This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.
Situated on the borderline between Europe and Asia, Turkey’s location constitutes something bigger to the Turks than just a strategic spot on a map. This location is especially distinct for its representation of many contrasting ideas: the orient and the occident, liberalism and conservatism, and most significantly, religion and secularism. The Turks found themselves questioning their identity, an issue that is reflected in their religious views, politics, and culture.
When Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey, he called upon the creation of a new “secular” state. This secular state, however, was based on a concept broader than strictly disaffiliating religion from the government. Upon his presidency, Ataturk changed the alphabet of the Turkish language from the Arabic to a new Latin one. Religious clothing was officially banned in 1934 in Turkey, and until now, women wearing the veil are not allowed to enroll in higher education institutions. Even though Turkey has taken many measures to westernize (such as striving to join the EU), some cultural and religious constrains remain to hold it back. Ironically, a Turk is to automatically be labeled “Muslim” on their ID card even if they are not, and pork meat is not allowed inside the country.
This struggle has left Turkey and its people in a sense of bewilderment and irresolution. The conflicting identities amongst its people have torn the country between clashing political parties, and confronting religious views. How exactly has identity shaped the country? What kind of influence has this issue had on the individuality of its people? And how was it reflected in its culture?
I plan to further explore this topic and see where it takes me to make a solid RBA argument.
– Samar Alqatari, Stanford ’14