Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for June 3rd, 2007

Hackney’s Young Turks

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd June, 2007

imam-ali.jpgAs part of an ongoing programme of getting to know London’s multifareous communities better, this evening I visited the Alevi Cultural Centre in Dalston, along with three executive members of Hackney Liberal Democrats and Islington Turkish Cypriot Councillor, Meral Ece. As well as offering legal and welfare advice to the sizeable Turkish-speaking population in the area, the Centre has a busy programme of cultural and educational activites, including music and dance classes, social evenings and outings, for all age groups. It’s run entirely by volunteers, mainly keen young people who are especially proud to offer an alternative milieu for some of the Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot youths in the area, who can all too easily otherwise get sucked up into gang fights, drugs and worse. Unlike some of the other Turkish and Kurdish community organisations in North London, it avoids overt political affiliations.

The Alevi branch of Islam is little known among the general public in Britain, as it doesn’t fit neatly into the Sunni-Shia divide or the moderate/radical Islamic discourse of the post 9/11 world. But in Turkey, it is recognised as an indigenous Anatolian religion. Modern alevism — which derives its name from Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad — is more humanist and universalist than most Islamic sects and the principles stressed today are as much a philosophy as a religion. Many adherents stress how close their beliefs are to Christianity — though some of their origins can be traced back several thousand years.

One of the biggest assets of London as a tolerant, multicultural city is the extraordinary range of cultural, religious and ethnic groups — a whole world in miniature, which I never tire of exploring.


London is

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