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The ephemeral Alevi opening: Turkey's prime minister is trying to manipulate the sectarian divide

The Economist wrote; “Mr Erdogan’s remarks about the Alevis, a historically persecuted sect which is considered an offshoot of Shia Islam, has sparked fresh accusations that he is pandering to the prejudices of Turkey’s predominantly Sunni majority in order to improve his chances of becoming the country’s first elected president in 2014. He declared that the Alevis voted for Mr Kilicdaroglu “because he is Alevi”, that Cemevis, their houses of worship, were “cultural centres” and that Muslims prayed only in mosques. Such assertions fly in the face of the Alevis’ long-running demands that Cemevis be granted the same state subsidies as an estimated 90,000 mosques across Turkey. Worse, they appear to suggest that Alevis are not real Muslims. This is an explosive argument used by Sunnis to excuse successive atrocious massacres of Alevis. The most recent of these killings took place in 1993. Despite their large numbers (estimates vary between 15m to 20m) little is known about the Alevis and they are often confused with the Alawites in Syria. “We have different rituals but share a strong spiritual bond,” explains Huseyin Aygun, a CHP parliamentarian. This may explain why Turkey’s support for rebels fighting Bashar Assad, Syria’s President, who is an Alawite, is unpopular among the Alevis. Much like the Alawites, the Alevis tend to be secretive about their ways. They neither observe Ramadan nor pray in mosques. Men and women worship together, whirling and singing to the accompaniment of a lute. Like Shias, they revere Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law. But unlike the sword-brandishing Ali of Sunni lore, for the Alevis, Ali abjured violence and is the embodiment of God. Because of their liberal ways the Alevis are treasured by secular-minded Turks as the best insurance against radical Islam. For the same reasons hard-core Sunnis paint them as debauched infidels.”







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