Turkey handbook for Americans

Turkey handbook for Americans

BELGİN AKALTAN - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Turkey handbook for Americans

President Barack Obama speaks to Turkish students in 2007.

Cut this and save it. You may need it again. These are basics for our country, especially for Americans. These are the areas where they make the biggest mistakes.

Before that, these are not for ordinary Americans who travel here or come to live here. The “Americans” at the title refers to strategists, think tanks, diplomats, politicians, opinion setters and rapporteurs; in short all decision makers. For the ordinary American, Turkey is like any other country outside America; you think it is strange, nothing like your own country.  

But with an average intelligence, observation ability, good sense of humor and a healthy mind you will be able to get by and figure out Turkey and Turkish people easily. You will be eating olives at breakfast and dipping your bread into the “juice of the salad” in no time.

I don’t know how and through what mechanisms the Turkey policy of the United States is structured, but there is one thing for sure; I can tell you it goes wrong most of the time, and it goes wrong big time from time to time. The purpose of this article is to avoid those disastrous deviations. I mean you guys lose time and money; you make us lose time. You also lose your aim. You deviate from your target. And here, our lives are wasted; generations of lives are spent correcting things, just because some half-wits think they know what is best for a country…

I want to start with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey. That was the first giant clue you were doing something wrong, very wrong.

Obama was taking questions on April 7, 2009 while he was in Istanbul during a student roundtable at Tophane. 

Which idiot suggested that to him? I don’t know. I think it was a benchmark in the perception of the Islamization of Turkey. Not even Turkish politicians utter such sentences. Obama wanted to hurry so that nobody was late for the Friday prayers. He said, “I want to make sure that we end before the call to prayer.”

Oh gosh, are we in the 18th century at the time of Sultan Mustafa? When was the last time a visiting leader made reference to the Friday prayers thinking it was a good gesture?

I was appalled. What prayers? Who told you that Friday prayers were a part of the Turkish working routine? Which advisors told him that saying that would make him sound wise?

Even in the Quran, with my limited knowledge of Muslim practices, work comes first. You finish your duties and work and then go to the mosque. And Friday prayers are only for men. What about the girls at the student roundtable at Tophane Cultural Center? Are they supposed to wait until men do their prayers and is Obama really willing to be a part of this? We have been fighting this mentality for more than 80 years…

Now, here are the points to keep in mind while designing Turkey policies:

First point: There is no moderate Islam. There is no moderate, democratic, modernized version of political Islam. The ones that seem moderate to you are only deceiving you. If you support Islamist political movements, you end up with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). If you mentor their climb to power, when Islamist minds are given power, the first thing they will do is restrict the rights of women and non-Muslims.

There is no liberal Islam. Their democracy and liberalism are only for themselves and for men. How many times do we have to experience this over and over again until you learn this basic fact?   
Did it ever dawn on you that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is a leader we genuinely love with all our hearts? He was a reformist and evolved Turkey into a modern country from a potential tribal community. We love him not because he was a dictator or that we were forced to love him. We have his pictures everywhere because we want to. We love him because he was a true genius. My love for Atatürk multiplies as time goes by. Do not doubt Atatürk, the best thing that has ever happened to this country.

The headscarf is not freedom. For a woman to cover her head with a scarf so that her hair is not seen by other men is an ideology. It is one more imposition on women orchestrated by men. Not many discuss whether it is a must or not.

For the real dumbs: There is no female circumcision in Turkey. It is not heard of. Do not make that mistake. This fact also proves that female circumcision is not a Muslim practice. But if you want to discuss male circumcision, then let’s all wait until 2515, the year I am guessing we will be able to discuss this issue impartially, freely, without offending anyone. 

Makings laws does not mean anything. Writing a new constitution does not mean anything in this land.
This is also for Europeans: At the beginning of this regime, their reformist side was highly appreciated in Europe and the U.S. We felt stupid when our warnings were not taken seriously. Why did we have to wait more than 10 years for you to understand? It was hurtful seeing you embrace and pamper them.

The “hood event” has not been forgotten. Our national pride was at stake. Better think of doing something about it because it will last 15 more generations. Admit this was a serious mistake, make an official apology. Exaggerate. This will remain akin to a bleeding wound unless you do something about it.

When you want to support a leader or a prospective leader, scrutinize his or her past. Find a wise Turkish person to ask, ask local sociologists… An imam high school, a mediocre city college and a career in selling tickets at İETT is not a good combination… Neither is being an economy professor at Boğaziçi a sufficient criterion…

This is about all.

But here is one more sentence, irrelevant to the theme above: I want to write down for the records: They will start breaking up on a Monday and by the Friday of the same week, they will be completely separated.