Sound & Politics

Sound & Politics

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This is a clip of the ezan, which is the main subject I have been studying as it relates to language politics and the interplay between religion and secularism in Turkey. The fact that the call to prayer is in Arabic unites the “Muslim World” as the liturgical language is commonly understood, regardless of the native tongue of the worshipper. Performing the ezan in a different language would imply a sort of separation and ethnic division, where the practitioner is placing their own tradition above the language of the Qur’an (Arabic). The common liturgical language shows respect for the religion and worshippers everywhere, even if the Arabic required must be learned as a second language. Thus the use of Turkish language in the ezan for around 30 years represents a significant shift in political thought.

[click here] 

This is a sound clip of İstiklâl Marşı, which is the national anthem of Turkey and was adopted in 1921. The song is a reflection of the essence of nationalistic sentiment; the lyrics celebrate and affection for the Turkish homeland and was written to help raise the spirits of the military, as with most national anthems. This sound clip is important to the understanding of Turkish secularism, as a framed copy of this anthem resides in each classroom, along with a picture of Atatürk and an image of the Turkish flag. This display represents the devotion to the state and the support of a secular government–while God is mentioned in the lyrics of the anthem, the idea of God is used as a secondary support as a reason to fight for the State. Kemalist ideas of secularism by no means exclude religion, but rather place more value upon national identity than religious identity and separate the government from religious ideas, which may inform—but not dictate—the law of the land.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZ6sEohkuI0

This last section is a recording of Atatürk’s speech to Turkish youth fighting in the War for Independence. The first thing he says is “Birinci vazifen, Türk istiklâlini, Türk Cumhuriyetini, ilelebet, muhafaza ve müdafaa etmektir.” This can be translated to mean, “Your first duty is to preserve and to defend Turkish Independence and the Turkish Republic forever.” This statement is critical to understand the essence of Kemalism, which resists typical American politicizations like “conservative” or “liberal”—in a sense, Kemalism is an extremely “right-wing” sort of ideology, where the state and the idea of “the people” are revered; however, Kemalism is also—particularly in the context of its time—an extremely “liberal” ideology in its radical break from the Caliphate model of government and the increase in modernizations that departed from the traditional customs of Turkey (such as dress, architecture, etc.). The purpose of the political speech is to rouse a feeling of “togetherness” for something bigger than the self; the rhetoric embodied the desire for a new and better order after the decline of the Ottoman Empire.

Sources:

Ezan – Fair Use (through Wikipedia commons) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adhan_(Call_to_Prayer).ogg

İstiklâl Marşı – Public Domain (through Wikipedia commons) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Istikl%C3%A2l_Marsi_instrumetal.ogg

Manisa Turkish. John Guise, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

Language & National Identity

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The use of language in many countries is not merely a personal custom, but a political statement and a marker of national identity. In Turkey, the government purged the Turkish language of Arabic and Persian elements in the 1920s and 30s under the nationalistic and secular philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1950 with the election of a new government party, the adhan (Turkish: ezan) reverted back to being preformed in Arabic, which signaled an increasing political connection to the Arab world and conservative Islam. Though Turkey remains a secular nation, an anti-Kemalist faction has risen in recent years in tandem with economic downturns. This question of language and identity signals the order of self-alignment with a group—whether or not a person is a first a Muslim or first a Turk. The use of the Turkish language in any form is closely tied with nationalistic sentiment, and the language of the adhan is a political marker for the political atmosphere of the country.

This topic connects to the other members of my group in the sense that we are all focused on how sounds define identity, both on a personal and national level.

Here is a link where you can listen to the adhan in Istanbul:

This adhan is performed in Arabic. (The lyrics are: God is Great/I bear witness that there is no God but Allah/I bear witness that Muhammed is his messenger/Rush to prayer/Rush to success/God is Great.) This sound can be heard five times a day in nearly every city. However, it is important to know that the relationship between religion and government is complicated in Turkey; the country is still a secular nation, and the politics are “liberal” in comparison to other “Muslim nations” (like Iran, for example). My use of quotation marks here merely indicates that these terms are frequently used in the US media but are not entirely adequate to describe these concepts. Although most of the nation subscribes to the Muslim religion, some people identify first as Turks, and some people identify first as Muslims, and there is a continuum of devotion and attitudes towards religious practices and politics, just as there is a spectrum of attitudes in the United States towards Christianity, for example.