Reconciliation between renowned pianist and Turkish president

Reconciliation between renowned pianist and Turkish president

The secularist neighborhood has nowadays been attacking eminent pianist and composer Fazıl Say for “bowing in respect” in front of the president who just a few years ago was attacking him at rallies and demanding him “to love or leave” the country.

No one is of course obliged to love or hate someone irrespective of what the name or position of that personality. Indeed, no one is obliged to love a president or a minister. There might be a problem with the individual personalities. But respect to the presidency or the ministry demonstrates the commitment of a person to the state. Of course, at this point we may indulge as well into a discussion of should the state come first or should the state be the servant of the individual? But that’s a separate discussion point.

In any case it is a fact that for the past almost two decades, with a worsening tendency, Turkey is sailing through a process of polarization. The secularist neighborhood and the conservative-religious neighborhood came into being as a result of this process. Worse, polarization has become so contagious and so stubborn that on each side of the divide there is an acute non-tolerance to people trying to understand the other or show some signs of empathy.

While this polarization has been instrumental in consolidating the conservative-religious governance and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) electoral base, at the same time was instrumental in the drain of a high number of young or middle-aged “crème de la crème” to the West. Was it a surprise to see, for example, reports that the number of Turkish asylum seekers in Sweden doubled that of the Syrians in 2018? Why has a leading business family decided to buy Maltese passports or why did another family with a major share in biscuits and chocolate production in the country decide to collect the shares of the company with their British-registered company?

Turkey cannot continue this drain and polarization forever. This country has unfortunately turned into something hellish for some segments of the society while some other segments have been covetously possessing all resources. There is need to develop some empathy and definitely efforts are required to expand the base of national reconciliation.

If a president can telephone a leading secularist pianist-composer and express his condolences over the loss of his beloved mother, that’s an attitude that deserves to be applauded irrespective of what might be his political view. Such sad moments, unfortunately, offer sometimes a chance of establishing empathy, trying to build compromise and thus defuse tensions.

During that telephone conversation Say, according to his statement, felt the president was sincere. A while later, in an encounter, Say reportedly thanked the president for the gesture he made by phoning him and expressing condolences over his great loss and invited him to his upcoming concert in Ankara. The president reportedly accepted the invitation, but up until he showed up at the Say concert in Ankara no one believed that Erdoğan would indeed attend a piano concert of classical music.

He attended the concert together with his wife, almost the entire cabinet and a visiting American senator.

Now, Say is accused in the secularist neighborhood of forgetting all those nasty remarks of Erdoğan and bowing in respect in front of him just because he attended the concert. Nonsense. If a president attends the concert of a leading pianist, what could he do other than show respect in kind?

Furthermore, was it not Say who all through the past many years complained the oddity of being the subject of attacks from the rulers of his country while being revered by the entire world? Now, as Say has said, the president has demonstrated acts of reconciliation by calling to express his condolences, accepting an invitation and attending a concert.

Turkey needs to see more of such actions and put an end to this devastating culture of confrontation, polarization, and seeing the “other” as the “enemy.” We must all salute Say for being able to respond in kind to the reconciliation moves undertaken by Erdoğan.

secularism, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,