Talking Turkey

Maureen Freely ("The ignorance of the Islamophobes", 17-31 December) loses the plot when she claims that Islam itself can be a culture where women are given equal rights. She misguidedly gives the example of Turkey and its Alevi population, where women are encouraged to socialise and be educated.

I have lived in Turkey for more than 15 years, and come from an Alevi background. Though the Alevi school of thought is divided within itself, the main camp holds the view that the text of the Koran has largely been changed and must not be followed as a determinant guide. Therefore, they oppose all the current forms of Islam where the Koran is blindly followed.

Indeed, I have seen only a few Alevis who follow the teachings of the Koran, or even practise Islam. Add to this the arrival of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who made no secret of his admiration for the Alevis. Ataturk is the founder of modern Turkey. After the fall of the Ottoman empire, he separated religion from the state and forced several revolutions, which included the change away from the Arabic alphabet, and of the education system, believing, rightly, that the only choice for his country was to turn towards modernity. It is this philosophy that has enabled Turkey to qualify as the only country with some sort of democracy within the whole of the Islamic world. So the reasons that allow women rights in Islamic cultures are purely secular and, sad to say, un-Islamic.

Hakan Topkaya
via e-mail