Islam and Modernity in Turkey
  • Brian Silverstein


On one of my earlier trips to Turkey in 1996, as I passed through the lobby of the hotel where I was staying in Istanbul, I saw that a small group was watching a variety show on a television in a sitting area off in the corner. The show was typical of its kind and comprised a number of prerecorded skits tied together by monologues by the show’s host and his conversations with guests, usually entertainment personalities. One of the pieces had evidently been recorded in a large city in Germany, with a man-on-the-street interviewer, microphone in hand, working with a roving cameraman. The interviewer would politely stop passersby, asking them in German if they would please read out loud what was written on a little card. As one of the hapless Germans started to read, it became obvious that what he or she had been asked to read was not German but a Turkish proverb, which the reader naturally pronounced with great difficulty and error. This misreading, however, produced explosions of laughter in the studio audience in Istanbul, as well as among the group of men watching in the hotel lobby, who were reacting to both the reader’s pronunciation as well as the incongruousness of hearing such colloquial Turkish expressions coming out of the mouth of an urbane German.


Muslim World Political Modernity Islamic Tradition Islamic Scholar Correct Practice 
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© Brian Silverstein 2011

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  • Brian Silverstein

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