Turkish Alevis Refuse 'Sunnification' http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/09/turkey-shiites-alevis-sunnification-gulen-mosque-cemevi.html
On Sept. 8, in Tuzlucayir, a poor suburb of Ankara, a major ground-laying ceremony was celebrated for "a mosque and cemevi [an Alevi place of worship] side-by-side." This project was initiated by the Fethullah Gulen Movement and supported by a prominent Alevi dede, or elder, Izzettin Dogan. Yet, the celebration was overshadowed by angry street protesters who clashed with the police. You may wonder why such a generous and grandiose project would be deemed unacceptable by a relatively poor neighborhood.
The idea of mosque and cemevi together was made public by Gulen’s declaration around mid-June as a sign of rapprochement after the controversial naming of a bridge across the Bosphorus. Alevi elder Dogan announced on his web page that the idea was welcomed by Alevis. However, since the construction started on Sept. 8, Tuzlucayir protests have not stopped. [[[Several Alevi representatives throughout Turkey and in the diaspora went public with their opposition to the project]]]. The most frequently voiced Alevi demands are simple. They would like their place of gathering, cemevis, to be considered a place of worship by the Turkish state. Many of them seek exemption for their children from obligatory religion classes in high school. Some of them, along with many Sunnis, might wish to see less involvement of the state in religion, to do away with the directorate. None of these demands include being a part of Sunni Islam. Now, back to the protests in Tuzlucayir, where the Justice and Development Party (AKP) received less than 10% percent of the vote in 2011 elections. Columnist Veli Bayrak, born and raised in the suburb, wrote, “Tuzlucayir is about 80% Alevi. It has cemevis and mosques. We do not need this project. So, why was our district chosen [the project]?” Ali Kenanoglu, chairman of the Hubyar Sultan Alevi Culture Center, told Al-Monitor that they are not in any way against a mosque and cemevi as two buildings standing next to each other, but they are against the Alevi prayer house being built as an annex of a mosque. Tuzlucayir residents recorded a video expressing their opposition to the project, asking authorities to "build a workplace if you want to help us." They further asked, "Why is Gulen intervening in our district?" Many Alevis view this project as another step of Sunnification. Their fear of assimilation has roots in several ill-willed projects. For example, many Alevi towns have mosques (which they do not need) built against their wishes, and imams accredited by the Directorate of Religious Affairs. As the Tuzlucayir protests continue, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told the press, “This was not a government project, therefore the criticism that the government is trying to assimilate Alevis is not fair.” However, most of the public see the Gulen Movement and the government to be in cohorts on the project. One question that arises is whether the Gulen Movement’s frictions with the government are mitigated as the two groups stick together in support of this project. Bozdag added that the opposition to the project is not coming from Alevis, but from “some marginal illegal groups” who want to provoke the public. In the meantime, it was made public that similar projects are to be built in five other major cities. Police did not intervene in June, hence there was no violence. Now, to voice a blanket claim that these people are all members of marginal groups and illegal leftist organizations — with similar arguments having been put forth regarding the Middle East Technical University protests and others in Turkey — is mindboggling. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood Turks protest in the heart of Istanbul in solidarity with the Egyptian Brotherhood without police intervention, do not other Muslims, non-Muslims, atheists, leftists and gays have a right to protest? Their discrimination and taxation without adequate representation by the Directorate of Religious Affairs is in itself a basis to protest. The directorate is, at best, inadequate to accommodate all Turks. It must be reformed or abolished.
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