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26 November 2006

Turks Protesting Pope's Visit: An embarrassment

Turkish women attend an anti-Pope rally organised by the Islam-based Welfare Party in Istanbul November 26, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI is expected to arrive in Turkey on Tuesday.
26 Nov 2006 REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
To the 20,000 anti-pope demonstators of the "Islamist Felicity" party: Get your disgraceful selves the hell out of the Turkish Republic and go live in Iran, 'k? -AT

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Reuters) -- More than 20,000 Muslims in
Istanbul on Sunday staged the biggest protest so far against Pope Benedict's
trip to Turkey as Islamic opposition to this week's controversial visit gathered
Benedict, due to begin his first official visit to a Muslim country
next Tuesday, angered many Muslims in September with a speech they took as an
insult to Islam.
Youths wearing headbands with Islamic scripts, beating drums and waving Turkish red and white flags chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) in the peaceful rally.
"I cannot remain silent when the Prophet Mohammed is
insulted. I love him more than myself," said Husamettin Aycan Alp, 25, a science
student from Izmir in western Turkey.
He said Roman Catholic cardinals chose this pope last year "because he is against Islam and are concerned Islam is spreading in Europe."
The four-day visit is billed as an opportunity to heal
wounds with the Muslim world after the pope quoted a Byzantine emperor saying
Islam was violent and irrational. He has said he did not share that view.
Speaking in the Vatican on Sunday, Benedict said he wanted the visit to
show his "esteem and sincere friendship" for Turkey and its people.


Anonymous said...

Turks show themselves to be ignorant and backward; uncivilized.

Gamze said...

I agree with you, Murat.

Anonymous said...

Why should you be at all surprised though? The treatment of non-Muslims, and even non-Sunnis has long been a matter of public record in Turkey. I went to Turkey expecting to see the world's only "secular" "liberal" Muslim country and was myself greatly disappointed; I actually found Malaysia, despite the creeping tide of Islamization, to be far better than Turkey in protecting the rights of its large non-Muslim minorities (as in they still actually want to live there and haven't all been killed or deported). Of course, it's far surpassed Turkey in economic growth and technological infrastructure. 70 years after the death of Ataturk, Turkey's progress towards an enlightened "secular" society and its commitment to pluralism and modern religious tolerance is still very shaky. If anything the protests against the Pope will just show the world the reality of how little Turkish secularism has accomplished in dampening the traditional Islamic tribal identity.

While I'm sure one can reasonably claim that this is in retaliation for the Pope's careless remarks about Islam, in reality, i think Turks simply automatically view any Christian religious figure (including the Ecumenical Patriarchate) as secret agents for a possible Reconquista. I recall there were protests when a previous pope visited Hagia Sophia.

gamze said...

This Pope also said that he was opposed to Turkey's joining the E.U. BECAUSE IT IS A MOSLEM COUNTRY. He also went so far as to say that because of that, it would be "better" that Turkey look East, not West.

So much for building bridges!

Anonymous said...

Well I agree and disagree.....if we claim that Turkey is a secular country with freedom of expression then the demonstrators are entitled to do what they did....of course if a counter demonstration in support of the Popes visit is held without any hassle then that would be a better sign.....peoples memories are also short though as some of the banners I saw were extremely insulting and showed none of the respect so loudly screamed for after the cartoon issue or indeed the popes speech.....turn the other cheek oops sorry wrong religion.....declare a jihad then no for anonymous dont try drinking in a bar in malaysia as a female muslim, I did and was dragged out in front of my english husband and almost arrested in KL by the religious vigilantes who obviously believe that religion is not a personal choice but a matter for legislation by self elected least that does not happen in turkey yet.....but as far as treatment of religious minorities you are right it is slightly better but I think Indonesia is better depsite being the worlds largest muslim country

metin said...

I guess we don't like when democracy bites us in the butt (i.e. Hamas victory, demonstrations by fundamentalists, etc.)

It's too bad no one will know that this anger demonstrated by the loud mouths, as well as the silence of the moderates is not directed at Christians, but at Ratzinger himself.

