A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Culture Wars: Turkey's Crackdown on Alcohol, and a Kissing Protest

UPDATE: See also this article.
 After a campaign by Prime Minister Erdogan, the Turkish Parliament has passed legislation banning alcohol advertising and sharply resisting the hours during which alcohol can be sold, barring restaurants from displaying alcohol where it can be seem from outside, and barring sales near schools and mosques. The move, inspired by the Islamic orientation of the ruling AKP party, has provoked controversy and some mockery among Turkey's secular, Kemalist elites. It has also caused stocks in Efes, the Middle East's  largest brewing company, to take a dive.

At Foreign Policy, Marya Hannun adds some perspective by asking "Did Turkey Just Become a Little More Like Texas?," reminding us that the US has some strange blue laws in some areas when it comes to alcohol as well.

Nor is the is the only recent battle in the emerging Turkish culture wars. As Juan Cole notes, after a subway conductor on the Ankara subway scolded a young couple for kissing in public, a flashmob-style public kissing protest was staged by protesters. The protest is shown in the video below.

These culture wars seem to be the wave of the future in the Middle East, where the polarization of attitudes between Westernized elites and traditional populations is often quite marked.

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