I confess, before I came to Turkey, I had no idea about the Muslim Faith. I assumed like a lot of people, that it was like Christianity, one size fits all. I had no idea then that there were many denominations of Muslim and not all follow the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.
Now I’m not a religious person, although sometimes I’d like to be. I mean, who wouldn’t want to believe in Paradise? I personally believe in the ultimate power of Mother Nature, she pulls all the strings around here you know. She is tangible. I believe in being kind and respectful and I do try very hard to live my life that way, even when others are not. I’m also a big believer in karma, which can be terribly frustrating at times, but eventually springs into action in ways you never could have imagined.
When it comes to convention, I don’t fit. I’ve not had the normal upbringing and without that, I’ve made my own mind up about what is right and wrong and how I deal with things. It suits me and I refuse to live my life in a box made of anyone else’s rules or conventions, even though I often feel frustrated that people don’t understand the way my mind works and I’ve always felt like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Perhaps these are some of the reasons that make me fit into this Muslim family I married into? I can’t educate you on the Muslim faith as I’m not a Muslim, of any variation, but I can tell you what it’s like to be part of a Muslim family.
One thing I have never felt in the bosom of this family, is an outsider and yet my own kind have made me feel like that my whole life. My Muslims have been totally accepting of me and never once tried to force their opinions on me. My Muslims have been kind and respectful. They include me in everything and they take care of me like one of their own. This occasionally makes me cry, but you’d have to come from where I come from to understand why.
I told you earlier that there are many denominations of Muslim. Mine are Hanafi’s which come under Sunni’s (as you can see on the graph). I know that they pray five times a day and this, they can do anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in private, or in mosque. It doesn’t even have to be in a quiet environment. My mother in law Dursun will whip her prayer mat out and lay it on the floor in any room, even if we are all sitting chatting in it. She will continue with her namas even when little Melisa runs up and nicks her prayer beads, albeit with a smile on her face. Dursun also goes to the mosque most evenings. The closest mosque is not even built yet, it’s just a shell, but the intention is there. Sometimes, when I’ve been to the village for dinner, I will drop her off there and in the twilight I can see the figures of other villagers as they gather to pray in this concrete husk, a makeshift curtain at the entrance. You see, it doesn’t matter where you pray, as long as you are facing Mecca.
I remember when I first came here and I worked with Turkish men. They were full of warnings when I started dating Murat. You see, Murat is a Kurd and if you have read anything about Turkey, you may have come across articles that talk about the problem between the two. I have to say, I’ve never come across any Turk that has been nastily anti Kurd, nor any Kurd that has been nastily anti Turk. There has in some instances, been an underlying current, a shift in atmosphere during such a conversation, but I’ve not been subjected to any of that prejudice. Perhaps I’m lucky? Anyway, back to the warnings, which were more of a “be careful.” Well, I don’t do prejudice in any way shape or form. I believe that all people are equal and if you want to bring colour into it, I know for a fact that our bones are all the same colour. My judgement is what I trust in and I knew Murat was a good person and after our nine years together, I’m still of the same opinion. I did take Murat into the office and he sat down with my employers and drank cay. Their opinion changed after that. They told me, “Kym, he is very different” – But I already knew that. I’ve watched the same scenario repeat itself over the years, always with the same outcome. Murat is a product of his family and they are simply inoffensive, peace loving people….Apart from Crazy Uncle, but every family has one of those.
Slightly off tangent, but relevant I feel, is the huge problems caused by race and religion. I think it’s great to be proud of one’s own heritage and culture, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss anyone else’s as wrong. That is totally illogical. We are all only separated in our differences by the little matter of geography and that’s all it boils down to. You or I could have been born anywhere, to anyone.
I probably shouldn’t talk about it here, but I’m going to anyway; the matter of women laughing out loud in public. While this is a ridiculous statement to my European mentality, there is a part of me that understands what it’s really about. There is a saying here that I think sums it up.
Roughly translated it means, “How you sit defines your character.” This is all about respect. Respect for yourself and those around you. In the context of loud laughter, It’s about being demure and the kind of woman a man wants to marry. Now before you go all teeth and feathers on me, remember our own British history? It was not that long ago when there were women of the marrying kind and women who were not and this was all down to their characters and how they behaved. The first were the ones that were respected and the second were the ones you would have fun with. Totally antiquated in this day and age I agree, but us Europeans have had years of evolution in this respect. Turkey hasn’t. We can’t move here and say, hey we’re right and you’re wrong and we know this because we’ve been through it. We can’t put the whole country into the Tardis, wake them up when they get to the 21st century and expect them to be of the same mind-set as us. As with anything we learn, we need to go through the process ourselves before we can fully understand it and grow accordingly, otherwise it’s like trying to burn a hasp on an IPhone. (Computer peeps will know what I’m talking about.)
In the early days of my village visits, I would get on my soapbox and talk all about the things my new female relatives could do if they were in the UK. They would look at me with uninterested faces and say, “Why would we want to do that?” It took me ages to get it. Theirs is a simple life and that is how they like it. My Muslims have no aspirations to be anything other than what they are. They hold family values above everything and as long as there is a roof over their heads and food on the floor, (I would say table but they don’t have them), they are happy…they truly are.
So to answer a few common questions….
Are the females in my family subservient? Yes they are (shock horror) – were women not the same back in the day? Wasn’t it a woman’s role to keep the house, raise the children and bring the pipe and slippers? Are my Muslims bothered by it? Not a jot, so why are we?
Am I subservient? Sorry, can’t type for laughing.
Do I have to wear a headscarf? No, but I do. Whenever I go to the South East, I cover my head out of respect for the more traditional relatives, like Haci Amca. I don’t smoke in-front of him either. Why? Because I CHOOSE not to.
Do I drink alcohol? Hell yeah, but I wouldn’t do it in the village and If I want to go out on the lash with my friends, I do.
Do I hang my knickers on the line? Sure, at the back, behind everything else. It’s not considered polite to have your knickers on show. Anyone who thinks this is a big deal and revolts against it by pinning their scants to the flag pole in protest, needs to get a life. There are far more important things you could spend your energy on.
When it comes to being married to a Muslim, it works just the same as any other marriage. Compromise. It’s down to you both to choose how far you’re prepared to bend, but as long as you have respect for each other, you work it out.
My Muslims are loving and kind, protective and supportive, peaceful and generous with whatever they have to whoever needs it. This is my experience of Muslims. You may have a different one, which just goes to prove they are not all the same.