Alp Can Utku : Why do Turkish people get offended when they are
mistaken as Arab ?
Can Utku, knows Turkish
My grand-grand father (grandpa of
my dad) is apparently from Syria, which is counted as Arabs. And I feel those
roots especially in my food preference. No one ever told me that I looked like
Arabs (maybe because of my looks, not sure) but obviously I would not react
negatively if someone thought that I am an Arab, since I believe in people and
cultures – not nationalities. Turks are definitely not Arabs when you compare
two cultures. Even Arabs are pretty diverse in itself.
Despite the fact that every nation has its good and
bad people, unfortunately, I heard that the Arab stereotype in most people’s
minds are pretty bad and hard to be changed until they see a great Arabic
person. When someone codes you as Arab, the stereotype comes with many types of
primitive behavior, vandalism, vulgarity and of course riding camels. No one
really wants to be matched with those traits. No offense, these are not my
thoughts. These are what I have heard.
Turkish culture is a great mix of Turkish, European,
Balkan, Asian and Arab cultures. Turkey is a very diverse country in terms of
tolerating many different cultural aspects. We are people who eat Mediterranean
mezes before an Arabic-influenced kebab dinner, and finish with a dessert from
the heart of Anatolia. A Turkish Christian person would eat Iftar dinner
together with Muslim friends with all the blessings. That is the great thing
Unfortunately the right-wing parties ruling the
country for many (50) years slowly changed the situation to a much less
tolerant social order by polarizing the people in many ways and screwing up the
education system. People are still doing their best to resist this change but
the change is coming like a frog slowly being boiled.
And please, please don’t believe people who think Turk
means Muslim. The word Turk never meant Muslim. Turkish history is at least 900
years older than Islam history and 1200 years older than the widespread
introduction of Islam to the Turks. The first known organized Turkish community
is the Hun Empire which was established in the 3rd Century BC. Islam starts in
the 6th century AD. The original religion of ancient Turks is Tengriism, which
is similar to Shamanism, and many Turkish culture and beliefs have their roots
there. Actually most Turks that define themselves as Muslim do not really
practice the religion at all. I call it ‘cultural Islam’, since the aspects of
being a muslim like fasting in Ramadan or Muslim funerals, or the world “Allah”
(Arabic for the word God) are embedded in the culture of Republic of Turkey.
If you did not do it yet, go to Turkey, meet all the
great people there. Then go to Arabic countries. I am sure you will see a lot
of difference, and maybe you can see some facts that would answer your actual
question about being offended by being called Arab.