In Istanbul you can practice your religion as you wish, no matter which religion, no
matter how intensely or rigidly. With one foot in Asia and the other in Europe the
absorption of both continents’ cultures is inevitable. This is evident just looking at the
city’s buildings, where different styles pile up, never mingling. This also happens with
religion. Here different religions coexist. Problems arise when, as is happening nowadays,
religion enters the realm of politics. True, it is not only a problem in Istanbul, it is a
problem for the whole of Turkey and possibly for the whole world. But here, religion’s
intrusion into public life is felt more greatly. It didn’t use to be like this.
Back in the ‘80s, when the change took place with the end of the political youth movements and the onset of a big wave of immigration. Up to that point the city was more united and the foreigners both from other Turkish regions and from the rest of the world would adapt to our way of life. Later things changed when new immigrants coming from the guts of Anatolia started to cling onto their traditions with no interest in integrating with the host society. This gave way to a social layering with no interaction between different groups that led to a fundamental shift in the fabric of the city’s society. Nowadays Istanbul may well be a more international city but is nonetheless less cosmopolitan; its revered wise old men talk about a degeneration of the city. In a way this is positive because this shows that Istanbul is a free city and everyone can live as he pleases, but on the other hand this is also negative as this has hampered our progressive inclination. We are more conservative now, in the most ignorant and tribal way. Immigration has slowed us down, so has politics.