beyond the religious-secular cleavage


While religion is a very important factor in the recent events—as in virtually all political conflicts in contemporary Turkey—to see the protests through the secular-vs.-religious framework is to overlook the complexity of what is actually going on. It is also to miss the transformative potential and the genuine novelty of the Occupy Gezi movement. Surely, the prompt and widespread mobilization of the protesters, many with no prior experience in activism, is partly due to the accumulated resentment that people with non-conservative lifestyles as well as religious minorities feel toward the policies of the government. The most emblematic issue here is the government’s imposition of increasingly strict regulations on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Although the alcohol consumption rate in Turkey is the lowest among the OECD countries and its taxes on alcohol are some of the highest in Europe, the government has recently proposed new legislation that will place further restrictions on the retail sale and public consumption of alcohol. Erdoğan defended the recent legislative proposal in his typical style, declaring that he does not want “a generation that drinks and wanders about wasted day and night,” and suggested that this was a regulation, not a ban: “if you are going to drink, then drink your alcoholic beverage at home.” The proposal followed the removal of outdoor tables in the Beyoğlu district—the heart of entertainment and nightlife in Istanbul—by the AKP-controlled municipal government last summer, as well as Erdoğan’s infamous remark that his government aims to “raise religious generations.”

more from Ateş Altınordu at Immanent Frame here.