TURKEY tr-national

Nationalizing Mevlana's identity wrong, Turkish academic says

ISTANBUL - Milliyet | 2/22/2011 12:00:00 AM | ŞÜKRAN PAKKAN

Nationalizing the identity of Mevlana, the well-known philosopher and poet, is wrong even if he is doubtlessly Turkish, according to an academic.

Nationalizing the identity of Mevlana, the well-known philosopher and poet, is wrong even if he is doubtlessly Turkish, according to an academic.

“We believe nationalizing Mevlana’s identity is wrong,” said Nuri Şimşekler, director of the Mevlana Research Institute at Selçuk University. “Mevlana is a world philosopher, rather than just being Turkey’s or Iran’s philosopher.”

The vice president of Iran recently called Mevlana, also known as Jalaladdin Rumi, an Iranian philosopher at the Iranian cultural heritage festival last week but some Turkish media organs used the word Turkish instead of Iranian to describe the mystical figure.

Şimşekler said the reason Iranians had started pretending the philosopher was of Iranian origin was that Mevlana had started to become very popular in Western countries in the past 100-150 years.

Debates on whether Mevlana’s nationality is Turkish or Iranian have sprung up over the last four to five decades, with Iranians arguing that the philosopher wrote most of his works in Persian and Turkish academics saying he wrote that he was a Turk in one of his poems.

Most scholars, however, say Mevlana was born in the province of Balkh in what is today Tajikistan.

Şimşeker said it was hard to judge a writer’s nationality in the 13th century solely based on the language used in his writing. Just like the English language today, Persian was the lingua franca used by poets around the Anatolian and Iranian region in the 13th century, Şimşeker said.

It is possible for Turkish people to call Mevlana Turkish because “his birthplace is in Turkey,” according to Adnan Karaismailoğlu, the vice rector of Kırıkkale University and founder and president of the Mevlana Association, who said historical sources did not, however, confirm his family tree.

He said Mevlana was not the only philosopher who wrote in Persian. There were thousands of pieces distributed in the Persian language throughout history, and Turkish people never accepted them as written in a foreign language.

“In fact, we care about cultural unity and that is why we count Mevlana as one of us,” he said.

“I have proved many times with documents that Mevlana was a Kaşgar Turk and his family used to speak the Hakani dialect, which belongs to Central Asian languages,” said İsmail Yakıt, the head of the Philosophy and Religious Sciences Department at Süleyman Demirel University in Isparta. He said one of the clear proofs of this argument was Mevlana’s son, Sultan Veled, who was born after Mevlana’s family had moved to Karaman.

“Mevlana was born after his family had moved to Karaman. While the whole of Central Asia was speaking the Anatolian dialect, Mevlana was writing in the Hakani dialect,” he said, adding that the Persian language Mevlana had used was actually Anatolian Persian. He said Anatolian Persian language was used by elite people of the region and was also the mother tongue of the Selçuk state.



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