in Turkey.

Another intellectual also holds positive attitude towards Turkey's conservatism trend. Mustafa Akyol, a famous Turkish writer and columnist, argued that Islam and democracy were not in conflict with each other in his recent book "Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty."

Akyol believed the "Muslim new Turkey" was becoming more confident and more independent with improving liberal democracy and economy development.

Turkey, a secular state with deep Islamic root, has always been struggling between liberal ideas and religion conservatism, modern and tradition.

Turkey has more than 98 percent of its population as Muslims. Meanwhile, it is a state based on secular law and administration since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first Turkish president, transformed the Ottoman Empire into the Republic of Turkey through series of modernization reforms.

Posted in: Mid-East

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