Dönmeh (Turkish: Dönme) refers to a group of crypto-Jews in the Ottoman Empire who, to escape the inferior condition ofdhimmis, converted publicly to Islam, but were said to have retained their beliefs. The movement was historically centred inSalonica. The group originated during and soon after the era of Sabbatai Zevi, a 17th-century Jewish kabbalist who claimed to be the Messiah and eventually converted to Islam in order to escape punishment by the SultanMehmed IV. After Zevi'sconversion, a number of Jews followed him into Islam and became the Dönmeh. Since the 20th century, many Dönmeh have intermarried with other groups and most have assimilated into Turkish society.
The Turkish word dönme is from the verbal root dön- that means 'to turn', i.e., "to convert", but in a pejorative sense. They are also called Selânikli "person from Thessaloniki" or avdetî "religious convert" (Arabic: عودة ‘awdah 'return'). Members of the group refer to themselves simply as "the Believers" in Hebrew (Hebrew: המאמינים ha-Ma'aminim), or "sazanikos," Turkish for "carp" in honor of the changing outward nature of the fish. An alternate explanation of this self-nomenclature is the prophecy that Sabbatai Zevi would deliver the Jews under the sign of the fish.
Despite their conversion to Islam, the Sabbateans secretly remained close to Judaism and continued to practice Jewish rituals covertly. They recognized Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) as the Jewish Messiah, observed certain commandments with similarities to those in Judaism, and prayed in Hebrew and later in Ladino. They also observed rituals celebrating important events in Zevi's life and interpreted Zevi's conversion in a Kabbalistic way.
There are several branches of the Dönmeh group. The first is the İzmirli, formed in İzmir, Turkey(Smyrna). This was the original sect, from which two others eventually split. The first schism created the sect of the Jakubi, founded by Jacob Querido (ca. 1650–1690), the brother of Zevi's last wife. Querido claimed to be Zevi's reincarnation and a messiah in his own right. The second split from the İzmirli was the result of claims that Berechiah Russo, known in Turkish as Osman Baba, was truly the next reincarnation of Zevi's soul. These allegations gained following and gave rise to the Karakashi (Turkish), or Konioso (Ladino), branch, the most numerous and strictest branch of the Dönmeh. Missionaries from the Karakashi were active in Poland in the first part of the 18th century and taught Jacob Frank(1726–1791), the alleged heir of Russo's soul. Frank went on to create the Frankist sect, another non-Dönmeh Sabbatian group in Eastern Europe. Yet another group, the Lechli, of Polish descent, lived in exile in Salonika (modern Thessaloniki, Greece) and Constantinople.
The Dönmeh played an enormous role on the Young Turk movement, a group of modernistrevolutionaries who brought down the Ottoman Empire. At the time of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, some among the Salonika Dönmeh tried to be recognized as non-Muslims to avoid being forced to leave the city. After the foundation of the Turkish Republicin 1922-1923, the Dönmeh strongly supported the Republican, pro-Western reforms of Atatürk that tried to restrict the power of the religious establishment and to modernize society. In particular, the Dönmeh were instrumental in establishing trade, industry, and culture in the emerging Republic of Turkey, which is partially due to the prominence of Rumeli immigrants in general, and of Salonika in particular, in the early Republic years.
An interesting case is the one of Ilgaz Zorlu, a Dönmeh publisher who founded Zvi Publishers in 2000 and sought recognition as a Jew, but a Beth Din refused to recognize his Jewishness without a full conversion. He claimed to have converted in Israel and then filed a lawsuit for changing his religion from Islam to Judaism in his registry records and identification. The court voted in his favor.
Işık University, which is the part of the Feyziye Schools Foundation (Turkish: Feyziye Mektepleri Vakfı, FMV), and Terakkî schools were founded originally by the Dönmeh community in Thessaloniki in the last quarter of the 19th century and continued their activities in Istanbul after Greeks captured the city on 9 November 1912.
