Islamist criticism of athletes in Tokyo sparks controversy in Turkey

This content was published on July 27, 2021 – 14:20

Ankara, Jul 27 (EFE).- A tweet by a Turkish Islamist theologian attacking the players of the volleyball team after their recent victory in Tokyo, which has gone viral in Turkey, has revived the debate on the Islam and the situation of women in this country.

Dubbed “the sultanas of the net”, Turkey’s women’s volleyball team sparked strong expressions of admiration and gratitude when they beat China in their first encounter at the Tokyo Olympics last Sunday.

But several Islamist leaders have blasted them as a “bad example” for Muslim girls.

In its coverage of the sporting event, the Milli Gazete newspaper used a photo that only showed the volleyball players’ fingers instead of their entire bodies.


“Daughter of Islam! You are the sultana of faith, chastity, morality, modesty and decency, not that of the playground,” reads the message with which Ihsan Senocak, founder of the religious association Center for Scientific and Intellectual Research (IFAM), criticizes the behavior of athletes.

“Don’t be fooled by the screens and the bearded brothers who call the victims of popular culture ‘sultan’! You are our hope and our prayer! You are the daughter of mothers who are ‘reluctant to show their noses,'” she added. adds. .

The controversial tweet sparked a wave of outrage in secular circles in Turkey, mirrored by endless replies on Twitter that categorically reject the vision of women championed by Senocak.

“They are not daughters of Islam, they are successful and free individuals of the Republic”, “Whenever women have a success, someone tells them ‘That’s enough, it’s an order from the ‘Islam’; ‘It’s volleyball, sports… With such statements lead people away from Islam’, are some examples.

On journalist Cuneyt Ozdemir’s YouTube channel, Senocak defended his remarks, arguing that he has the right to freedom of expression and that Islam covers all areas of life and “is experienced as everything or nothing”.

“I spoke to Muslim girls. When they (volleyball players) are applauded, the new generations tend to behave like them,” he insisted.


Since the rise to power in 2002 of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister and now President and Head of Government), the polarization between secular and religious Islamists has increased. in Turkish society.

The debate was fueled by Turkey’s departure on the 1st from the Istanbul Convention, the main international treaty to combat gender-based violence, which followed the ban on alcohol during the pandemic and the change in the system. education of the country, which opened more space to religious schools.


However, the “overwhelming” response of outrage and rejection of Islamist criticism of female volleyball players is seen by some as reflecting a promising development for many women in Turkey.

Thus, political scientist Deniz Parlak told the Turkish press that the wave of Islamization promoted by Erdogan’s AKP has not achieved the widespread social acceptance that the government wanted.

Yildiz Ecevit, sociologist and president of the Association for Gender and Women’s Studies of Turkey, shares this vision.

Despite all the Islamization efforts in recent years, radical Islamists continue to be a “marginal minority”, which has not been able to gain social ground, Ecevit told Efe today.

“Women’s organizations, LGBT+ organizations, their growing struggle in recent years, and the secular advances of the republic have always made me optimistic,” he added.

“In recent years, there have been initiatives aimed at institutions. The latest example is the Istanbul Convention. But I remain optimistic, especially for young people who defend their way of life”, insisted the expert . EFE

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