The Update – Turkish Politics, 3 January 2012

Creeping Sheriah Attempts in Turkey

- Sheriah -

Up until recently, the fundamentalist undertones of this counter-revolution have been relatively subdued. However as AKP becomes more brazen by the absence of major resistance in the society and receives tacit encouragement from the USA and EU, the party’s fundamentalist roots have become more apparent.

This entry reviews two recent phenomena which should earnestly scare the West, the intellectuals and the largely secular middle class whose self—centered and unqualified support emboldens AKP day by day.  The first incident is creeping Creationism in the Turkish class room, backed by the Ministry of Education.  The second piece concerns overt attempts by the AKP run municipalities to indoctrinate women into submissiveness and inferior gender roles.

Until AKP came to power, Moslem theology had been by and large comfortable withDarwinand evolution.  There are very few Moslem scholars who take Genesis as told in the Old Testament (also present in Kuran) literally. The edict that the Lord had created the world out of vacuum has largely been interpreted as God creating men in his own image.  Thus, Creationism is largely a Christian counter-narrative to evolution.  What is it doing in the Turkish class room?:

Turkey Blocks Web Pages Touting Darwin’s Evolution Theory[1]

Turkey Blocks Web Pages Touting Darwin's Evolution Theory

The blocking by Turkish state authorities of Web pages advocating the theory of evolution has put the focus on wider concerns by teachers and academics that the ideas of Darwin increasingly are being undermined by the Islamic-rooted government.

Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

Numerous web pages advocating the theory of evolution recently were deemed unsafe for children by Turkey’s regulatory board controlling the Internet.

Yaman Akdeniz of Istanbul’s Bilgi University is an expert on Internet freedom.

Yaman Akdeniz of Istanbul's Bilgi University

“The authorities are trying to establish one view, one morality that the youngsters of our generation should subscribe to,” said Akdeniz.

Undermining evolution

The result was an outcry by the media and academics. Soon after, regulatory authorities re-instated the web pages, with the regulatory authority claiming the ban was a “clerical error.” Recent media reports, however, say the evolution sites still remain blocked in schools.

The controversy is not only confined to the Internet. Professor Asli Tolon is a molecular biologist at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University. She has been tracking the changes in how evolution is taught in school text books.

Tolon said the idea of evolution increasingly is undermined by creationists who argue the world was created by God.

“Here, there is this, how life evolved. This part is quite scientific, but then right after that, it starts with the creation, the view of creation, which should really not be in a scientific book, because this is a religious view,” said Tolon.

Tolon said the result of such changes are increasingly being felt by her students.

“They sometimes get the idea, that I am trying to teach them my own views. But this is not mine, because evolution is one of the basic theories,” said Tolon.

Balancing the teaching

The first incident is creeping Creationism in the Turkish class room, backed by the Ministry of Education. The second piece concerns overt attempts by the AKP run municipalities to indoctrinate women into submissiveness and inferior gender roles.

Mustafa Akyol, columnist and writer on religious affairs, said alternative theories to evolution have a place in education.

“There are some scientific facts in nature that point to a design by some intelligent being which is not a part of nature, this being might be God. This cannot be a reason to reject data just simply because it’s compatible with religion. I think a fair and objective scientific education should allow Darwin evolution and also critics of Darwin evolution,” said Akyol.

Mr Ömer Dinçer, Turkish Minister of Education, Former Prime Ministry Undersecretary said that Turkey should change its republic principle and secularism should be replaced by Islam in a speech in Siirt in 1995.

Turkey’s teachers are now increasingly being caught in the middle of the deepening dispute.

The country’s main teaching trade union frequently complain that science teachers are facing increasing intimidation by the education ministry, local authorities controlled by the governing AK party and even religious parents.

The government has dismissed such claims. But one teacher, who did not want to give her name, said teaching evolution is increasingly difficult.

“In my school, three out of five science teachers now only teach creationism,” she said, adding that she faces daily pressure from fellow teachers who are religious, and from some families of children who complain about her teaching evolution.

For teachers advocating evolution in Turkey’s schools, they seem destined to be on the frontline of this ongoing struggle for the minds of the nation’s young.”

Under AKP, the Ministry of Education has become an engine for conservatism and Sunni indoctrination of young children. By Cabinet decrees, over 5 thousand imams (Sunni pastors) are recruited to teach non-religion courses, claiming a shortage of qualified staff, even though roughly a quarter million graduates are waiting for teaching positions, which only happens by appointment from the Ministry of Education.Turkey’s Alevite community strongly protested the mandatory religion courses as unconstitutional because they don’t teach the Alevite faith.  In any case most Alevites and a large number of secular parents don’t want their children to be exposed to religion in the tender age of 11. Currently unless a family officially denounces the Islam faith, it is mandated by law to send its children to religion courses. Several Alevite parents who won court orders for exclusion from religion courses claim the ministry ignores these.

The deliberate plan to create a fundamentalist  Moslem society is also widely supported by the AKP municipalities. Many are now hiring “marriage councilors” to teach women how to please their husbands. One recent example is Mrs. İnci Yeşilyurt retained by the Istanbulborough of Gaziosmanpaşa.  Her recent “teachings” have found their way to main-stream daily VATAN[2].

“Visa for marriage” İnci Yeşilyurt, Gaziosmanpasa muncipality

 “A home maker must always rise before her husband—unless she is sick—to prepare him for the day. She must fix breakfast for him and lay out his clothes. Unless she does these as well as bid her spouse farewell in good nature, she will soon be perceived as lazy, no-good-for-nothing, a gold digger.

There is no rule that says your marital problems will be solved immediately. You should never nag your husband.

Men like balanced, understanding, stable, loving and attractive women. Women who say “This  is me.  Take it or leave it” are certain to be cheated on.

The most important things you should know is that a perfect woman is an unhappy woman. Women who choose careers as well raising children fight their inner nature.

This is not an isolated incidence.  Last year, another  marriage councilor hired by anotherIstanbulmunicipality has made headlines by advising women to welcome a second wife in good grace, because it’s so ordained in the Kuran. In Anatolia, municipalities now run gender-segregated tea houses, pools, exercise facilities.

It is galling to see municipalities subsidize this sexist, male chauvinistic drivel with my tax money, but the sub context is scary.  AKP is either consciously moving the society towards paradigm very similar to that envisioned inSaudi Arabia, or turning a blind eye to those factions in the party who intend to do so.

Atilla Yesilada

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