FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Prayers during wartime

Midyat, Turkey

By Umit Bektas

Sunday mass has just begun in Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church. It is seven o’clock in the morning and the streets of Midyat, where the majority of the population is Muslim Kurdish, are empty.

But despite the calm outside, the historical church is overcrowded with a community of three hundred people, mostly children. Candles are lit, hymns are sung and prayers are made.

The reason that the mass is so crowded today is not because it is the festival of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It is because for over two years now, Syriac Christian families escaping the bloody war in Syria just across the border have been joining the congregation, adding to the Turkish Christian citizens of Midyat.

Since then, Sunday masses have become more crowded, more enthusiastic.

Ibrahim (not his real name) is one of those who pray and sing hymns along with his family at Sunday mass. He is a 45-year-old Syrian citizen, a carpenter.

For eight months, Ibrahim has been living with his wife and seven children in Midyat, in Turkey’s southeastern Mardin Province. The family has been staying in a refugee camp established by the Turkish authorities.

from David Rohde:

Inside Islam’s culture war

ISTANBUL – In a state-of-the-art television studio here, the Islamic world's version of America's culture war is playing out in a lavishly re-created 16th century palace.

A dashing Turkish actor plays Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman ruler who conquered vast swaths of the Middle East and Europe, granted basic rights to Christians and Jews, and promoted education, science and art.

To Turkish conservatives, the series maligns a revered ruler known as "the lawgiver" whose military prowess and legal reforms placed the Ottomans at the zenith of their power. Set in the palace harem, early episodes featured a young Suleiman cavorting with scantily clad women and drinking wine. The sex was frequent.

from Tales from the Trail:

Perry stands ground on Turkey

Given an opportunity to revise (back down or retract) his comments he made in Monday's Republican debate linking Turkey to "Islamic terrorists," Texas Governor Rick Perry stood his ground on Tuesday.

The Republican presidential candidate made no apology for nearly touching off an international incident with his take on the long-time U.S. ally. Perry defended his view in a CNN interview, hours after Turkey's response.

Here's the video:

Seeds of Arab Spring sown in Islam’s past, Turkish author says

(Mustafa Akyol at the Council on Foreign Relations 'Religion and the Open Society' Symposium In New York March 25, 2008 in this publicity photo released to Reuters July 13, 2011/Council on Foreign Relations)

Eight year-old Mustafa Akyol was looking at a book in his grandfather’s library when he saw something that shocked him: a passage advising parents to beat impious children. Now, Akyol is a journalist in Turkey, and he hopes the Arab Spring shows a different side of Islam: one where there is no conflict between Islam and political freedom.

His new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” which is being released in the United States on July 18, aims to tell people that there is a long history of freedom in the Islamic world. “The fact that so many Arab countries have been run by dictators fostered the myth that it’s the only type of government that those countries can produce,” Akyol told Reuters. “The current uprisings are showing that this is wrong.”

As Turkey votes, concern this time focuses on democracy, not theocracy

(A view shows buildings plastered with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's election campaign posters, as a ferry leaves Eminonu pier in Istanbul June 10, 2011/Murad Sezer)

The last time Turks voted in a general election in 2007, opponents feared the socially conservative ruling party was turning Turkey into an Iran-style Islamic state. With voters on Sunday expected to keep Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party in office for a third straight term, critics and some analysts now worry about that less but fear that the future course of democracy may be at stake.

