Islam Draws New Fire from Turkey's Army Secular Leaders Ban Sale of Skins from Animal Sacrifices for the April 7 Muslim Feast

By Laura Kay Rozen, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 8, 1998 | Go to article overview

Islam Draws New Fire from Turkey's Army Secular Leaders Ban Sale of Skins from Animal Sacrifices for the April 7 Muslim Feast


Laura Kay Rozen, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Iqmal and Zeynep Mudar woke up their children early on the morning of April 7 and helped them dress in their best clothes - navy jackets for the two boys, a spring dress for the girl.

The family gathered outside its Istanbul apartment building and, in a tradition dating back 2,000 years, sacrificed a sheep purchased for the occasion the night before.

The sacrifice is the heart of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, called Kurat Bayram in Turkey. But while Bayram celebrates a belief that Allah protects those who submit to their faith, religious Turks are receiving a different message from their government. The festival this year comes amid a government crackdown against Islamic activism in the country - one that has seen an Islamist government driven from power, Islamist politicians prosecuted, veiled women barred from campuses, and Islamic schools shut down across the country. The holiday commemorates when Allah asked the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice that which was most precious to him - his son Ismail - as a sign of his faith. When Allah saw that Ibrahim was willing to obey him and sacrifice his son, he intervened, and allowed Ibrahim to substitute a lamb. This is the Muslim corollary of the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Christian tradition. The Koran, Islam's holy book, does not name the son who was to be sacrificed, but says he was rewarded for his obedience. Many Muslims believe the reward was a second son, Isaac. This year, the holiday celebrating the sacrifice also marks the latest collision between secularism and Islam in Turkey. Turkey's powerful Army is dedicated to preserving the ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern, secular state. The generals, as they are known, want to keep fast-growing Islamic fundamentalism at bay. But they do not want to alienate Turkey, a member of NATO, from the democratic, Western nations they seek to grow closer to. In the government's latest move to discourage political Islam, the Justice Ministry has announced that it will prosecute those who illegally trade in sheepskins - one of the byproducts of the Bayram slaughter. Justice Minister Oltan Sungurlu said April 4 that unauthorized sheepskin collecting can result in up to six months in prison. The law has apparently been on the books for a long time, but - like the one barring veils at the university - has until recently gone widely ignored. No longer. Turkey, whose population of 60 million people is 98 percent Muslim, is deeply divided over the role of Islam in public life. …

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