Holy month elevates spirit of unity as Sunnis reach out to Alevis
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULOct 03, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Oct 03, 2016 12:00 am
Muslims in Turkey marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar New Year Sunday in the first month of the year 1438 according to the Hijiri calendar, which is also one of the holiest months of the year for Turkey where a heightened sense of unity between Sunni Muslims and Turkey's Alevi minority whose Islamic beliefs are close to those of Shia Muslims.
The state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) organized a series of events that will also include a time of mourning in memory of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn, who died in 650 A.D. during a battle in modern-day Iraq's province of Karbala. On the 10th day of Muharram that will mark the end of a period of fasting for Alevis, DİB President Mehmet Görmez will host a fast-breaking or "iftar" dinner for leaders of the Alevi community while a commemoration will be held at Istanbul's Eyüp Sultan Mosque for "the martyrs of Karbala."
The DİB will also send a delegation of "dedes" or faith leaders of the Alevi community to European countries with a notable population of Turks to preach about the importance of Muharram and what transpired during the month according to Islamic history. Some 96 "dedes" will be sent to 12 European countries as part of a ritualistic practice that first started in 2013 in an effort to reach out to the oft-disregarded Alevi community of Turkey that complains of double standards in their recognition among Sunni-majority Turkey.The Islamic calendar starts with the year of Prophet Muhammad's immigration from Mecca to Medina to avoid Muslims' persecution in Mecca and the first month of Hijri year is a revered occasion for Sunni Muslims as well.
Alevis are the second largest religious faith community in Turkey. However, language, belief and ethnic background are not registered in the national census; therefore, it is not possible to have official statistics about the number of Alevis residing here. On the basis of reliable academic research, the population of Alevis is estimated at approximately 20 million. The community has long complained of the state's failure to recognize their faith. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which seeks to restore the rights of underprivileged communities in the country, has started talks with Alevi leaders to address the problems of the community though the Turkish state and the Alevi community have so far failed to reach a common ground on recognizing Alevi places of worship. Still, the government maintains unprecedented relations with the religious group in terms of a unity.