Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Divided Istanbul

Interesting article by Tim Arango in the Times about Istanbul, where the economic boom and optimistic attitudes of the 2000s have been replaced by what Turks call "huzun," an old word meaning melancholy and spiritual malaise.

Arango finds that both devout Muslims and secularists are unhappy with the direction of events.
“Everything is being Arabized,” said Karaca Borar, who owns an antiques shop on one of the crooked, cobbled streets in European Istanbul. . . .

He said he was tired of hearing the Arabic greeting of “salaam aleikum” on the streets, and tired of so many Syrians in general. (It is a widely shared sentiment: When Mr. Erdogan recently said Turkey should offer citizenship to Syrians, a right-wing secular newspaper called Syrians “vermin” in a front-page headline.)

Asked about the mood of the city, which before the coup attempt had faced several devastating terrorist attacks for which the Islamic State was blamed, Mr. Borar said, “Terrible, terrible, terrible.” . . .

He continued: “We were the only secular, decent country in a bad region. Now, we are like one of those Arab states.”
But another long-time resident of the city frets about secularism:
Mr. Bardok said he quit drinking in 1994 when he turned to religion, and blamed secular Turks for the country’s polarization because they are “arrogant and disrespectful.”

Now that they are moving in to his neighborhood, he is worried that “in five to 10 years this place is going to turn into Amsterdam.”
Recent times in the U.S. have sensitized me to stories about places where both traditionalists and modernizers think the tide is going against them. I suppose what happens is that strongly ideological people of any sort associate bad things with their enemies, so when things go badly (and a lot is going badly in Turkey) they naturally blame those enemies whether they are responsible or not.

2 comments:

G. Verloren said...

Now that they are moving in to his neighborhood, he is worried that “in five to 10 years this place is going to turn into Amsterdam.”

...so this Mr. Bardok is concerned Istanbul is going to turn into an affluent, highly educated, multi-cultural city with low crime rates, low pollution, and high quality of life? The horror!

I suppose more of his complaint is actually in Amsterdam's reputation for recreational drug usage, given the bit about his giving up drinking. Which of course is a religious viewpoint I struggle to understand. I'm a teetotaler, and yet other people choosing to indulge doesn't really affect me - so why should it matter to Mr. Barduk and his brethren? How do the actions of others affect their own personal religious convictions?

David said...

Some religions, notably both Islam and traditional Judaism, aren't so much about personal religious convictions as about living life in an Islamic or Jewish way, in an Islamic or Jewish community. For both, what you believe is in many ways less important than what you do and who you do it with. This is in a ritual, social, economic, familial, and legal sense--not just an ethical one. So yes, what the people around Mr. Bardok do matters a lot to him, if he's a serious, traditional Muslim.