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If Minarets are our Bayonets and Mosques are our Helmets, Does this Mean Moustaches are our Uniforms?

August 12, 2010

Last week the Turkish Media World, English division, turned to face the issue of what belongs between a man’s lips and his nose. Both The Economist and Hurriyet DN published articles on the phenomenon of the politically expressive moustache. One can tell from the half-baked puns in the titles that these articles are mainly the product of a dead news cycle.

That said, when this comes at the same time that Slate does a Moustache Pictorial (featuring more than its fair share of Turks, I should add) and Bring Your Champions, They’re Our Meat discusses political moustaches via the Chicago Bulls’ signing of Omer Asik, we have ourselves a trend.

So with all of these questions posed by our intrepid (and somewhat better paid than us) journalists, as well as BYCTOM (pronounced, I imagine, cyrillically as “Vyeestohm”) linkages to BBC’s 1998 vintage and Qantara’s 2006 piece on women brandishing moustaches, we must ask ourselves: what does a Turk’s (not to mention two very evident Kurds’) moustache say about him?

RTE Hiss’elf

Sufficiently droopy and horseshoe-shaped to qualify as an Islamicist, though this may be due to age. The BBC will anachronistically warn you that the fading moustache is a sign of extremism, as displayed by surprisingly-still-alive Necmettin Erbakan. As a younger man, Erdogan was far bushier.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu

Pretty much your standard Civil Servant moustache. It belies his past as an able bureaucrat, as does the poorly-tied tie. However, this meek, standard, variety of past-middle-age Turks throughout Anatolia does do a good job of camouflaging his more radical speech-making abilities. There is a good chance that, as an Alevi Kurd, he would never be able to rise to CHP leadership without it, much as no US President can run without a flag lapel-pin. This is my favorite photoshop in the history of ever.

Abdullah Gul

There is something raffishly hipster about Gul’s moustache. Not only will he be able to ju-jitsu the latest mouthful by Erdogan into being about the glorification of the Turkish Republic, but he will also let you borrow his LP of the latest Grizzly Bear. But secularist beware! This is also the typical “almond” moustache of Islamicists, showing that he is, despite all he’s said and his uncomfortably brilliant son, a member of some sort of ill-defined fifth column. Be sure to check out this 1995 article on “the rising Refah party” and an awfully sinister picture of vice-chairman Gul.

Ahmet Davutoglu

Well, I’m not going to be the first guy to say anything bad about Davutoglu. At least not yet. But this moustache is so bland, so endearing, so cool-uncle that I can’t even thing of what it says about him. Note that he also carries a far better tied tie than Kilicdaroglu did. Seriously, the perfect coif and moustache shows that this man would’ve been a college football coach if born in the States, a factory foreman in Japan, or any other sort of successful-if-a-touch-beige person no matter where he called home. Only the slightly ruffled hair at the temple gives us a clue at the true rebellious genius we’re dealing with here. Also, if he ever gets diagnosed with terminal cancer, he will likely become a drug dealer and anti-hero.

Abdullah Ocalan

This dark, reflective author took 7 years off since his last masterpiece of a psychological thriller. His new book has been critically acclaimed by Parade and TIME for its complex characters, strong and beautiful heroine with a terribly secret, and nightmarishly realistic plot. Look for A Son in the East in bookstores and on Kindle soon.

Oh, just kidding, he’s kind of a reprehensible terrorist rotting in a Turkish island prison. Nice watch, though.

Mustafa Kemal (Genc Ataturk)

There’s a saying in the New Testament (Philippians 4:13) about doing things through one that gives us great power. I am reminded of it here. When Mustafa Bey was just a young ‘un at Harbiye and growing this moustache, there was no doubt that he was destined for great and wonderful things.

Enver Pasha

Not quite Mustafa Kemal. That’s the difference between dying in Dolmabahce and getting killed in Tajikistan. Some may attribute it to brains, but it was evident Enver would fall short once we saw his tips couldn’t reach his cheekbones.

Talat Pasha

Film Noir bad guy. One can almost picture him saying, “Forget it, Jake. This is Chinatown.”

So there you have it, a brief collection of moustaches from the late Empire to the present day. I could expound on this point if I really wanted to (and earnestly believed you really wanted me to) but I think we’ve proven our point. One can only go so far in attributing someone’s political beliefs to their facial hair before the entire practice becomes a tired joke.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 2:48 am

    The Twelfth Word
    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    And he who has been given wisdom has been given great good.1

    (This Word consists of a brief comparison between the sacred wisdom of the All-Wise Qur’an and the wisdom of philosophy and science, and an extremely concise summary of the instruction and training which Qur’anic wisdom gives to man’s personal life and social life, and an indication of the Qur’an’s superiority to other Divine Words, and to all speech. There are Four Principles in this Word.)