A rising power with a vibrant, free economy and a U.S. ally that aspires to join the European Union, Turkey is held up as an example of marrying Islam and democracy and has been an oasis of stability in a region convulsed by “Arab Spring” uprisings. AK has also overseen the most stable and prosperous period of Turkey’s history with market-friendly reforms, and begun membership talks with the EU while opening new markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Harun Yahya’s Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin

(Harun Yahya at a news conference in Istanbul May 12, 2011/Murad Sezer)

France’s staunchly secularist educational establishment was shocked four years ago when schools around the country suddenly began receiving free copies of a richly illustrated Muslim creationist book entitled the “Atlas of Creation.” The book by Istanbul preacher and publisher Harun Yahya had come out in Turkey the year earlier. After the French Education Ministry warned teachers not to use it and held a seminar on how to deal with creationist pupils, the issue dropped out of the public discussion. But the Harun Yahya group has been spreading its view in France and is now holding a series of conferences on them. Here is my feature after visiting one of the first meetings in the current series: Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin

AUBERVILLIERS, France (Reuters) – Four years after they first frightened France, Muslim creationists are back touring the country preaching against evolution and claiming the Koran predicted many modern scientific discoveries.

Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.

Turkish PM raps France for face veil ban, militants online urge punishment for Paris

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011/Vincent Kessler)

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused France of violating the freedom of religion on Wednesday after Paris began enforcing a law barring Muslim women from wearing full face veils in public. He told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Turkey was the only Muslim country that had copied the French law on secularism, or separating church and state.

“It’s quite ironic to see that secularism is today under debate in Europe and is undermining certain freedoms,” he said. “Today in France, there is no respect for individual religious freedom,” he said. The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe monitors human rights across the continent. Read the full story here.

Istanbul celebrates carnival after nearly 70 years

istanbul carnival 1

(Istanbul celebrates carnival, 7 March 2011/all photos by Jonathan Lewis)

Istanbul’s tiny Greek community has revived an all-but-extinct tradition by celebrating Bakla Horani, an evening of carousing at the end of carnival ahead of Lent. About 300 masked, painted and costumed revelers paraded on Monday through the streets of Istanbul’s Kurtulus district, known as Tatavla when it was home to Greeks decades ago.

The procession ended at a local hall where musicians performed rembetiko and cranked a laterna, a Greek mechanical piano. Partiers were served raki, the aniseed-flavoured spirit, and meze that featured beans. (Bakla Horani roughly translates as “eating beans,” referring to the austere Lenten diet that looms.)

For 500 years, Bakla Horani was celebrated in Istanbul, now a mainly Muslim city, and pre-Lenten street parties would run for weeks ahead of the 40-day period of self-denial Christians observe ahead of Easter. Lent began today, Ash Wednesday.

Masses mourn at funeral of Turkish Islamist leader Erbakan

erbakan

(Mourners surround the coffin of Turkey's former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan at his funeral in Istanbul March 1, 2011/Osman Orsal )

Turks, including the country’s political leaders, paid their respects on Tuesday to former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, the founder of the country’s modern Islamist movement, who died on Sunday.  Sombre music poured from loudspeakers outside Istanbul’s 15th Century Fatih Mosque and street vendors sold scarves emblazoned with the message “Mujahid Erbakan”, celebrating the Erbakan as a holy warrior, as mourners chanted “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is Great”.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, proteges of Erbakan, joined other leaders for prayers in front of the coffin, laid out in the mosque’s courtyard and draped in green cloth adorned with Koranic verses. The streets, rooftops and balconies of houses surrounding the mosque were crammed with men wearing skull caps, and women, either veiled or wearing head scarves — marks of respect. Some mourners carried Palestinian flags.

Erdogan urges Turks in Germany to integrate, not assimilate

erdogan 1

(Confetti is released as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan leaves the stage following a speech to some 15,000 Turks living in Germany at an arena in Duesseldorf February 27, 2011/Wolfgang Rattay )

Turkish immigrants in Germany should integrate into society but not assimilate to the point where they abandon their native culture, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Germany on Sunday. Speaking to some 10,000 members of Germany’s large Turkish community in the wake of last year’s heated debate over the place of foreigners in the country, Erdogan took up the theme of integration amid what he sees as persistent European xenophobia.

“You must integrate, but I am against assimilation … no one may ignore the rights of minorities,” he said, adding that individuals should have the right to practice their own faith.