He opposed Turkey's admission into the EU, based on purely religious grounds. Now he wants to build bridges. The only bridge he wants to build is one of 'uniting' Christianity and Catholics with the Orthodox.

I would've wanted a more 'welcoming' and embracing of a Pope (such as John Paull II) by Turkey. Another GREAT opportunity for Turkey to get free advertising. But instead it will end up as bad marketing! Just too bad!

Let us pray that this Pope will make some 'conciliatory' statements. And show actions are louder than words.

I guess I am quite hopeful still.

By the way, in Turkey, the restrictions are not just against non-Muslims. Muslims are being discriminated against, some without realization of such.

I vote for a more democratic Turkey with an attitude of 'open-ness' of all views, religions, and minorities. Too much to ask? or is some growing up necessary?

Murat Altinbasak said...

anonymous1: Could you at least qualify your statement by referring only to the protestors, you f-ing weenie?!
Gamze, thank you
Gulay, what the hell were you doing in Malaysia?
Metin, I have no issue with Turks demonstrating peacefully, it's their right to do so and I'm sure that this event took place legally. But I also exercise my right to express my distaste for the "head scarf crowd". In their eyes, everyone who is uncovered is considered to be a filthy sinning parasite.. They smile in your face (if you can see their mouths) and then curse you in their next breath. If this makes me an intolerant pig.. it's only reciprocal pig-ness that I'm guilty of. (You no doubt realize I'm not refering to you here, but others might misunderstand my meaning)
These Turks are protesting because they believe that the Pope maliciously insulted Muhammed. Millions of Turks insult Mohammed on a daily, hourly basis, by simple virtue of NOT WEARING A HEAD SCARF (or praying 5 times a day, or consuming alcohol, or gambling, or not fasting etc etc) So using my gorilla logic, their expressions against the Pope are directed to a much larger audience; it's also directed towards their own countrymen and women. Get my drift?

JRS said...

Because, duh, it's clearly not just the protesters. Do you honestly think that if Mustafa Kemal (who I genuinely admire) were alive today that he would be happy about the progress of Turkish society ? People don't trust the Turks because nobody really believes in Turkey's commitment to secularism, and by that I don't mean simply the absence of compulsory state sponsored religion (which Turkey arguably still has in school). Turkish "secularism" has focused on completely superficial things like fezzes, hijab, and Turkish editions of Playboy, without really reorienting the society to religious tolerance and complete freedom of and from religion. It just strikes many as a paint job on a still largely Islamic identity, and that's why people aren't exactly rushing to welcome the Turks.

Furthermore, I believe there were protests when John Paul visited Hagia Sophia and bowed in front of one of the mosaics too, and he was very friendly to Islam, so please don't claim that this applies to Benedict only. Frankly I think any Christian leader, especially one from a church (Catholic/Orthodox) that the Ottomans traditionally targetted for conquest and jihad is viewed automatically with suspicion.

As far as Malaysia goes, I really don't know what Gamze is talking about; regardless of what Islamists or even the law says, you can pretty much party as you please in Malaysia, at least in KL. I would not describe Malaysia, especially recently, as a model for democracy in Muslim countries, but it's hard not to notice where they've done things right, and where Turkey's done things completely wrong. Minorities, for example. Malaysia has huge, huge numbers of them everywhere living their gavur lives in open view, speaking their gavur tongues, printing their gavur newspapers, watching gavur TV, and learning their gavur culture in their gavur schools. They are largely left alone, and have contributed greatly to making Malaysia one of the only modern, economically successful majority Muslim countries. It's obvious that non-Muslims can safely live their lives there in a way that became completely impossible in Turkey long ago. And realistically, where would you get a greater return if you invested your money for the past 30 years, Turkey or Malaysia? What would Kemal say about the fact that Turkey, which was never colonized, started modernizing so much earlier and arguably started much better off, has fallen behind economically and technologically to little tropical Malaysia, which never even conquered anyone?