    Look through the telescope of the following story which is in the form of a comparison, and see the differences between Qur’anic wisdom and that of philosophy and science:

    One time, a renowned Ruler who was both religious and a fine craftsman wanted to write the All-Wise Qur’an in a script worthy of the sacredness in its meaning and the miraculousness in its words, so that its marvel-displaying stature would be arrayed in wondrous apparel. And so the artist King wrote the Qur’an in a truly wonderful fashion. He used all his precious jewels in its writing. In order to point to the great variety of its truths, he wrote some of its embodied letters in diamonds and emeralds, and some in rubies and agate, and other sorts in brilliants and coral, while others he inscribed with silver and gold. And he adorned and decorated it in such a way that everyone, those who knew how to read and those who did not, were full of admiration and astonishment when they beheld it. Especially in the view of the people of truth, since the outer beauty was an indication to the brilliant beauty and striking adornment in its meaning, it became a most precious antique.

    Then the Ruler showed the artistically wrought and bejewelled Qur’an to a European philosopher and to a Muslim scholar. In order to test them and for reward, he commanded them: “Each of you write a work about the wisdom of this!” First the philosopher, then the scholar composed a book about it. However, the philosopher’s book discussed only the decorations of the letters and their relationships and conditions, and the properties of the jewels, and described them. He did not touch on their meaning at all, for the European had no knowledge of the Arabic script. He did not even know that the embellished Qur’an was a book and a writing expressing a meaning. He rather looked on it as an ornamented antique. He did not know any Arabic, but he was a very good engineer, and he described things very well, and he was a skilful chemist, and an ingenious jeweller. And so this man wrote his work according to those crafts.

    As for the Muslim scholar, when he looked at the Qur’an, he understood that it was the Perspicuous Book, the All-Wise Qur’an. And so this truth-loving person neither attached importance to the external adornments, nor busied himself with the ornamented letters. Rather, he became preoccupied with something that was a million times higher, more elevated, more subtle, more noble, more beneficial, and more comprehensive than the matters with which the other man had busied himself. For discussing the sacred truths and lights of the mysteries beneath the veil of the decorations, he wrote a truly fine commentary. Then the two of them took their works and presented them to the Illustrious Ruler. The Ruler first took the philosopher’s work. He looked at it and saw that that self-centred and nature-worshipping man had worked very hard, but he had written nothing of true wisdom. He had understood nothing of its meaning. Indeed, he had confused it and been disrespectful towards it, and ill-mannered even. For supposing that source of truths, the Qur’an, to be meaningless decoration, he had insulted it as being without value in regard to its meaning. And so the Wise Ruler hit him over the head with his work and expelled him from his presence.

    Then he looked at the work of the other, the truth-loving, scrupulous scholar, and saw that it was an extremely fine and beneficial commentary, a most wise composition full of guidance. “Congratulations! May God bless you!”, he said. Thus, wisdom is this and they call those who possess it knowledgeable and wise. As for the other man, he was a craftsman who had exceeded his mark. Then in reward for the scholar’s work, he commanded that in return for each letter ten gold pieces should be given him from his inexhaustible treasury.

    And so, if you have understood the comparison, look at its reality and see this:

    The ornamented Qur’an is this artistically fashioned universe. And the Ruler is the Pre-Eternal All-Wise One. As for the two men, one – the European – represents philosophy and and its philosophers, and the other, the Qur’an and its students. Yes, the All-Wise Qur’an is a most elevated expounder, a most eloquent translator of the Mighty Qur’an of the Universe. Yes, it is the Criterion which instructs man and the jinn concerning the signs of creation inscribed by the pen of Power on the pages of the universe and on the leaves of time. And it looks at beings, each of which is a meaningful letter, as bearing the meaning of another, that is, it looks at them on account of their Maker. It says, “How beautifully they have been made! How exquisitely they point to the beauty of their Maker!” And through this shows the universe’s true beauty. But the philosophy they call natural philosophy or science has plunged into the decorations of the letters of beings and into their relationships, and has become bewildered; it has confused the way of reality. While the letters of this mighty book should be looked at as bearing the meaning of another, that is, on account of God, they have not done this; they have looked at beings as signifying themselves. That is, they have looked at beings on account of beings, and have discussed them in that way. Instead of saying, “How beautifully they have been made”, they say “How beautiful they are”, and have made them ugly. In doing this they have insulted the universe, and made it complain about them. Indeed, philosophy without religion is a sophistry divorced from reality and an insult to the universe.


