Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Column: Alevis in the Balance

I have a new column on the Alevis in Turkey out today. I spent a lot of time of this story and got a lot of help from some great people (SS, IK, and AY) and went all around: Hajibektas festival and cemevis in Istanbul, and talked to Alevis from all walks of life. I even spent some time with the Nosairis in Hatay/Iskenderun trying to see if they have roots in common with Alevis. And yet, I still walked away with more questions than answers. The column attempts to present some of what I've concluded about the Alevis as well as an explanation as to why they are relevant to Turkey's future.

9 Comments:

Anonymous V said...

Interesting. I always thought Alevis are the same as the Syrian "Allawis"

10:59 AM, October 17, 2006

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi V,

No, they come from very different roots from what I can tell. Nosairis (...in Antakya, Harbiyye, Arsuz, Iskenderon...etc) and Alevis rarely intermarry in Turkey, even though Nosairi may marry Arab Christians. I think the primary divide between Nosairis and Alevis is language. Furthermore, Hajji Bektash is very far from posing any importance to the Nosairis.

But the theme is similar: old beliefs that survived by taking on some Islamic symbolism, and usually this was from the schismatic branch of Islam: Shi'ism.

Best,

Nibras

12:03 PM, October 17, 2006

 
Anonymous BRW said...

Nibras,

I very much enjoyed the column. Amazing how small our world is. My question is, given that some offshoots of Shia Islam (e.g. Alawis and Alevis)have incorporated Islamic symbolism into old beliefs, what about mainstream Shia Islam?

Some argue that the Shia belief in muta (temporary marriage) is based on pre-Islamic customs. But what about the beliefs in infallibility, the messianic doctrine, etc,... Do any of these beliefs have a basis in pre-Islamic beliefs/customs? Look forward to your response. Cheers

10:35 PM, October 17, 2006

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi brw,

"mut'a" marriage is certainly pre-Islamic and was very popular among the male demographic as you can imagine, which is probably why the Prophet Muhammad incorporated it into Islam. It was only banned as such under the Caliph 'Umar. The Shias argue that 'Umar cannot undo what the Prophet had sanctioned in his own lifetime. Then you get into all the details and conditions for temporary marriage, and that's a long story.

That said, some forms of temporary marriage survived in the Arabian Peninsula as zawaj al-misyar (...the Wahhabis in Saudi recently okay-ed a version of it) and zawaj al-'urfi in Egypt.

In the Ottoman Empire, prostitution was regulated and I believe taxed. I don't know if this was always the case, but the practice was certainly around in the latter days of the empire. The system actually survives in modern Turkey, and I don't know if this is accurate or not, but I heard that soldiers are sometimes paid in "sex coupons" redeemable at the local red light district.

Best,

Nibras

6:43 AM, October 18, 2006

 
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