• Yayın Tarihi : 8 Mayıs 2019 Çarşamba

Alp Can Utku : Why do Turkish people get offended when they are mistaken as Arab ?

Alp 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 about Turkey.

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.