    A comparison between the moral training the wisdom of the All-Wise Qur’an gives to personal life and what philosophy and science teach:

    The sincere student of philosophy is a pharaoh, but he is a contemptible pharaoh who worships the basest thing for the sake of benefit; he recognizes everything from which he can profit as his ‘Lord’. And that irreligious student is obstinate and refractory, but he is wretched together with his obstinacy and accepts endless abasement for the sake of one pleasure. And he is abject together with his recalcitrance and shows his abasement by kissing the feet of individuals like Satan for the sake of some base benefit. And that irreligious student is conceited and domineering, but since he can find no point of support in his heart, he is an utterly impotent blustering tyrant. And that student is a self-centered seeker of benefit whose aim and endeavour is to gratify his animal appetites; a crafty egotist who seeks his personal interests within certain nationalist interests.

    However, the sincere student of Qur’anic wisdom is a servant, but he does not stoop to worship even the greatest of creatures; he is an esteemed slave who does not take a supreme benefit like Paradise as the aim of his worship. And its student is humble; he is righteous and mild, and yet outside the limits of his Maker’s leave, he would not voluntarily lower and abase himself before anything other than his Maker. And he is weak and in want, and he knows his weakness and poverty, but he is self-sufficient due to the wealth which his All-Generous Lord has stored up for him in the Hereafter, and he is strong since he relies on his Master’s infinite power. And he acts and strives only for God’s sake, for God’s pleasure, and for virtue.

    Thus, the training the two give may be understood from the comparison of the two students.


    The training philosophy and science and Qur’anic wisdom give to human social life is this:

    Philosophy accepts ‘force’ as its point of support in social life. It considers its aim to be ‘benefits’. The principle of its life it recognizes to be ‘conflict’. It holds the bond between communities to be ‘racialism and negative nationalism’. And its fruits are ‘gratifying the appetites of the soul and increasing human needs’. However, the mark of force is ‘aggression’. The mark of benefit – since they are insufficient for every desire – is ‘jostling and tussling’. While the mark of conflict is ‘strife’. And the mark of racialism – since it is to be nourished by devouring others – is ‘aggression’. Thus, it is for these reasons that it has negated the happiness of mankind.

    As for the Qur’anic wisdom, its point of support is ‘truth’ instead of force. It takes ‘virtue and God’s pleasure’ as its aims in place of benefits. It takes the principle of ‘mutual assistance’ as the principle of life in place of the principle of conflict. And it takes ‘the ties of religion, class, and country’ to be the ties bonding communities. Its aim is to form a barrier against the lusts of the soul, urge the spirit to sublime matters, satisfy the high emotions, and urging man to the human perfections, make him a true human being. And the mark of ‘the truth’ is accord. The mark of virtue is ‘solidarity’. The mark of mutual assistance is ‘hastening to assist one another’. The mark of religion is ‘brotherhood’ and ‘attraction’. And the mark of reining in and tethering the soul and leaving the spirit free and urging it towards perfections is ‘happiness in this world and the next’.


    If you want to understand the Qur’an’s superiority among all the Divine scriptures and its supremacy over all speech and writings, then consider the following two comparisons:

    The First: A king has two forms of speech, two forms of address. One is to speak on his private telephone with a common subject concerning some minor matter, some private need. The other, under the title of sublime sovereignty, supreme vicegerent, and universal rulership, is to speak with an envoy or high official with the aim of making known and promulgating his commands, to make an utterance through an elevated decree proclaiming his majesty.

    The Second: One man holds the mirror he has in hand up to the sun. He receives light containing the seven colours according to the capacity of the mirror. He becomes connected to the sun through that relation and converses with it, and if he directs the light-filled mirror towards his dark house or his garden covered by a roof, he will benefit, not in relation to the sun’s value, but in accordance with the capacity of the mirror. Another man, however, opens up broad windows out of his house or out of the roof over his garden. He opens up ways to the sun in the sky. He converses with the perpetual light of the actual sun and speaks with it, and says in gratitude through the tongue of his disposition: “O you beauty of the world who gilds the face of the earth with your light and makes the faces of the flowers smile! O beauty of the skies, fine sun! You have furnished my little house and garden with light and heat the same as you have them.” Whereas the man with the mirror cannot say that. The reflection and works of the sun under that restriction are limited; they are in accordance with the restriction. And so, look at the Qur’an through the telescope of these two comparisons and see its miraculousness and understand its sacredness.

