CINEMA-TV > Islamist salvation makes way to prime time with TV series

EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

The popularity of the new TV series, ‘Huzur Sokağı (Serenity Street), adapted from a ‘salvation novel,’ is reviving a four-decade old Islamist narrative in Turkey’s pop culture: salvation stories

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The TV series ‘Huzur Sokağı’is an adaptation from Şule Yüksel Şenler’s bestselling novel of the same name, published first in 1970 The novel is one of the most popular examples of the the salvation novel.

The TV series ‘Huzur Sokağı’is an adaptation from Şule Yüksel Şenler’s bestselling novel of the same name, published first in 1970 The novel is one of the most popular examples of the the salvation novel.

Tune in to Turkish TV channel ATV’s popular new series, “Huzur Sokağı” (Serenity Street), to get a taste of how the never-ending debate over the public presence of Islam is reflected in pop culture. Read some of the comments made about the series by prominent columnists and writers, and you’ll get a feel of how the debate has evolved (and continues to evolve) in the last four decades.

“Huzur Sokağı” is an adaptation from Şule Yüksel Şenler’s bestselling novel of the same name, published first in 1970 and has been reprinted more than 100 times since then. The novel is one of the most popular examples of the “hidayet romanları,” or the salvation novels, that brought a new impact onto the literary scene in the 1980s.

The common theme of the salvation novel was a journey from the debauched ways of a secular/Western life style to salvation through the acceptance of Islam. As in many of the salvation novels, “Huzur Sokağı” features a young man idealized by his display of Islamic values, a perfect specimen of the hard-working, honest and loving family member.

The woman, on the other hand, is the ultimate symbol of the “degenerate” Western, someone with no sense of a moral compass in the eyes of the decent people of Islamic belief. As the story goes, the man transforms the woman into a devout Muslim, showing the way to “salvation.”

In his 2007 academic research, “Islamic Literature in Contemporary Turkey from Epic to Novel,” Kenan Çayır gives a thorough account of the changing Islamic identities through literature. For Çayır, salvation novels present Islam as “the source of a value system,” where “strong and stable” Muslim characters are juxtaposed against “degenerate” Westernized ones.

New ways of Islamist expression
Reminding the reader that “the Westernized characters discover solution to their problems in Islam,” Çayır offers a major difference in how men and women find salvation in these novels. “Male characters only need announce that they believe in order to transform into Muslim subjects. Female characters must also don the headscarf in order to become Muslim subjects.”

That is one of the premises of “Huzur Sokağı.” We won’t have to wait too long to see Feyza (Selin Demiratar) wear a headscarf for the love of Bilal (Kutsi), or more accurately, for the love of Allah. Besides being a bestseller and still a favorite to many, “Huzur Sokağı” was adapted to the screen at the height of its popularity more than 40 years ago. “Birleşen Yollar” (Crossroads) starred Türkan Şoray and İzzet Günay.

How then is this Islamic melodrama still relevant now? Kelly Pemberton of George Washington University reflects on how the debates over the public role of Islam in 1980s Turkey led to a series of developments that fueled the debate even further in the following decades. The emergence of “a parallel economy catering to the needs of religious Muslims,” the rise of Islamic parties to the political forefront and the increasing visibility of Islamic expression among the middle and upper classes are some of these developments, according to Pemberton.

In a recent article, daily Hürriyet’s popular columnist Ahmet Hakan asserted that the idea of a “Serenity Street” is now history. “The roles have changed. So have the emotions. And the classes,” wrote Hakan. “That poor, religious street no longer exists. Some of the residents of that street have become rich, those who couldn’t have become middle class.”

For Hakan, none of the characters in the novel exist in today’s stratosphere of an increasing public presence of Islam from politics and economy to education. “Bilal now rides a jeep. Being now dependent upon liberal [forces], he goes to the most prestigious university in the country, with a smirk across his face,” wrote Hakan. “The ‘oppressive, tyrant, Western’ character slandered in the novels have turned into the retired man from middle class who has become poorer, no longer a force to be reckoned with. In short, it’s all now history.” Discussions around the cardboard, unrealistic and outdated characters of “Huzur Sokağı” being relevant to today’s classes and social structures might just be irrelevant themselves. Perhaps, the simple truth lies in the popularity of the series itself. The increasing public presence of Islam in Turkey is manifesting itself in different narratives each day, bringing to the fore new ways of Islamist action and expression.


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Notice on comments

Yevem T. Bogah

9/17/2012 7:21:51 PM

Yes Women, you will never know happiness through career, advanced knowledge, or wordly experience. Obey your husband and raise your children properly- only in this way will you attain fufillment.

Peter Lambson

9/17/2012 6:57:27 PM

Did anyone notice how the left "western" half of the woman's face is darkened to look almost evil, yet the Islamized. veiled half of her face is lit so brightly it almost glows?

mara mcglothin

9/17/2012 4:25:32 PM

And doesn't she look happy with her change in circumstance? B!@ Spot on! Save all the evil women from themselves and let the men go on about their business.

Turk Uzan

9/17/2012 4:24:45 PM

ATV? I'd expect such series to be on Samanyolu TV


9/17/2012 2:42:27 PM

I imagine a great many mothers and fathers will sit their daughters down to watch this, I presume it will air in the afternoon, for when girls have been removed from school after 4 years of education....to wipe out anything that 4 years might have given them and prepare them for a life of servility.

Tayyar Abi

9/17/2012 12:48:14 PM

What stupid nonsense. As if all westerners were evil trolls and All Islamists are the picture of honesty and upright behavior. If you want to believe such claptrap I suggest you throw away your TV sets and don't buy any newspapers. You may be disappointed by the daily news items.

Faruk Beisser

9/17/2012 12:40:03 PM

Hooray for Gülen's AKP! Yes, get rid of the democratic and western trash and bring on the holy series as Turkey is on its way towards becoming another Iran! Oh Great Leader, save us from that most horrid evil, democracy!


9/17/2012 10:54:06 AM

I love Turkish soaps, and I regularly watch several. However, thank you for point out this one as one NOT to watch. The old old boring story about the wonderful god fearing bloke changing the wicked woman is very passe and generally not the case in real life. I think you'll find the real story is bloke meets girl, changes girl into nervous wreck with no self esteem, but carries on his wicked ways regardless of religion!
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