Islam and Christian Minorities in Turkey

This post is a preview of the upcoming conference, Islam and Democracy, to be held April 13-14 in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference will feature over 30 speakers including keynote addresses by John O. Voll and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Topics will include the Arab Spring, female Islamic activism, and the history of democratic principles in Islamic contexts. All conference events are co-sponsored by Inside Islam and Global Studies. See the conference website for more information.


Ramazan K?l?nç is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. On Friday, April 14 at 1:30 PM, K?l?nç will present his work on Islam and Christian minorities in Turkey.

The Aya Sophya in Istanbul, built in 305 C.E., originally served as an Orthodox and Catholic church, was a mosque from 1453 until 1931, and since 1935 has been a museum. Photo: Colin Christopher

In summer 2010, I met a Catholic bishop during my research trip in Istanbul. The conversation brought us to the status of Christian minorities in Turkey. I asked how he felt about the reforms that the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development (AK) Party had undertaken in recent years to address the problems Christian minorities face. He was happy with the general reformist atmosphere even though many of their problems were still unresolved. He then added, “They [the AK Party] see themselves as the grandchildren of the Ottomans. The Christians had more rights under the Ottoman Empire than they had under the republic.” The bishop wasn’t suggesting to bring the Ottoman monarchy back, but he was pointing out the limitations that Turkish secularism and nationalism have put on Christian minorities.

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Let There Be Dharmoniropekkhota

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/ Drik News

A native of Bangladesh, Tarik M. Quadir received his doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and currently reside in Turkey where he teaches about the work of 13th century Sufi mystic and poet, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi.

I think it would be wise for us to focus on the notion of dharmoniropekkhota, which signifies “neutrality in the choice of religion,” and not get entangled in the concept of “secularism” as it is understood in European countries. In Bangladesh, we tend to translate dharmoniropekkhota as secularism, though dharmoniropekkhota refers to only one of the many meanings of secularism current in the world today. This problematic translation initiates many unnecessary debates. Continue reading

Tespihe in Albania

Man with Prayer Beads Photo: Colin Christopher

From Tirana to Tetova, they can be seen in public and in private, hanging from the rear view mirrors of taxis, and lying atop intricate prayer rugs. For some, tespihe (“prayer beads” in Albanian) are used as religious, intentional acts of worship and remembrance of God–zikr. For most Albanians however, sliding the 33 circularly attached beads through one’s fingers has been stripped of its religious significance. Now, tespihe represent a tradition or habit Albanian men saw their father’s fathers pass time with while sipping small cups of thick, muddy-colored coffee in the town square.

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