And just to be clear, I am no fan of the Pope, and of course, support everybody's right to say anything, including Islamists. I just think the demos are not an expression of some lunatic fringe, but symptomatic of a much deeper failure of secularization in Turkish society. Anyway, I don't see why you're getting so aggrieved, you've already referred to Armenians as "boot lickers," and talked shit about Iran (a country whose dissidents are much more critical about Islam than Turkey's). What I've said about Turks here has been comparatively mild and I think fairly reasonable.

gamze said...

jrs, you're confusing me with someone else. I've never been to Malaysia. (I'm starting to think that people on these blogs just like writing my name)

Anyway, I believe that you're dead wrong about the progress that Turkey has made over the years (on all fronts). The Republic of Turkey is a young country and Ataturk, in my view, would be proud of how far along we've come. Yes, there is more work to be done, no doubt.

But do compare Turkey to other Moslem countries for a moment. Tell me of another Moslem country where you'll find a Synagogue, Mosque and a Church all on the same street!? You can't. Turkey is committed to Ataturk's vision of a secular Turkey and there is no turning back for us. God bless the Turkish Armed Forces!!

As far technology goes, Turkey is far more advanced than you seem to think. And why is it that so many countries are interested in investing BILLIONS in Turkey's business sector?

metin said...

I like to be put on record that I have never been to Malaysia either.

As for the Pope et al, I believe 'organzied' religion is the reason for all of our problems today, in the past, as well as the future.

God created man, and 'men' created religion!

Anonymous said...

Gamze said:

Tell me of another Moslem country where you'll find a Synagogue, Mosque and a Church all on the same street!?


With all due respect, I hear that claim and it's bunk. The church is Ortakoy is not in use - it's an historical relic. And, the synagogue is behind iron bars to prevent vandalism (presumably from Muslim fanatics). I suppose that's better than Saudi Arabia, but that's not really saying much.

Compare that to my hometown, Atlanta, Ga. The largest mosque in the city is thriving and recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. There are more synagogues than I can count. Don't even ask about churches in Georgia! We are a much better example of tolerance.

gamze said...

oh anonymous! Silly you. I have walked by several churches and synagogues in Turkey, and I'm here to tell you that you draw an inaccurate picture. They are nog "hidden away" so that they can be protected by Islamic fundamentalists as you say. So please, don't mislead the readers.

As far as religious tolerance and freedom goes, I would agree with you that the U.S. leads the world in this area.

I choose to live in the States because I was born, raised, educated and love it here. And by "here", I mean the "blue" states.

Anonymous said...


Weren't you referring to the mosque, synagogue and church in Ortakoy? They are all within a few hundred meters of each other. And, as I pointed out, only one is in use.

Yes, there are churches and synagogues in use in Istanbul, but please notice that are all behind walls, gates and fences. Why is that?

Also, how easy is it for me to start a church in Turkey? Not easy at all, if not impossible, given I'm not one of the "protected" religious minorities.

metin said...

anonymous: why do you want to start churches in istanbul anyway? isn't there such a thing as supply and demand? do you think by building more churches, more people will go to them, or more people will be christians, or more people will be religious and 'saved,' or will the outpouring of people praying in the streets naturally force the building of more churches? shouldn't we instead worry about 'changing' the thinking/mind of the people toward church, any church, christian, jewish, muslim, buddhist, or even scientologist. shouldn't religious fundamentalism practiced by all religions be denounced by 'moderate' religionists. shouldn't members of religions be speaking out against the violence and hatred spewed by some of their 'irregular' members or 'rejects' if you will. shouldn't the 'church' stop being a symbol of 'hate' and 'outlawing' the non-denomination members. shouldn't the church admit that all men are created equal, and it is not only those who believe in Jesus (insert your own prophet here) who will end up in heaven?

gamze said...


You can't compare religious tolerance/ freedom in Turkey to that which exists in the U.S. It's not about racism or prejudice either. Let's be clear about that. And to answer your question about starting your own church in Turkey: No, you couldn't do it nor could you open up your own mosque in this pre-dominately Moslem country. Does it make you feel better that the Turkish government treats ALL religions in the same crappy way? The government is what it is, and changes most definitely need to be made.

If it were up to me, this world would be religion-free. And we wouldn't be here debating this issue which does nothing but cause division.

Anonymous said...

