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Ataturk (1:25) Excerpt from film "Turkey's Tigers", August 2006
This clip illustrates Islamic and secular elements of life in Turkey, and introduces Ataturk and his reforms.

Country: Turkey

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Guiding Questions
  1. Identify one goal, and one impact, of Ataturk's reforms.

  2. Describe how the images in the clip illustrated both secular and Islamic aspects of Turkish culture.

  3. Do you think a society can successfully balance secular and religious aspects? Can the existence of secular and traditional features be seen as a source of opportunity rather than a source of tension?
Background Essay
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, envisioned a secular Turkey and pushed for many "modernizing" reforms. One result of his secularizing reforms is a law prohibiting religious attire in government buildings. But while the Turkish state is secular, the Turkish population is predominately Muslim, and many residents adhere to conservative aspects of the religion. Tekbir is a textiles company whose owners are determined to make conservative Islam fashionable again.

Turkey is located in a part of the world that was once called the Near East. For centuries it was a link between Europe and Asia. Its main city, Istanbul (previously called Constantinople), was a trading, religious, and social hub. Both Christianity and Islam have had major influences on the development of Turkey's culture.

In the early 1900s Turkey experienced a period of rapid economic and social change. In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a popular leader in Turkey's military, declared the establishment of the Turkish Republic. He launched an aggressive program to modernize and secularize the country, which brought about many changes. Turkey has modernized its economy and is poised to become a member of the European Union. Simultaneously, religious and political leaders are working to preserve traditional Islamic aspects of Turkey's culture while embracing some of the West's attitudes and practices. Turkey's future stability and growth will be determined by how well it can incorporate the rich heritage of its past into its goals for future.

One of the industries that is confronted with this change is the garment industry. Some women in Turkey choose to wear traditional Islamic garb, while many others choose to wear non-traditional Western attire. What does this mean for business leaders in Turkey? What does it mean for female consumers? In the Turkey that is evolving, will there be room for both the past and the future?

Mustafa Karaduman
If I were a journalist, I'd write articles with Islamic content. If I were a writer, I'd write Islamic messages. Since I'm in textiles, I could serve my faith by making Islamic clothing, and that's what I did.

In Fatih we have three retail stores, and all three are the biggest, busiest stores in Fatih.

Fatih is the most conservative neighborhood in Istanbul. Many women here are covered from head to toe – some even wearing black chadors. While in other parts of the city miniskirts are more common than headscarves.

This more secular Turkey was envisioned by Atatürk, the founder of the Republic. His reforms prohibited religious attire in public – with the result that today, women are banned from wearing headscarves in state institutions.

But in recent years there's been a religious revival - more women are wearing headscarves in the streets.

And Karaduman is determined to make conservative Islam fashionable.

Karaduman named his company "Tekbir" - the word Turkish Muslims use to refer to their "one and only" god.

Related Links
Turkey's Tigers on PBS.org

CIA World Factbook: Turkey

Turkish Cultural Foundation

BBC World Service: Religions of the World: Islam

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