Translations of this item:

  • Pressures against non-Muslims in Turkey are actually empowered, motivated and even led by state policies.

  • There also does not seem to be any interest or pluralistic mentality in enforcing non-Islamic laws.

  • To understand the root cause of social intolerance and institutionalized violence, it is important to look more closely at how Islamic scriptures refer to non-Muslims. These labels and lies, fed to Muslims from earliest childhood, apparently do not go away easily in the minds of indoctrinated Muslims.

  • For those who oppose Islamic rule, there are only three options: They are either to be killed; made to accept their inferior status through conversion to Islam, or keep their heritage but pay the jizya, the Islamic "protection" tax."

Although there is a more or less "secular" constitution in Turkey, the anti-Semitic and anti-non-Muslim culture seems to have more influence over people even than laws. There also does not seem to be any interest or pluralistic mentality in enforcing non-Islamic laws.

A cemetery in Milas, for example, leads one question the thin, fragile line between Islam and Islamism -- or between progressive Islam and radical Islam.

Milas, whose name comes from ancient Greek "Mylasa," is a nice town in Anatolia, where there was once a powerful Jewish community.[1]

After years of neglect and disrepair, the Jewish cemetery in Milas has been turned into a place where sheep graze and garbage is thrown.

Sheep graze in the neglected Jewish cemetery in Milas, Turkey.

The historic gravestones, which should have been protected as a cultural heritage, have long since been broken into pieces.

Not only is the town now free of Jews, but now even the Jewish cemetery has been left to its fate.

"In such an unprotected environment, the cemetery is proceeding step by step to destruction," wrote Rafael Algranati, a columnist for the newspaper Salom,

In 2009, Jews from Milas talked with Muhammed Tokat, the mayor of the town, and asked him to stop the destruction of the cemetery; the mayor agreed, Algranati wrote. The mayor promised that the children's park at the entrance would be removed and the cemetery would be tidied and arranged. In 2014, he repeated the promise.

The Jewish community is still waiting.

What is intriguing about the town of Milas is that its municipality is governed by a mayor from the non-Islamist Republican People's Party (CHP). So in his case, we are not talking about the religious intolerance of Islamists.[2]

To understand the root cause of social intolerance and institutionalized violence in Muslim societies, it is important to look more closely at how Islamic scriptures refer to non-Muslims.

According to the Quran, Jews are "apes and pigs" (5:60). They are also "cursed by Allah" (5:13), they are "wicked" (4:160-162), are "fond of lies" and "devour the forbidden" (5:42). They even have "diseased hearts" (5:52).

While Muslims are continually praised in the Quran ("the best of people," 3:110), non-Muslims are described as less than human and referred to as "the vilest of animals" (8:55), "the worst of creatures" (98:6), "perverted transgressors" (3:110), "panting dogs" (7:176), "cattle" (7:179), "perverse" (2:99), "stupid" (2:171), "deceitful" (3:73) and so on.

This list can go on and on. According to Dr. Bill Warner, the director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, 61% of the Quran is about non-Muslims.

These labels and lies about Jews and other non-Muslims that are fed to Muslims from earliest childhood, apparently do not go away easily in the indoctrinated minds of Muslims.

According to the supremacist Islamic ideology, non-believers of Islam are subordinate to Muslims.

For those who oppose Islamic rule, there are only three options: They are to be either killed; made to accept their inferior status through conversion to Islam, or allowed to keep their heritage and pay the jizya, the Islamic "protection" tax.

There is simply no other religion that condemns and dehumanizes those who merely believe in other faiths, or those who prefer no faith, to this extent.

During the Ottoman Empire, non-Muslims, including Jews, were dhimmis (tolerated, second-class citizens in an Islamic state, and required to pay the jizya "protection" tax.)

The "modern" Turkish Republic, however, established in 1923, did not provide Jews or other non-Muslims with greater rights and liberties, either.

Even though Turkey is one of the few so-called "secular" Muslim countries, its Jewish, Christian, Alevi, Yezidi and other non-Muslim communities have been exposed to persecution and systematic discrimination -- including ethnic cleansings, massacres, pogroms, forced conversions, forced assimilation and forced displacement for decades under non-Islamist governments.

In 1924, for instance, the Turkish Ministry of National Education asked all Jewish schools to choose either Turkish or Hebrew as their language of instruction. This was a smart maneuver, for very few Jews in Turkey had a command of Hebrew, because they spoke Ladino, the language brought with them from their expulsion from Spain in 1492. So the Jewish community had to choose the only suitable alternative, Turkish, as their language of instruction.[3]

Therefore, with the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate, Turkey did not actually turn into a safer and freer country for non-Muslims. Sadly, even more than 90 years after the establishment of "modern" Turkey, the strong influence of the anti-Semitic and anti-non-Muslim teachings of the Islamic ideology lives on. Moreover, pressures against non-Muslims in Turkey are actually empowered and motivated, and even led by state policies.

But no matter what some Islamic teachings contain, everyone, including Muslims, has free will -- and needs to use it justly.

Muslims could greatly benefit by seeing that the rights of human beings are not based on gender or religion; they are simply based on that we are all human beings together. At least progressive Muslims must show respect towards people of all faiths, and their cultural heritage.

If they do not, then I will tend to agree with the illustrator and writer Bosch Fawstin, who wrote that, "the only difference between 'Islamism' and Islam is three letters."

Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a journalist based in Ankara.


[1] Akarca, Turhan, Askidil Akarca, The Geography, History and Archeology of Milas, Istanbul Printing Press, Istanbul, 1954.

[2] Results of municipal elections in Milas from 1963 to 2014.

[3] Prof. Aron Rodrique, "The Westernization of Turkish Jews: "Alliance" Schools 1860 – 1925, Ayrac Printing House, 1997, Ankara.

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