Metin - I hardly know where to start to respond to your nonsensical, off-topic ramble. But, my point is the Turkish government places every obstacle possible in front of anyone that wishes to start a church. That is undeniable. I'll be glad to email you links to stories of persecution, etc

Anonymous said...


Why can't I compare religious tolerance in Turkey and the US? In fact, I did and Turkey doesn't meet Western standards - period.

Mosques are started all the time in Turkey. I forgot where I read the stats about the number that have been built since all the Anatolian peasants flooded into Istanbul in the last 30 years, but the number is astronomical.

However, I do agree with you that the government has been traditional hostile to all forms of religion, but non-Muslim ones are squeezed the hardest of all.

metin said...

Anonymous said: "But, my point is the Turkish government places every obstacle possible in front of anyone that wishes to start a church."

Anonymous: Then take your argument to Turkey and the Turkish Government. This is hardly the forum for such a discussion. And this is also not a theologian site to discuss the merits of opening of churches in Turkey when the Christian population cannot fill all the churches that exist in Turkey. Someone, it may have been you, already claimed that the Turks destroyed or kicked out all the Christians in Turkey anyway. What is the reasoning behind building more churches? If there is no audience? Or is the intent to fill them by 'spreading' the good word? He who cannot be saved himself cannot save others!

If you have any topics of interest for Americans of Turkish descent, that involves life here in the USA, then come back.

Anonymous said...

Metin, this is Murat's blog, not yours, correct? If he wants me gone, let him say it.

I think I've been respectful. I harbor no ill feelings toward Turks since I married one and I have family in Turkey. I'm simply interested in the politics and culture of the place. Unfortunately, my experience is that one can hardly criticize it without being called some sort of bigot.

By the way, Turkey has done a great job in handling security during the papal visit and are to be commended for it.

gamze said...


Okay, I understand you. It's obvious from your posts that you have great disdain for Turkey.

It's evident that you're just looking to find a person or venue to vent about how much you loathe all things Turkish.

Like us, hate us, whatever... I really don't care.

Anonymous said...


I married a Turkish woman. I go to Turkey annually with my family. My children have Turkish middle names. I love Turkish food. I read about Turkish history constantly. How dare you suggest I "oathe all things Turkish." You are a simple-minded fool that cannot engage in reasonable conversation.

gamze said...


Wow! Your kids have Turkish middle names, do they? And you like our kofte, do you? Terrific!!

So you must know quite a lot about the issues that are near and dear to us Americans who are of Turkish origin, as Metin said.

Thanks for teaching us so much about OUR country.

And don't start with the name calling. You will regret it. Don't test me.

Anonymous said...


You certainly could stand learn some of your own country's history. You denied the pogroms on 1955 occured in a previous thread. That would be like me denying Jim Crow laws existed in the South. Simply because you're Turkish doesn't give you a monopoly on truth or history. You should try to reign in your nationalist instincts and think objectively about Turkey's past, present and future.

Murat Altinbasak said...

jrs said: "It just strikes many as a paint job on a still largely Islamic identity, and that's why people aren't exactly rushing to welcome the Turks."

A paint job? If that is what you call the Turkish Republic's secularism, then what do you call it's military, which is charged with protecting the "paint job"? a "clear coat"? Have they not demonstrated forcefully and repeatedly that any/all threats to Kemalist ideals will be crushed without mercy? The US military appears impotent in comparison.. They can't even engineer a levee... but they sure can bomb a 3rd world country to oblivion using laser guided bombs with surgical precision.. That's not a jab at our US servicemen. I simply point out that the US military isn't fighting guerilla warfare against terrorim here at home, nor are they fighting challenges against secularism, ON TOP OF defending their country, as the Turkish forces must do day in, day out.

metin said...

sometimes letting go is hard to do.

allow your kids to be raised without the hate and anger built up inside you.

relax and be grateful for what we all have.

u seem stuck in the 1950s for some reason.

gamze said...

Anonymous and Bolsa hye,

Murat's original post addresses the embarrassment that we feel for the demonstrations that were being held in protest of the Popes visitto Turkey.

You guys are going off the topic and using this venue to discuss issues that haven't any relevance to the original post.

