CHARLOTTE – The day a Turkish boy becomes a man

The day a Turkish boy becomes a manIn the West, the idea of when a child “becomes a man” or a woman is not as important as it is in Middle Eastern cultures. In the West, parents tend to think in terms of when their child becomes an adult. This is why every young person is eager to get their driver’s license because the individual will be considered a “young adult” when they can be trusted to drive the family car.In Turkey, like other Muslim nations, circumcision is a traditional rite of passage for a boy. Usually, a boy is circumcised around the age of 8. Some poor families will choose to have two sons circumcised at the same time because of the money needed to hold two separate parties. It may be that one boy could be older or younger than 8. The circumcision party includes the boy wearing a special suit for a week beforehand, just like a little sultan, with a sequined cape, hat and scepter. A popular custom is to parade the child around town in a convoy of cars, with much honking of horns.Circumcision is a rite of passage for a boy. It signifies him becoming a man. This practice is derived from the hadith traditions and is one of the signs of being a Muslim. Religious families recite a poem praising Prophet Muhammad (mevlut) just before the circumcision. The actual ceremony is usually performed in public on a white bed. The child receives a lot of presents — often toy guns and the like. A wealthy businessman may show his benevolence by paying for the requisite party for poor boys in the neighborhood or for the sons of his employees.National service is also important in Turkish society. In Turkish there is a special phrase to mark this time: “En buyuk asker bizim asker” (The greatest soldier is our soldier). After the age of 18, every man has to do 18 months of paid military service or he can choose to do fewer months and receive no salary. Every so often the government offers men the option of paying a large sum of money and doing just one month. Over the last few decades, problems in the Southeast have discouraged individuals from signing up for fear of being sent there as part of their service.When a young man leaves for military service, his friends give him a big send-off. This moment is another significant rite of passage. All enlistees have one month of training and assignments are then made based on education and skill level. The better-educated ones get office jobs and other strategic appointments.The army reinforces national unity and promotes the strong secular teaching that upholds the Turkish Republic. Also, it often helps village youths to improve their reading and social skills. As in many countries, when older men get together to drink, they discuss their national service stories. Every Turkish male is theoretically part of the army reserve and can be called up in times of war.In my piece “Birth and circumcision in Turkey” (May 11, 2012), I point out that in urban areas children of either sex are generally highly valued, although sons can be preferred. In villages a son is more valuable because he brings growth to the family through marriage, whereas the daughter will grow up, marry and leave the family (If there is a lull in conversation and everyone falls silent, someone may say “A daughter has been born,” i.e., something has happened to put a damper on the party). Don’t be surprised if a family member shoots a rifle into the air to celebrate a birth!In Turkey women are guaranteed equal rights as men under the law. However, tension between traditional and modern values underlies most interactions. Generally, females have distinctly less social mobility than males, especially if they are unmarried. However, educated Western-oriented middle and upper class urban women seem to have much more freedom and are less constrained by the conservative and patriarchal attitudes that prevail in other segments of society.I want to recommend this excellent tool to you where you can find many resources about Turkey: the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center’s handbook “Turkish Cultural Orientation” by the technology integration division (March 2012). Eric Hooglund, author of the chapter on gender relations in “A Country Study: Turkey,” states that for most urban Turkish families, relationships between males and females are governed by longstanding cultural patterns and the basic themes of traditional socialization, family loyalty, family obligations and honor all remain strong. Turkish families still remain patriarchal.“Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.” –Turkish proverb

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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