    Indeed, the Qur’an says: “If all the trees on the land were to become pens and all the seas ink, and if they were to write the words of Almighty God, they would never finish them.” Now, the reason the Qur’an has been given the greatest rank among the infinite words of God is this: the Qur’an has come from the Greatest Divine Name and from the greatest level of every Name. And it is God’s Word in respect of His being Sustainer of All the Worlds. And it is God’s decree through His title of God of All Beings. And it is an address in regard to His being Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. And it is a speech in regard to Absolute Dominicality. And it is a pre-eternal address on account of Universal Divine Sovereignty. And it is a note-book of the favours of the Most Merciful One from the point of view of His all-embracing, comprehensive Mercy. And it is a collection of communications at the beginnings of which are sometimes ciphers in respect of the sublime majesty of the Godhead. And it is a wisdom-scattering Holy Scripture which, with descending from the reaches of the Greatest Name, looks to and inspects the all-comprehensive domain of the Supreme Throne. Thus, it is for these reasons that the title of Word of God has been given with complete worthiness to the Qur’an.

    In respect to the other Divine Words, they are speech which has become evident through a particular regard, a minor title, through the partial manifestation of a particular Name; through a particular Dominicality, special sovereignty, a private mercy. Their degrees vary in regard to particularity and universality. Most inspiration is of this sort, but its degrees vary greatly. For example, the most particular and simple is the inspiration of the animals. Then there is the inspiration of the ordinary people. Then there is the inspiration of ordinary angels. Then the inspiration of the saints. Then the inspiration of the higher angels. Thus, it is for this reason that a saint who offers supplications directly without means by the telephone of the heart says: “My heart tells me news of my Sustainer.” He does not say, “It tells me of the Sustainer of All the Worlds.” And he says: “My heart is the mirror, the throne, of my Sustainer.” He does not say, “It is the throne of the Sustainer of All the Worlds.” For he can manifest the address to the extent of its capacity and to the degree nearly seventy thousand veils have been raised. Thus, however much higher and more elevated is the decree of a king promulgated in respect of his supreme sovereignty than the insignificant speech of a common man, and however more abundantly the effulgence of the sun in the sky may be benefited from than the manifestation of its reflection in the mirror, and however greater is its superiority, to that degree the Qur’an of Mighty Stature is superior to all speech and all books.

    After the Qur’an, at the second level, the Holy Books and Revealed Scriptures have superiority according to their degree. They have their share from the mystery of that superiority. If all the fine words of all men and jinn which do not issue from the Qur’an were to be gathered together, they still could not attain to the sacred rank of the Qur’an and imitate it. If you want to understand a little of how the Qur’an comes from the Greatest Name and from the greatest level of every Name, consider the universal, elevated statements of Ayatu’l-Kursi and the following verses:

    And with Him are the keys of the Unseen.2

    O God! Lord of All Dominion.3

    He draws the night as a veil over day, each seeking the other in rapid succession; He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, [all] subject to His command.4

    O Earth, swallow up your water! And O Sky, withhold your rain! 5

    The heavens and the earth and all within them extol and glorify Him.6

    The creation of you all and the resurrection of you all is but like that of a single soul.7

    We did indeed offer the Trust to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains.8

    The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books [completed].9

    No just estimate have they made of God, such as is due to Him: on the Day of Judgement the whole of the earth will be but His handful.10

    Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would indeed have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of God.11

    And study the Suras which begin Alhamdulillah, or Tusebbihu, and see the rays of this mighty mystery. And look at the openings of the Alif. Lam. Mim.’s, the Alif. Lam. Ra.’s, and the Ha. Mim.’s, and understand the Qur’an’s importance in the sight of God.

    If you have understood the valuable mystery of this Fourth Principle, you have understood that revelation mostly comes to the prophets by means of an angel, and inspiration is mostly without means. And you will have also understood the reason why the greatest saint cannot attain to the level of a prophet. And you will also have understood the Qur’an’s sublimity and its sacred grandeur and the mystery of its elevated miraculousness. So too you will have understood the mystery of the necessity of the Prophet Muhammed’s Ascension, that is, that he went to the heavens, to the furthest Lote-tree, to the distance of two bow-lengths, offered supplications to the All-Glorious One, Who is closer to him than his jugular vein, and in the twinkling of an eye returned whence he came. Indeed, just as the Splitting of the Moon was a miracle of prophethood whereby he demonstrated his prophethood to the jinn and mankind, so too the Ascension was a miracle of his worship and servitude to God whereby he demonstrated to the spirits and angels that he was God’s Beloved.

    O God, grant blessings and peace to him and to his Family as befits Your Mercy, and in veneration of him. Amen.

    * * *


  1. Its funny the Cranberries came to town… « İstanbul Altı

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