Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Muslim? Arab? In Turkey?
Turkey is the country with probably the most beautiful mosques. Turkey was once the seat of the most powerful Muslim empires for almost 400 years. Turkey has a lot to offer in terms of history but unfortunately history is written in the past tense.
About 15 years ago I visited Turkey, and I found many everyday things very peculiar over there. As a Muslim whose mother tongue is Arabic I found it most interesting in a country with such a long history of Islam that very few people actually knew how to speak Arabic. I am not talking about the daily Arabic you might hear in Cairo or Damascus, but the Arabic you would use in prayer.
For me what really killed it was when I went to Friday prayers and had to hear the athaan (call to prayer) from a tape player as the Imam (Muslim priest) apparently didn't know how to say it. However, the sermon that followed was in Turkish, but it was hurried. As if people didn't want to be caught in the mosque. It has become inconvenient to be a Muslim in Turkey.
It's amazing to find such a country rich in Islamic history lacking in basic elements. Sad to find that some of the most beautiful mosques over there locked shut by the government. Sad to meet some of the kindest people there (Kurds) who cannot speak their own language because it's illegal yet somehow have an excellent grasp of Arabic, and were more than happy to give us a helping hand.
I guess we were both foreigners.