Don’t marry an Alevi; marry your step daughter!

Don’t marry an Alevi; marry your step daughter!

Turkey’s modern history is full of evidence suggesting the tactical (short-term) nemeses for Turkish (Sunni) Islamists have not been non-Muslims, but “perverted and decadent” Muslims who, traditionally, come in two flavors: secular Muslims and Alevis. Because these groups often ignore Islam’s most traditional practices, like abstaining from alcohol, attending Friday prayers at mosques or sacrificing animals during Eid al-Adha. Until the Islamists first “corrected” their practices, the strategic nemeses (non-Muslims) could always wait for their share.

In recent years, whether the State should recognize the Alevi houses of worship, the cemevis, was at the center of a debate over the government’s repeated pledges to “reform” in favor of Alevi rights. 

Last year, parliament refused Alevi deputies’ request to have a cemevi on the Parliament compound for prayers, citing advice from the powerful Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) that “Alevi faith is incumbent in Islam; therefore its venue for prayers should be mosques.” That advice was pretty much the same if the Alevis insisted that the right prayer venue for the Sunnis were the cemevis. 

The reasoning reflects the rigid Islamist habit of corrupting facts at every convenience, wherever and whenever, and without feeling a crumb of shame because of gross hypocrisy. When Sunni women who (rightly) insisted they should be able to wear the Islamic headscarf on campuses “because this was God’s commandment,” they were reminded that there was no such commandment in the Quran. The Islamists argued back: Whether it is a Quranic commandment or not, you must respect the way one feels s/he should practice faith.” Right? Right. But that powerful logic suddenly disappears when Alevis resort to it: With or without evidence from the holy script we believe that this is where we should pray.
To which the Sunnis respond with a cold “we-will-decide-where-you-can-pray” indifference. This is typical of Islamists demanding broad minority rights in countries where they are a minority; but proudly remind everyone of their majority when “the other” demands the same rights in countries where they are a majority. 

One can ignore the famous fatwa issued by a Sunni Syrian cleric, Sheikh Muhammad Badi Moussa, that “we ruled it is permissible to kill Alawite women and children;” or Sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni’s fatwa that “Sunnis can capture and have sex with non-Sunni women (in Syria)” – both echoing the Ottoman jurist Mehmet Ebusuud, who in the 16th century, instigated massacres and persecution of Alevis and other non-Sunni Muslims. Much less violent but nearly absurd fatwas are part of the devout life in Turkey even this day.

My own research has shown that the most common question asked to religious authorities by Sunni men and women is “whether it is permissible to marry an Alevi.” I have checked the four most popular Sunni fatwa sites for answers, hoping for a glimmer of reason. 

The scholars of one site replied, “such marriages are not right due to the ‘risks’ they entail.” That was polite. Another ulama advice was, “a woman who would identify herself as Alevi and insult the Prophet Muhammad could not be considered Muslim.” The third one explained marriage would not be permissible because the Alevis had different religious rituals and practices. The fourth fatwa was more direct, “The Alevi faith is null and void; therefore marriage is not permissible.”

But there are official fatwas, too, regarding permissible marriages according to Islam. In 2007, for instance, a member of Diyanet’s Supreme Religious Affairs Board (a professor of theology) said in Islam it was permissible for a man to marry his step daughter. And according to Diyanet’s chairman, Professor Mehmet Görmez, “It is wrong (for the Alevis) to seek religious status 14 centuries after the birth of Islam.” 

Nice summary we have here: Sunnis can decide where Alevis should be praying; but they should not marry Alevis; but they can marry their (Sunni) step daughters; but the Alevis should not seek a religious status. Meanwhile, the Alevis can continue to enjoy proceeding with paying taxes to finance Diyanet’s budget that overwhelms the budgets of more than 10 ministries combined.