Saturday, July 12, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008 Class, Mufti, Yildiz Technical University

Warning: No pictures included in this post, sorry.

Monday was a pretty busy day. First we had class at the Caferaga Medrese where we discussed why Turkiye is so unstable, especially concerning the government. One of the reasons that we came up with was the fact that the military keeps coming in and taking over without giving the fledgling government that was democratically elected the time to mature. People have started depending on the military to come in and change everything once said everything starts going to hell in a handbasket.

We also discussed some of the issues that Turkiye is dealing with. Some of the things we came up with were as follows:

• Opening up Kemalism to discussion
• Role of military
• Political instability
• Buying your way out of the military
• Economic instability leading to political instability

Opening up Kemalism to discussion seems to be the hardest thing to do for this country. Kemalism has been accepted as the absolute truth for political stability for so long that it seems completely amazing that there would be another way of thought that could work.

After our discussion at the Medrese, our group left to go to Suleymaniye Mosque where we would meet up with Professors Omid Safi and Jim Morris’ groups also studying in Turkiye to go to the Istanbul Mufti’s office. A Mufti is essentially an Islamic scholar who interprets or explains Islamic law. In this case, the Mufti’s job included more social things such as receiving and hosting the Pope from the Vatican and other similar occasions. I don’t have any photos of this occasion but if you check out the blogs of the other people in the group, you’ll see me, mostly because I was asked to translate and did. Hopefully I translated correctly and nothing bad slipped out. It was definitely a memorable occasion and I was confused at myself for being rather tired at the end of the day, but then I realized that I had just translated for the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, probably one of the most powerful religious officials in the country. And that pretty much took my confusion away.

We asked the Mufti about what his job entailed, and other more religiously related topics, whereas there were a couple people in the audience who touched, for some reason, on more political stuff that were thus not associated with is office. To all of these questions he answered with a smile and a very nice reply. My favorite response of his was when he was asked by a member of the audience if said member could quote him on something he had said and the Mufti answered, “Why would I say something you can’t quote?” If you read the blogs of the other guys you’ll find more descriptive and funny explanations of what happened there. And just to state a fact: I love my group. They are the best ever.

So we talked with the Mufti, I translated, then it was over, and then my group piled into three taxis and we went over to Yildiz Technical University to meet up with Haldun Gulalp, a professor friend of Prof. Shields’.

Professor Gulalp is an interesting man, we had a many-faceted and very educational conversation with him about laws in Turkiye, specifically concerning the head-cover that women wear, and then we moved on to discussing the case against AKP, and then we also touched on the issues we had discussed this morning—specifically the reason for why Turkiye is so unstable. I think it was this part of the discussion that sparked the mention of Jean Jacques Rousseau and his concepts of general will vs. the will of all. When we were talking amongst ourselves after the discussion with Professor Gulalp, I think we were all really surprised that he used something like this concept as an explanation because there are too many assumptions associated that render the argument rather shaky.

Random fact about Yildiz University: my dad went there and graduated as an electrical engineer. :D

After our many-faceted discussion with Professor Gulalp, he gave us a tour of the university and then it was time to say goodbye. So we piled into one dolmus which is only supposed to take 9 people--meaning we placed 11 Americans including me and there were 3 other Turks along with the driver in the dolmus. A dolmus is kind of like a minibus although its smaller than that too. I don't have a picture of one but I'll be sure to get one and post in a later post.

A very intellectually intense day, but still fun.

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