Much like the post that Murat put up about Melissa Papantones, this has turned into something that had nothing to do with the original post/topic.

Please show some respect. We have not resorted to bashing Armenia or anyone for that matter. But of course you are free to express your views about Turkey's flaws. We have not done the same about, however, regarding other countries.

Kindly, if at all possible, I ask that you stick to the original topic. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

But do compare Turkey to other Moslem countries for a moment. Tell me of another Moslem country where you'll find a Synagogue, Mosque and a Church all on the same street!? You can't.

Well, in terms of tolerance of religion, Turkey does very well when compared to some of the more Islamic states. However, you can find just as much in Malaysia (as mentioned), Indonesia, and even in a few of the Former Soviet (majority Muslim) Republics. As I'm from Azerbaijan (though insignificant comparing to our larger neighbors), there are open synagogues and churches throughout the country, including the capital. Despite the lack of democracy, poor yet rapidly growing infrastructure, I would say that the country is much more secular than any other Muslim state in the region (I've been to Turkey and Iran). This is partially due to our Russian and Soviet period of course. Anyway, Turkey has come a long way, and while it has ways to go, I can only wish the best.

gamze said...

Talks to consider Turkey's admission to the EU have stalled. Commentator Reza Aslan says an alliance with the moderate Muslim country can only help ease tensions of the Islamophobia sweeping across Europe.


KAI RYSSDAL: Pope Benedict visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey today. Another sign the Vatican is trying to mend Muslim fences. Benedict has already changed his mind about Turkey joining the European Union. He's in favor of it now. But even a secular papal blessing might not help. European concerns over Turkey's human rights record and its relationship with Cyprus brought negotiations to a standstill on Monday. Commentator Reza Aslan says the E.U. should reconsider.


REZA ASLAN: Islamophobia is sweeping across Europe. And that's precisely why it is so important that the European Union to open its arms to Turkey.

Turkey's rapidly growing GDP has already made it a vital economic partner for the E.U. Warmer ties with Ankara would only strengthen Europe's lagging economy.

At the same time, an alliance with a moderate Muslim country like Turkey will only help to ease tensions between Europeans and their own rapidly expanding Muslim immigrant communities.

The Turkish government has jumped through several of the hoops set up by the E.U. Turkey has dramatically reformed its economy by making its central bank independent. Inflation and unemployment are falling.

But a series of setbacks and some deliberate foot-dragging among certain E.U. members has complicated membership talks with Turkey.

Members point to Turkey's refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide and it's infringement on freedoms of expression.

Certainly these are all important issues worthy of debate and discussion in Europe. But there is a growing sense in Ankara that no amount of political or economic reform will satisfy countries like France, Austria and Germany. Those countries appear to be ideologically opposed to Turkey's membership in the E.U.

Meanwhile, Islamists throughout the region are using the growing divide between the E.U. and Turkey as proof that Europe is unapologetically anti-Islamic. It is a message that is gaining ground every day, even among moderate Muslims in Turkey.

The window of opportunity to assimilate Turkey into Europe is closing, and with it a wonderful opportunity to make inroads in relations between Islam and the West.

RYSSDAL: Reza Aslan's book is called "No God but God."

metin said...

Reza Aslan did a fantastic job helping with Anderson Cooper on CNN (Anderson Cooper 360) for three straight days reporting from Istanbul, in my opinion. Thanks for pointing him out Gamze.

The Infidel said...


I think your sub conscience wants you to be Turkish. Psychologically, anyone who is so obsessed by "Schadenfreude", dislike, and even hatred at times, but most importantly absurd conspiring, is in essence just jealous of the other person.

It's OK, anonymous, I don't blame you. If I was an Armenian sympathizer, I would also be halfway into my inferiority complex. Just admit it to yourself and go see a shrink. You'll feel better, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I can't claim to understand how Turks feel about the Popes visit... but, as a christian american... I gotta say this new pope even makes me nervous... I don't think he should be strung up for a remark... that in reality could have been just taken wrong.. however as representative of the christian worldwide fellowship... umm shouldn't he be just a bit more... careful with his speeches.. and was the remark indeed a mistake or an intended faux paux???????????