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6 August 2008

A philosophy, not a religion

Becer Gul says that for Alevis God is more about love then fear...

By Becer Gul

I consider Alevism to be a philosophy and not a religion. That is because in most religions the believers say that one has to do good things, that a person must do this and that they have to do that. However when it comes to actual practise you can’t see it. This is not the case in an Alevi society where one must practise what one preaches.

There exist three important rules for Alevis. These are to control the tongue, to control the hand and to control the groin. So a person cannot engage in wrongful activities such as using bad words, stealing and sexual misconduct.

Also Alevi people are monogamous. So a person cannot marry more then once, unlike in Islam. When it comes to our belief in the almighty, we Alevis do not promote that kind of dreaded fear of God. Instead we always say a person must love God. On the other hand for Sunnis the fear of God is, I believe, a fundamental part of the faith. As far as belief in the afterlife is concern, I know there are certain Alevi songs that go something like “I came back to this Earth…” It seems like a person keeps returning to life again and again following death.

Drinking alcohol is also not a very big deal among Alevis. We don’t force children to practise religion but we do try and force them to be a good person. A child, when she or he grows up, follows what they have been observing in life. They must have an environment of love, care and trust.

I should emphasize that the Alevi belief system is a very humanist one. It’s a philosophy. Growing up in the Turkish town of Tunceli, we never faced any real pressures from others for being Alevis. This is because ,as I mentioned in my previous posting, close to 90 percent of the people living in Tunceli are Alevis. Today my home town is changing as people have been moving out to other places.

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However I do have lots of Alevi friends from other cities and there, Sunnis and Alevis at times can be almost like enemies to one other. It seems that when Alevis and Sunnis live together they fight all the time. In 1993 for example, a Sunni extremist group killed 33 Alevis by burning down their hotel. In 1978 ,in the city of Kahramanmaras, over a 100 Alevi people were killed in a massacre.

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*The author of this article is writing under a pseudonym