Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Islamist moral rules in Turkey

"Religious conservative groups, whether Muslim or Christian or other, have always sought to impose moralistic controls on family, sexuality and personal conduct. They also seek to control and censor cultural productions in conformity with religious doctrine and ‘respect for religion’. Legislation to those effects is difficult in Turkey, being under the watch of European institutions. Still, in 2004, the AKP parliamentary majority, supported by Erdogan, introduced legislation criminalising adultery. Erdogan backed down in the face European objections and widespread protests. By 2005 it became clear that EU accession would be unlikely in the foreseeable future, which lowered the pressure on the AKP to conform to European sentiment. Will this make it more likely for future moralistic legislation? Apart from the law, however, there are local, municipal and communal pressures towards moralistic conformity. Alcohol consumption has always been an emblematic target for Islamists everywhere. After the success of the then Refah Party in the 1994 municipal elections in Istanbul, the mayor of Beyoglu, the prime cosmopolitan entertainment district of Istanbul, tried to restrict the visibility of drinking by requiring establishments to hide drinkers behind curtains. This was greeted by outrage, demonstrations, and threats by the military, which forced a speedy withdrawal. That was a different age. Now, there are many reports of bans and restrictions on bars and liquor shops in many provinces, though obviously not in the main urban centres. The taxes on alcohol, however, have been raised in recent years." (thanks Sameer)