In Turkey, Fear About Religious Lifestyle

April 30, 2007

Author: Sabrina Tavernise

Source: The New York Times

ISTANBUL, April 29 — When hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Istanbul on Sunday, it may have looked like a protest of government policy.

It was not.

Behind the slogans and signs of marchers in Istanbul on Sunday and in Ankara two weeks ago was something much more basic: a fear of the lifestyles of their more religious compatriots.

Some concerns were snobbish: religious Turks were uneducated and poor, their pesky prayer rugs got underfoot in hospital halls.

Others were less elitist and had more personal worries: how much tolerance for our secular lifestyles will an emerging class of religious Turks have?

“These people are from poor areas; they just don’t know what the government stands for,” said Aysel Tuikman, 39, a civil servant wearing a skirt, a sweater, beige pumps and pearls. “They’re only being manipulated. We are here for their good also.”