The Encounter with the Islamic Past: Turks, Arabs and Persians



‘On an afternoon in March 1994, two Turkish women, one veiled, the other not, encountered one another in front of the Ayasofya museum in the old quarter of Istanbul. The short-haired woman, dressed in a skirt to her knees, a trimly fit blouse, and a short coat, asked the other woman who was wearing a black veil, whether this was the line for tickets to the museum. The veiled woman was surprised. “You speak Turkish?” she asked in amazement. “Yes, I am Turkish!” asserted the short-haired woman, put off by the question. “Oh! You don’t look Turkish. You look like a Westerner,” said the veiled woman. “You don’t look Turkish either,” said the other. “I thought you were an Arab.” “Oh! said the veiled woman,” “Thanks be to God, we are Turkish and Muslim.” “Well, we are too,” said the short-haired woman.’1 Yael Navaro began the first chapter of her book on the ‘production of the political in the public life of Turkey in the 1990s’2 with a specific reference to the politics of secularism and nationalism with this anecdote. She further discussed the negative imagery of the ‘Arab’ in the mainstream secular media and the extensive employment of this imagery to distinguish the ‘civilized’ and open-minded Turk and to instrumentalize this imagery as a discur- sive strategy against the surging Islamists.3 This chapter probes the Arab imagery in the Turkish national(ist) historiography and examines the transformations this imagery has undergone from the late 19th century onwards.


Turkish State Islamic Civilization Turkish Republic Historical Epistemology Turkish Translation 
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Copyright information

© Doğan Gürpınar 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istanbul Technical UniversityUK

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