Turkey’s bipolar disorder problem

Turkey’s bipolar disorder problem

The man who kicked a 23-year-old nurse in the face on an Istanbul public bus “because she was wearing shorts” reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder and had been treated many times at a mental facility. 

Abdullah Çakiroğlu admitted that he kicked the young woman on a public bus. In his testimony he said:

She was dressed against my traditions;
I kicked her impulsively;
I beat those whose outfits I don’t like;
Everything happened according to Islamic law [in a statement made to the press];
Our constitution must take the truth primarily from Islam;  
In Islamic law a woman who wears sexy outfit should be whipped; 
Because of such people [like the woman in shorts] … I cannot live in peace with my religion.

The man is a microcosm of Turkey’s “Islamist thuggishness” although he also falls into the “nutty” category.  
In 2010, as art lovers drank sangria out of plastic cups and contemplated iconoclastic pieces of art, a group of locals in central Istanbul attacked them with pepper gas and frozen oranges. For an hour, they smashed windows and injured dozens. The attackers justified themselves, saying that drinking alcohol, especially outdoors, violated Islamic rules. Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “Such incidents occur everywhere in the world.”

A few years after that incident, a mob of men carrying sticks and bottles attacked a group of Radiohead fans at a record store owned by a South Korean man. The fans had been holding a listening party of the band’s music, again in central Istanbul. Video footage of the incident shows an angry man storming into the store, shouting curses and threats and most of the people hastily leaving. A waiting mob then reportedly attacked the group and the door of the record store was smashed, although fortunately there no serious injuries were reported.

Once again, the mob was angry because “infidels” had dared to listen to music and drink during Ramadan. “We were beaten by more than 20 men with pipes in their hands, beer bottles were broken on our heads, I don’t even know how we made it out,” one of the victims said on social media. Three of the attackers were detained but judicial authorities later released them.

There are a few problematic points about all that – and possibly thousands of other unreported and minor incidents of the same nature happening every day. First, the conservative Turkish Muslim mind’s understanding of tolerance and pluralism is a one-way street: It is good if London elects a Muslim mayor. It is good if Austrian police quickly detain racists who attack a Turkish cultural center, or if German police arrest a bunch of neo-Nazis who attack a mosque. But it is also good if people in Muslim Turkey do not drink or eat publicly during Ramadan, or women do not wear shorts on public buses – because “Turkey is 99 percent Muslim.” This column has frequently described this psychology as being “liberal in lands where Muslims are in the minority and majoritarian where they are in the majority.” A more direct, shorter way to phrase it is just “hypocrisy.”

The second problem about the microcosm in the personality of Mr. Çakıroğlu, who practiced kickboxing on a young woman on a public bus, is that there are probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Mr. Çakıroğlus in Turkey. That is not an imminent danger only because Turkish women who wear shorts are in danger. There is a very thin line separating such men from the recruitment catchment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Give them a little push, and you have your perfect warrior who has upgraded from being merely a “guardian of Islam” by kicking sinning women in shorts. For such characters, this will be like making a career move into a corporate position from running a small grocery shop. 

And by the way – we have no means to know but – could anyone hazard a guess as to which party Mr. Çakıroğlu votes for? We can only surmise. But we are probably all accurate in our guesses.

Turkey does not qualify for the European Union because it is predominantly Muslim; it does not qualify because its political culture is predominantly Islamist majoritarian.