BURAK BEKDİL > Tempest in a beer can

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The 10-minute news clip on daily Hürriyet’s website was both amusing and educational in shedding light on the mental map of Turkey’s new majority. The clip opens with the news that a private university in Istanbul’s devout Eyüp district, apparently under pressure from local authorities, banned beer sales at a rock festival on its campus. Eyüp, according to a local shop owner, was “Istanbul’s Medina,” and according to the local mufti, it was “Turkey’s Medina.”

A few locals interviewed by the TV crew said they don’t want alcohol in this “very sensitive neighborhood.” A young Iraqi said “alcohol may ruin the festival.” Then an interview with the mufti, Muammer Ayan, quoted the Islamic authority as saying that “in Islam sinning or avoiding sin is strictly a matter between a person and God.” But then the mufti said such behavior (serving beer) in “Turkey’s Medina” was not appropriate.

“I am grateful to the people of Eyüp for caring so much about my spiritual life,” a young festival attendee said with a sad grin on his face. “But is it not ironic that it is also the people of Eyüp who sell beer on shopping carts to cater for the festival crowd?”

As always, the controversy over alcohol is not about alcohol. One of the local activists who protested both the festival and beer said: “We are against alcohol sales both inside and outside the campus. We are against Western culture and this lifestyle!” He was a speaker for the “Great Anatolian Youth Initiative.” What an impressive name!

Then the fun begins. Both the festival attendees who want their beer and the local activists who oppose other people’s “right to sin” get involved in an argument in front of the camera. One activist claimed that “condoms were being sold at the campus.” “What does this have to do with beer?” someone asked. Another activist explained: “People of this culture don’t care about other people, they don’t care about women being raped in Iraq!” “How do you know? I do care,” someone objected. And a pro-beer youth tried to find a compromise: “My father is a worker and he goes to the mosque.” But he got his share from an anti-beer activist: “If your father goes to the mosque why does he allow you to come here?” “Why should he not?” “You drink beer.” “So what?” “How do we know you won’t make noise in the evening?” “You should complain if I do. I have been drinking since 18 and I don’t have a criminal record.”

The clip continues with scenes in which the anti-beer demonstrators chant slogans including “God is great!” “This is a plot of the Free Masons!” and “This is an insult to our religion!” The activists who shout “We are against Western culture” are seen in their fancy jeans and (probably imitation) T-shirts all featuring well-known Western brands.

It was intriguing why such observant crowds who are sensitive about rape in Iraq have never ever demonstrated against their own government’s cooperation with the allied forces that invaded Iraq. But it is even more intriguing why avoiding sin themselves does not satisfy these faithful Muslims. Why do they feel offended when other people sin? Why do they assume all festival attendees are Muslim? Can there not be atheists, theists, agnostics and non-Muslim monotheists among them? Do they have to be Muslim just because they are Turkish?

Alcohol is the perfect litmus test to see whether most devout Muslims think the Quran tells them to avoid evil and do good or whether they think their holy book tells them to command others to avoid evil and do good.


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mara mcglothin

7/24/2012 2:55:05 PM

Good one MURUN!

Murun Buchstansangur

7/23/2012 2:04:09 AM

@Ameer. You meant to write: "Evil allowed to spread harms innocents e.g. Smoking, drugs, religion etc - potential for Islamic Fundamentalism starts with immature youth and Quran classes!!

Ameer Raschid

7/22/2012 4:43:43 PM

Qur'an describes the Muslim community as the best raised up for (benefit of) mankind because they enjoin or command what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. Individuals are restricted to advice unless they have legal authority to enforce e.g. parents, police,husbands(?) wives etc. Freedom to do wrong even if it only harms the individual has potential to spread. ("am I my brother's keeper?

Ameer Raschid

7/22/2012 4:19:00 PM

Muslims cannot be indifferent to the harm actions do to themselves and society. Protesting is legitimate and legal means to discourage others is social responsibility. Good advice to motivate and good example first. İf authorized by law, restrict or forbid. Freedom to commit suicide or harm health costs society. Evil allowed to spread harms innocents e.g. Smoking, drugs.etc potential for alcoholism starts with immature youth and "rock the clock"festivals!

Tayyar Abi

7/20/2012 9:51:43 PM

OK anastasia morosini. Xenophobia if you are a stickler for correct spellings. And for es, Did anyone say it doesn't exist in western society? I don't think so. I beleive we were intimating it's prevalence hereabouts.

american american

7/20/2012 7:16:44 PM

unfortunately dogan, to get home from work i have to pass by many transvestite prostitutes (one was even daylighting as police officer). not that they are bad people, but what goes on in many neighborhoods in this city would make any westerner feel 'at home' (according to you).

Red Tail

7/20/2012 6:46:10 PM

dogan kemal ileri. You claim a) that you have live in UK for 55 year and b) the West mainly constists of rape, prostitution and drugs. From that I can only conclude that you like rape, prostitution and drugs? Why else would you stay in a place you seem to hate so much? The other alternative is of course that you have been totally incapabable to integrate in UK life and therefore have no clue.

Johanna Dew

7/20/2012 6:35:28 PM

@dogan Its not about if you want be part of Europe or not, its about your ridiculous claim that the West is one Sodom and Gıomorha...while 90% of the technical, medical, social and agricultural etc. developments and inventions cones from the West. Your statement was a contradicio in terminus.


7/20/2012 6:35:05 PM

If given the choice to live anywhere in today's world, I wonder how many of the bloggers below would choose Turkey. Certainly not this author, as personal human rights and freedoms by far outweigh the existing living conditions in Turkey under the current Turkish political status quo which masquerades itself as a democracy. A notion shared by myriads of Turks living in Europe and North America. Regards

es 324

7/20/2012 6:05:21 PM

As much as I dislike that small but loud minority chanting slogans against western culture, I am equally amazed at reading some forum members claiming xenophobia does not exist in western societies and all is quiet and peaceful on the western front!!
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