By Sofia Demirturk
Living in the age of political correctness, we place more emphasis on not hurting anyone’s sentiments, rather than analysing the world revolving around us. We try our best to not to be named as an Islamophobe, anti-Semite, homophobe etc — thus, stating our minds has become a bigger challenge than it was historically.
Whenever a question is raised that touches on race or religion, we get lost in discussing what are the right terms to use, rather than the actual problems, and every argument seems to get filled with words like ‘apologist’, ‘regressive’, ‘Islamophobe’ and ‘racist’.
We were all shocked to see the Orlando shootings in the headlines. The story of the guy who texted his mother minutes before his death broke our hearts, making us wonder what would we do if that happened to our loved ones? We also feel outraged knowing this could happen to any of us anywhere and anytime.
However, it was sad to see apologists and bigots reacting to the tragedy by tweeting their agenda, one group under the hashtag #stopislam and the other one with #islamophobia. Being a citizen of a country in which almost 80% identify themselves as Muslim (though it is over 90% according to official figures), the reaction seems to be more focused on how this would affect Muslims living in the west, rather than the brutal act itself that cost the lives of 50 people.
Our self image being so fragile and yet so important in the age of Instagram means that we want to filter out every little flaw, with a little bit of glow added here, and a little bit of light there. Similarly we can have buffet Islam: have as much as you want on your plate; just share the quotes from early Meccan times and stay mum on controversial matters, such as the status of apostates in Islam, the oppression of women and so forth.
I don’t remember how many times I’ve been called names because I dared to question Islam or simply stated that I am an ex-Muslim, or had bigots send me racist tweets talking about killing all Muslims. But hey, this is a world where we have to choose between Hillary Clinton and DOnald Trump, so I guess not much is left for people like me. There has to be a third option, and at times we see glimpses of it and it fills us with hope — like Bernie Sanders — and we all hope this will change one day.
Looking back to my school days, I remember our history teacher telling us about how Turkey stands out in the Muslim world, thanks to the revolution of Ataturk.
Thus began a series of changes in the early 1930s to secularise the country, particularly the educational system, and also included granting women the right to vote and to get elected.
Back then I never knew anyone from another country who would argue with my history teacher’s standpoint, but as an adult I can say with fairness that Turkey seems to be a better country to live in as an atheist than any other country in the Muslim world.
For years I have seen western leftists and liberals criticising heavily the concept of Turkish secularism, calling its supporters paranoid, and Kemalists tagged as anti-Islam tyrants.
I have been a witness to a ‘lighter’ version of Islamisation in Turkey under the reign of Erdogan. He first gained the support of liberals in Turkey by promising a better democracy for all, to Armenians, hijabis, Greeks and Romas, and by saying that Erdogan himself would be the protector of everyone.
Fast forward to 2016 and Turkey is an open air prison for journalists. The perpetrators behind the assassination of Hrant Dink — a Turkish-Armenian journalist — are being protected by the state and the case is still unsolved. Kurds are being killed in their own houses and women are being advised to stay at home and not to pursue a career, because it is the reason why men are unemployed (the Turkish Minister of Finance actually stated that).
Women, wearing the hijab or not, are not empowered by the acts of Erdogan’s AKP but indeed now are more vulnerable due to efforts to change the laws meant to protect women from domestic violence. Hence, domestic violence against women has reached a peak — newspapers are full of women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends or other family members, with most probably the victim being denied proper legal help.
You may see Mr. Erdogan on the television stating something with anger and are probably puzzled why the people in Turkey elected him and how we never saw it coming. Actually we did, but in the name of political correctness and not wishing to labelled as a ‘paranoid Islamophobe’ the ones who opposed him were made to stay silent, and we never listened or highlighted the points they were trying to make.
We learned our lesson the hard way — the answer to a problem is definitely not about hiding behind others.
Gulnur “Sofia” Demirturk is your average Turkish accountant based in Istanbul. Apart from worrying about balance sheets and income statements, she is interested in financial crimes, politics, feminism, Abrahamic religions and Bollywood. She is an ex Muslim but still feels Islam is an important part of her identity.
Follow Sofia on Twitter.