Istanbul 2020

Istanbul 2020

Istanbul, Turkey’s unofficial capital, has failed in its four previous bids to host the Olympic Games. As the Turkish metropolis comes very close to winning its fifth bid, now competing with Tokyo and Madrid, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just wanted to give a helping hand. “Withdraw your bid,” he half-jokingly asked his guest, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “So we can host them once.”

Shortly before that, Tokyo’s outspoken mayor, Naoki Inose, in words he later apologized for, accused Muslim countries of fighting with each other. The mayor was wrong: We Muslims do not always fight. Although it is a statistical fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslims thus far killed in violence have been the victims of other Muslims, we can have peaceful, democratic means to promote our faith.

Take the Turkish sociologist, for instance, who provided scientific proof that atheism is a variant of autism. The man was not the head of the nutty professors’ assembly, but chairman of an association that should provide care and education for autistic children. And he even proudly unveiled his plans, along with the local city council, to provide therapy for autistic children “so that they could become faithful children.” In a saner country the sociologist would have been forced to have therapy “so that he could become a saner scientist” -- if not arrested for child abuse.

But such characters surely maximize Istanbul’s chances of hosting the Olympics simply because millions of potential visitors would wish to see a country where that sociologist’s colorful words are the governmental and social norm rather than personal eccentricity. Also, the visitors would surely enjoy a flight that would not impair their visual integrity rather than having to fly to a country, such as Spain or Japan, where flights often dangerously impair passengers’ visual integrity.

That’s the wording Turkish Airlines skillfully invented in place of “too sexy for our religious codes.” After slaughtering a camel on an Istanbul apron for religious sacrifice several years ago and banning alcohol on a number of international flights recently, Turkey’s national carrier has proudly banned flight attendants from wearing red lipstick and nail polish because, in the words of the company, “the use of lipstick and nail polish in these colors by our cabin crew impairs visual integrity.”

We still do not know from that genderless statement whether THY would allow its male flight attendants to wear pastel colored lipstick and nail polish but that, too, would probably impair passengers’ visual integrity since that would be too un-Islamic. Was it not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who once said there are no gays in Muslim countries? Or was it Shia Iran that is the world’s only gay-free country? I am still expecting some Sunni Turk to challenge that view with a powerful “oh no, in fact there are no gays in Sunni Turkey” reply. Iranians should learn who the better Muslim nation is.

Besides, if Istanbul hosted the Olympics in 2020, a simple wish I made last year in this column may come true. After the Turkish presenter, who translated John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine,” as it played in the background during the broadcasting of London 2012’s closing ceremonies, deliberately omitted the part where Lennon sang for “no religion,” I wrote in this column my part of a better translation of “Imagine” for Istanbul 2020:

“Imagine there is heaven
Where good Muslims enjoy 72 heavenly virgins every day and wine flows through rivers It’s easy if you try Beware of the hell below us where drunks, infidels and Jews will taste the most punishing flames Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for jihad

Imagine there is only one country
boasting the Crescent and Star
It isn’t hard to do
To kill the infidel or to die for jihad
And no religion too
other than Islam
Imagine all the people living in peace after having converted to Islam

You, you may say I am a jihadist
But I am not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”

(Imagine: Turkey hosts the 2020 Olympic Games!, Hurriyet Daily News, Aug. 24, 2012)