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Our identities.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Any discussion of identities should start with the definition of identity. Identity is the answer to the question "Who am I?" Everyone asks this question to themselves in this or that way, but this question is not always answered by the person who asks it. Rather, an identity can be given or imposed on him/her from outside. Four distinct categories of identity can be identified:

(1) Natural identity. This is the identity a person acquires by birth without any involvement on his/her part. For instance, a person's skin may be black or white or yellow or red by birth.

(2) Acquired identity. This is the identity a person acquires through social processes. For instance, a single person may be married and then have children, thereby becoming first a wife or husband and then a mother or father, and adopt new roles and identities.

(3) Volitional identity. This is the identity a person acquires voluntarily or of his/her own volition. Religion is one of these identities. While people are generally born into a religious environment, they can still acquire another religion at a later stage. Acquiring a new worldview or adopting a specific political attitude or being a member of a certain religious community -- or an illegal organization, democratic association or any other group -- can be considered in this scope. These are volitional identities.

(4) Given or imposed identity. This is the most problematic category both in Turkey and around the world. This is the identity given, attributed to or imposed on a person or society by someone outside. In modern times, this is generally done by states, and the problems related with this identity were rare in traditional societies before the advent of modernism. In a traditional society, people belonged to a political power, but there was a dynasty that represented that power in the eyes of the people, like the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Ottoman dynasties. When the state emerged as an impersonal device and acquired a corporate personality -- this is the modern state -- it felt the need to give an identity to its citizens.

In this framework, we can divide identities in two in terms of their nature:

(a) Identities that rely on physical or material aspects or qualities. These identities constitute by their nature physical essence. For instance, color, language, gender, race, geography, being eastern or western or northern or southern, being a member of a class or group or being rich or poor imply physical or material qualities.

(b) Identities that rely on spiritual or transcendental qualities or memberships. These identities are acquired through a volitional process because their adoption requires selection or effort on the part of people. Adopting any religion falls into this category.

A large part of these identities are natural identities. People would not feel ashamed of them, and they would not regard them as a source of pride or supremacy over other people. For instance, a person who is born to a Turkish, Arab or Kurdish family becomes, respectively, a Turk, Arab or Kurd. But this is not a source of supremacy. We can assert that the practice of using identities as a source of polarization, conflict or absolute supremacy and as a support for discrimination relies on Satan's ideology back at the beginning of creation. Satan refused to fulfill God's command and did not prostrate to Adam. "Why don't you prostrate?" God asked, and he replied, "You created me of fire, and Adam of clay." Thus, Satan compared the two physical essences. However, the point was not whether Adam was created from soil or whether Satan was created from fire but that God breathed into Adam from his soul and taught him the names of things and made him his caliph on earth, thereby glorifying him. But Satan shifted the context and emphasized material or physical qualities. This is the original source of racial or gender discrimination as well as other conflicts.

The Quran cites "piety" as the sole source of supremacy, and the alienation of Muslims from the essence of Islam -- i.e., "piety" -- is the source of all conflicts among Muslims.

ALy BULAEc (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Nov 25, 2014
Words:712
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