News / Embracing my tradition

Embracing my tradition

Interfaith Voices

F&BF Communications

09 / 05 / 18

When looking at Tradition and Change, Zeynep looks to her families religions and traditions. Her exposure to differing beliefs introduced her to many views on faith, but on her journey she decided to embrace her Atheist identity, as her father and mother did. Zeynep stills takes part in the Alevi traditions of her mother, which is grounded in music, as well as the celebrations of her family.

My name is Zeynep, I am half Kurdish, Quarter Turkish and Quarter English. Although I was born in London, both my parents are migrants and I am bilingual, having been brought up in a Turkish/Kurdish household. Neither myself, my mother or father are Religious, but my grandparents are. As my parents have been brought up within different cultures, I have been exposed to a variety of traditions. Even though I do not have faith, I still sometimes participate in these traditions on occasion.

My mother’s side of the family live in Sivas, a Kurdish village in Turkey. They believe in a ‘religion’ called Alevism, which is a type of Islam generally believed by Kurdish people in Turkey. However, it is more than just a religion, it is a way of life. For example, my mother calls herself an Alevi even though she is an atheist. Because she grew up in Sivas, she grew up within this culture and participated in its specific traditions. Music is very much a part of the Alevi culture. I have a lot of traditional singers in the family (Cigdem Aslan is my aunt), so I am exposed to it. However, it is difficult for me participate in singing as I do not understand, or speak Kurdish, only Turkish and English. I took lessons to learn the Saz and the Ood (both string instruments used in a lot of the traditional songs), which did bring me a lot closer to understanding some aspects of Alevism.

Being brought up in inner-city London has made it difficult for me to feel a sense of belonging to the traditions, culture and faith.  My father grew up in Turkey within a predominantly Islamic family, however, when he turned 17 he moved to London to live with his English mum. This transition made him question his faith, and he is now very much an atheist. I think that my views on religion and faith are similar to my fathers as we both were exposed to contrasting cultures and traditions. Even though I am not religious, I still celebrate Christmas with my dad’s side of the family in a very traditional manor. I also attend Alevi traditional events and go the Alevi community centre with my mum, to socialise with all of our relatives and the Sivas village neighbours, where traditional songs are often sung, and traditional instruments are played. I enjoy the traditions that have allow me to connect with my family and although these for me, are not routed in my belief, I am glad to be surrounded by music and love.

Zeynep has included a video of her aunt Cigdem to demonstrate the music that has been at the core of her traditions.

Click here to watch. 

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