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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Turkey: Our Great Sins

Turkey: Our Great Sins

by Yusuf Kanli

Monday 7 July 2008

(Published in: Turkish Daily News, May 28, 2008)

Summer is setting in… Already, in bigger cities of the country if one does not have any smelling problem it is fast becoming impossible for him/her to travel on municipal buses or use elevators in big malls, because our people are not that much accustomed to taking a shower even once every few days.

Though, we boast from time to time that we were bathing at such times when the European peoples were trying to cover up bad odor with perfumes – so often we attribute the birth of the cosmetics sector to the absence of toilets and the “bathing dislike” of the European people of those medieval times. However, irrespective of the validity of such claims, in today’s world, it has become a must for the “modern human” to take a shower if not in the morning, in the evening every day. Unfortunately, many people in our society are unaware of this need of modern city life.

Thus, like the times when European aristocracy were covering up bad odor with perfumes, many people are using deodorants, after shaves and perfumes just to get rid of bad odor. Alas, now our Religious Affairs Directorate is saying that using deodorants or perfumes with “charming odors” is indeed a sin!

No, we are not fabricating such a story. On the Web site of the Religious Affairs Directorate there is a very interesting article, which unfortunately reflects a very primitive mindset.

According to the article, women should refrain from using perfumes and deodorants which might have a “stimulating odor.” Women, the article said, while talking with men other than their brothers or husbands, must talk in a manner that would avoid misunderstandings; must be somber; should make sure not to show their adornments and the outline of their body; must cover up neatly when they go out. Indeed, the article continued, Islam’s Prophet Mohammed did not approve women using perfumes outside their homes with odor strong enough to be noticed by others and considered such an action as indecent.

Adultery of eye, tongue, etc.?

It’s like a comedy, but the article appeared on the Web site of a state institution supposed to regulate the practice of Islam in the country according to the teachings (as perceived by the official Turkey) of Islam rather than those of some Islamist orders or brotherhood organizations.

Though for many people adultery is a “civil affair” between the trio (or more) involved and there is no space for the Turkish state in the bedrooms of individuals, the Religious Affairs Directorate apparently disagrees. It not only disagrees, but provides such an adultery description that it is really hard to believe.

It is interesting that the directorate, which is currently in efforts to cleanse fabricated elements in the huge glossary of Hadiths, stresses in that article that for adultery one need not have sex with someone outside marriage, but even by looking at or by exclaiming an inappropriate expression, one might indulge in the sin of adultery. For that reason, the article said, in one Hadith the Prophet was reported to have mentioned adultery of organs such as “tongue, mouth, hand, foot and the eye” and asked Muslim women to stay away from all illegitimate actions that could provide a basis for adultery and keep their eyes away from “haram” (forbidden by religion).

Furthermore, according to the article, flirting and women and men coming together was a “some sort of adultery” that should be avoided. “Because,” the article said, “since chastity and honor are inseparable, it can best be protected by staying away from all evil and wrong that may stain it…”

Sexual stimulants

The article stresses that men and women were “sexual stimulant” for each other and therefore, men and women who are not together with the bond of marriage or who do not have a “permanent obstruction for marriage” should stay at a distance from each other. Women and men should not come together in the absence of others.

The article further stresses that under the teachings of Islam a women should not travel alone as such an attitude could lead to adultery and even worse, gossip about the virtue and chastity of the woman. The article also stresses that “evil must be avoided” because “there can be no fix to a stain on honor…”

Is there any need to comment on such an article other than exposing it? Is this mentality different at all with that of the Taliban that placed Afghan women behind chadors? The only consolation we have is that they are not in full executive power in Turkey!

(Yusuf Kanlı can be contacted at ykanli or yusufkanli