Prayer and Politics, but No Orgy

Worshiping with the Alevi, a long misunderstood minority Muslim group that may be a crucial voice against Turkey's Sunni leadership

Tarik Tinazay / AFP / Getty

A young Alevi couple stands near the tomb of Haci Bektas Veli in Hacibektash, Turkey. Veli is one of the principal figures of Alevism.

The lights never went out, and the rumored orgy failed to materialize. Still, from the point of view Turkey's Sunni Muslim authorities, a hundred other heresies were committed on a recent evening at the Alevi Muslim prayer service in Istanbul's working-class Okmeydani neighborhood. Most noticeable were the girls without headscarves, flirting with boys in the open entrance hall. Then there was the laxity: With no call to prayer ringing from loudspeakers, worshipers straggled in late, while one of the religious leaders joked about having to compete with TV sitcoms. When the service did start, it was far from the austere, silent...

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