Mother Tongue Problem ın Arab Alawism and the Relationship Between Regilion and Mother Tongue

14 October 2016 Friday, 12:49

The Report of Workshop  4


Mother Tongue Problem ın Arab Alawism and the Relationship Between Regilion and Mother Tongue


Moderator: Prof. Dr. Muna YÜCEOL ÖZEZEN
(Çukurova University, Faculty od Science and Letter, Turkish Language and Literature)
Reporter: Sadık ÇİL
(Educator, Chairman of Association of the Arab Alawite People)

Within this workshop, our discussions have formed around two main concepts:
1. Learning our mother tongue Arabic as the conveyor and coder of our culture, hence our

2. Teaching Arabic as an assurance for our societal, hence political existence.
Regarding the first point, all participants agreed that we cannot talk about the existence
and continuation of our society, with its religious, cultural and other aspects, without our
mother tongue. Therefore, the mother tongue issue lies at the heart of all works regarding
Arab Alawites. Until recently, Arabic, which is the mother tongue of Turkey’s Arab Alawites,
was a language that was not being passed along coming generations and had lost most of its
societal function. While this is still the case for many segments, in the recent years there has
been a renewed desire to learn Arabic among the younger generation. However, we realize
that within this process neither the parents nor the older generations have the right mindset
or understand the importance of teaching Arabic.
Regarding the second point, the participants have shared the following linguistic fact: a
language that is solely used within the family has a short life span. In other words, a society,
which has a “grandma language” that is strictly oral, will not be able to survive. Therefore, this
oral language needs to be also written and become a part of the education system.


The decisions and solutions regarding both points are as follows:
The situation of the Middle East in the past five years, especially since the Syrian Conflict
and the political and societal conditions in Turkey, has increased the sensitivity and awareness
of Arab Alawites regarding language, culture and ethnic heritage. We need to take advantage
of the momentum provided by this sensitivity and awareness.

Arab Alawites of Turkey should not view Turkishness/Arabness and Turkish/Arabic as
opposites. This sort of comparisons will only disadvantage Arabness and Arabic. Arab Alawites
should not feel ashamed of their language and ethnic heritage but learn to be proud of these
and realize that being bilingual and bicultural is in fact an advantage. Parents as well as Qur’an
teachers should not adopt a strict attitude throughout the process of teaching Arabic, but
instead try to teach children to love their language and culture. In this sense, parents, Qur’an
teachers and all individuals within the education system should be trained. This falls onto the
shoulders of Arab Alawite institutes and other academic associations.

Mother tongue is the most important vehicle in the preservation of collective memory.
Therefore, while in general Arab Alawites do not demand Arabic to be an official language,
they do demand their mother tongue to be included in the formal education system. Conversational
Arabic can be learned within the family, however formal Arabic needs to be learned
on top of the local Arabic dialect. In this sense, Arab Alawite youth should be encouraged to
study in Arab Language and Literature departments and those who are already in the university
should be directed towards a dual native language system. Additionally, teachers who are
literate in reading/writing Arabic and are employed under the Ministry of Education should
obtain Arabic teaching certificates. As a more immediate action, all neighborhoods should
implement Arabic language courses, especially geared towards children and Arab Alawite activities
should be advertised in both Turkish and Arabic.

The process of political organization of Arab Alawites in Turkey needs to come full circle.
To realize this goal, all Arab Alawite associations need to come together under one roof. The
Research Institute for the Middle Eastern Arab Peoples should organize a meeting to bring
together all directors of Arab Alawite associations.

The religious course that is part of the general education curriculum has an assimilative
effect. Arab Alawite associations should first prepare the legal framework and then submit
and follow up the petitions from families indicating that they do not want their children to
take this class.

Arab Alawism is a complete structure that includes children names, village names, folk
music, cultural phrases, narratives, folk dance and local cuisine. To raise awareness and conduct
field research on these topics is the responsibility of not only individuals, but also associations
and local governmental agencies, while the latter should assume the duty of organizing
cultural and artistic events such as Arabic film festivals and plays.

The abovementioned problems should be shared with the whole community. In raising
awareness, the primary responsible organs are associations, councils, platforms, institutes and
local government agencies.

Participants of this workshop have suggested organizing an independent event where
the issue of teaching Arabic in Latin letters or Arabic letters should be discussed.