ACCEPT PLURALISM Turkey Launch Event
Culture of Tolerance in Turkey: Different Modes of Pluralism
Istanbul, Bilgi University, 19 January 2011
Istanbul Bilgi University, European Institute launched its new FP7 project, ACCEPT PLURALISM, on 19 January 2011. This offered a great opportunity to assemble prominent academics, journalists, researchers and think thank specialists with graduate and undergraduate students, civil society actors, politicians, and other stakeholders.
The guest speakers, Fuat Keyman (political scientist and a think-thank director), Recep Kaymakcan (social scientist and member of the National Curriculum Board), Etyen Mahçupyan (researcher and columnist for the Daily Zaman) and Dilek Kurban (researcher and columnist for the Daily Radikal), as well asAhmet Yıldız (researcher from the National Assembly Research Centre), were remarkably interested in the project’s efforts in analysing and assessing the discourse and practice of tolerance in Turkey of the 21st century.
Drawing on the studies and research they have conducted themselves, all speakers agreed on the fact that tolerance towards social, cultural, ethnic and religious differences is only a discursive matter, but not substantiated on a political and social level. They commonly argued that the Turkish state, inheriting from the Ottoman Millet system, imposed on the society a republican and monolithical regime with a homogenous Sunni-Muslim-Turkish nation in a way that undermines the heterogeneity of the Turkish society. As a result, they all commented that it is a very difficult task to divert from the dominant discourse of intolerance.
In light of this project seeking to explore the gateway to tolerance toward ethno-cultural and religious diversity, some speakers suggested that recently, it is possible to find government policies and civil initiatives which can help us grasp a more insightful understanding of tolerance as a concept and practice. Fuat Keyman pointed out that the Turkish state should generate a polity to transform assimilationist and sometimes exclusionary perspective vis-a-vis the minorities into a more egalitarian mode of accommodation based on universal citizenship rights. Moreover, Recep Kaymakcan emphasised the role of education in forming a culture of tolerance on the societal level, referring to the positive tolerance and criticizing the negative tolerance. Etyen Mahcupyan and Dilek Kurban pointed out that the prevailing discourse of tolerance nowadays conceals the fact that we are all subject to a systematic regime of injustice. Giving examples from the Armenian, Alevi and Kurdish communities, they both had a critical perspective about the rhetoric of tolerance. Ahmet Yıldız also addressed the impossibility of a peaceful language in settling the Kurdish Question at the very moment. He argued both sides (Turks and Kurds) should give up their existing presumptions in order to get into a dialogue of equal partners.
Responding to very intriguing questions coming from the audience, all speakers came to the conclusion that in order to establish a venue for peaceful coexistence, we should all try to go beyond the limitations of the culture of tolerance and revisit the already existing, but somehow forgotten terms of acceptance, respect, justice and equality. They also underlined that contemporary debates in the world should be deculturalized, deethnicizied and deislamized, instead they should be discussed on a more social-economic basis.
Program in English
Culture of Tolerance inTurkey: Different Modes of Pluralism
Welcome Speech & Presentation of the FP7 Project ACCEPT PLURALISM
Ayhan Kaya, IstanbulBilgiUniversity
- Fuat Keyman, Sabancı University and Istanbul Policy Centre
"Tolerance in Different Models of Co-existence"
- Etyen Mahçupyan, Columnist in Daily Zaman
"Legitimising Ground of Those in Power: Tolerance"
- Recep Kaymakcan, Sakarya University
"Tolerance and Its Education"
- Dilek Kurban, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation,and Columnist in Daily Radical
"Who is tolerated?: Justice, Equality and Diversity"
- Ahmet Yıldız, Political Scientist
"The Language of Political Power, the Motherland of Language"
See the programme of the event [in Turkish].
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Follow-up of launch activities of ACCEPT PLURALISM in Turkey.