Cemevi

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A Cem Evi / Cemevi (pronounced and sometimes written as Djemevi) means literally a house of gathering in Turkish or more precisely house of [the religious ritual called] cem and is a place of fundamental importance for Turkey's Alevi-Bektashiyyah tariqa populations and traditions. According to Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey, it is not a place of worship (due to the fact that Laïcité in Turkey cannot allow by laws any one of those like Imambargah, Khalwatkhana, Mejlis, Musallah or Tekkes except Sunni and Ja'fari-Shi’ite mosques as Muslim worship places) in the strict sense of the term despite Alevi organizations such as Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli Anadolu Kültür Vakfı demands cemevi as places for worshiping to be officially recognized.[1]

A place of gathering for Bektash’īyyah tariqa[edit]

Interior of the historical Şahkulu Sultan Dergahi Cemevi in Kadıköy, Istanbul.

The accent is laid on its aspect as lieu of assembly (Cem; pronounced djam, from Arabic الجمع, al-jamʕ). Historically, the djams were usually held outdoors, using candles and torches to light up the place of gathering when it got dark. Often, people from nearby places would come to a cem to have a collective meal. The participants would often bring along food, which they would then distribute during the meal. Nowadays, some of these customs are still preserved. Men and women conduct cem activities and rites together.

The structuring of cemevi as into their present characteristics and rites owes much to the Bektashi tradition within various historical currents of Turkey's Alevi culture. Urbanization of many Alevis also brought changes in the conception of cem. In larger towns in Turkey today, cemevi are multifunctional buildings where a broad range of cultural activities take place. In Turkey, it is always problematic for a cemevi to get off the ground, due to strict state interference in religious matters, and cases of discrimination against the Alevis, which results in the founding of each cemevi acquiring political dimensions and necessitating case-by-case lobbyism.

Most Alevis consider themselves to be (at least nominal) Muslims, a view shared by the Turkish state. There is some disagreement as to whether Alevism should be considered a religious tradition at all—secular Alevis may describe it as a subethnic solidarity and/or cultural tradition. For those who recognize it as religious, most consider it a form of Islam (often, a branch of Shi'a), while a few claim it to represent an independent, non-Islamic religion (a radical position held by relatively few adherents). Relations with Turkey's Sunni majority are difficult, though some dialogue has occurred. Besides historical or theological grievances, the issues often center around outbreaks of anti-Alevi violence, complaints of systematic discrimination, and official non-recognition of Alevi identity. The latter has resulted in attempts to assimilate Alevis into a Sunni-dominated Islam, e.g. through the construction of state-funded mosques, or compulsory religious education which excludes or marginalizes Alevi practices and teachings.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ indicated that a total of 329 cemevis have been established since their political party came to power on Nov. 3, 2002.[2]

Cemevi in İstanbul[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]