Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mormons and Muslims

Traveling around in Turkey, I am reminded of Utah, by much more than just the terrain. Utah was settled almost entirely by Mormons and only Salt Lake City and Park City seem to have a percentage of non-Mormons above the 1-digit range.

Turkey is largely Muslim with few other religions. In 1923, by treaty, the Christians were resettled in Greece and the Muslims there had to come to Turkey or move elsewhere. The ancient Byzantine Christian churches are now museums and highly touted, but there are only a handful of actual Christians in most towns. The Mosques dominate the landscape with their tall heaven-ward minarets and the sound-scape at least five times a day with the call to prayers. In Mormon country, every small town has as least one Mormon ward, with it's sharp pointed spire heaven-bound.

Muslim women's class on the Koran
Both religions value family highly and encourage, maybe even require through social pressures, that families have many children. The average Muslim family has 5 with some having as many as 10 children. The Mormons may top that.

In the more conservative Muslim groups, women are kept under wraps with layers of material over body, arms, legs, head and sometimes face. In the Mormon culture, women always wear dresses to church and much of the time otherwise, with emphasis on modesty. In the more conservative areas women are required to wear old fashioned dresses with long skirts, long sleeves and buttoned up to the neck blouses. Some even wear bonnets when outside. In both cultures women tend to stay home, have and raise children, tend house, and be good wives. Their social lives revolve around other women and children.

In the state of Utah it's impossible to find politics separated from religion, though once in a while someone will pretend it's so. Ditto for Turkey which prides itself on being secular, yet has in power now a President from a religious coalition party who recently jailed a very famous pianist for making a joke on Twitter about Islam.

The Mormon religion and Islam both prohibit the consumption of alcohol and smoking cigarettes. The Mormons are way more successful in enforcing those rules than the Muslims in Turkey. Muslims do better at it in other countries.

The small towns look so similar in both areas. Surrounding the towns are agricultural areas, farms, wood processing operations, mines.  The houses are large to accommodate the large (sometimes extended) families, the religious center is the main focus of the social life and dominates the town in size and position. People speak to each other in religious terms with trained phrases for only insiders know the deeper meanings. Both groups have a long history of reading their religious books regularly, to the point where many people have whole chapters memorized. Both groups spend a lot of time talking about and exploring the religious meaning and interpretations of their respective books and the works of their religious thinkers.

Utah has Bryce Canyon and Turkey has Cappadocia. Weird strange landscapes that are massive tourism generators.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Cappadocia, Turkey