The Dönmeh ideology of the 17th century revolved primarily around the Eighteen Precepts, an abridged version of the Ten Commandments in which the admonition against adultery is explained as more of a precautionary measure than a ban, likely included to explain the antinomian sexual activities of theSabbateans. The additional commandments are concerned with defining the kinds of interactions that may occur between the Dönmeh and the Jewish and Muslim communities. The most basic of these laws of interaction was to avoid marriage with either Jews or Muslims and to prefer relations within the sect to those outside of it. In spite of this, they maintained ties with Sabbateans who had not converted and even with Jewish rabbis, who secretly settled disputes within the Dönmeh concerning Jewish law.
As far as ritual was concerned, the Dönmeh followed both Jewish and Muslim traditions, shifting between one and the other as necessary for integration into Ottoman society. Outwardly Muslims and secretly Jewish Sabbateans, the Dönmeh observed traditional Muslim holidays like Ramadan but also kept the Jewish Sabbath and major holidays. Much of Dönmeh ritual is a combination of various elements of Kabbalah, Sabbateanism, Jewish traditional law, and Sufism.
Dönmeh liturgy evolved as the sect grew and spread. At first, much of the Dönmeh literature was written in Hebrew. Later, as the group developed, Ladino replaced Hebrew as the prominent language and became not only the vernacular language, but also the liturgical language. Though the Dönmeh had branched into several sects, all of them held the view that Zevi was the divine messiah and that he had revealed the true "spiritual Torah" which was superior to the practical earthly Torah. The Dönmeh created and celebrated holidays pertaining to various points in Zevi's life and their own history of conversion. Based at least partially in the Kabbalistic understanding of divinity, the Dönmeh believed that there was a three-way connection of the emanations of the divine, which engendered much conflict with Muslim and Jewish communities alike. The most notable source of opposition from other contemporary religions was the common practice of exchanging wives between members of the Dönmeh.
The hierarchy of the Dönmeh was based in branch divisions. The Ismirli lay at the top of the hierarchy, composed of merchant classes and intelligentsia. Artisans tended to be mostly Karakashi while lower classes were mostly Jakubi. Each branch had its own prayer community, organized into a "Kahal," or congregation (Hebrew). An extensive internal economic network provided support for lower class Dönmeh in spite of ideological differences between branches.
In 1924, Mehmet Karakaşzade Rüştü, a Karakash Dönmeh,[clarification needed] revealed information (= made allegations?) about Dönmehs, branches and wife-swapping rituals to Vakit newspaper. He also accused Donmehs of lacking patriotism and not having been assimilated. Discussions spread into other newspapers including the ones owned by Dönmeh groups. Ahmet Emin Yalman, in the newspaper (Vatan) he owned, accepted the existence of such groups, but claimed that those groups were no longer following their traditions. Then Karakaşzade Rüştü petitioned TBMM, requesting the abolition of some Dönmehs' ongoing immigration from Macedonia by population exchange.
Jump up^ Baer, Marc. "Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, and the Dönme in Ottoman Salonica and Turkish Istanbul." Journal of World History. 18. no. 2 (2007): 141-170. doi: 10.1353/jwh.2007.0009 (accessed 6 March 2013).
This double standard of justice prejudiced against Muslims and always shielding the criminals will not bring peace to the nation. Modi must realize, that besides other consequences, one such incidence and BJP/RSS Hindutva is on the media skewers for weeks on end. There seems to be a method to this madness and it is institutionalized against Muslim citizens. All negotiations too are manifestly loaded against Muslims. As if they want peace and rehabilitation, they must forget about the carnage and not ask Government to punish the culprits who are widely known. Muslims are rightly refusing it. They will suffer but not give in this time to such highhandedness and blackmailing. Justice has to be instantly resorted by Haryana's BJP Government or they will definitely suffer political consequences in next elections all over.
Wednesday, 3 June 2015 - 6:45am IST | Agency: dna | From the print edition
The Ballabhgarh riots offer Prime Minister Narendra Modi an opportunity to walk the talk on ensuring safety for minorities and their places of worship
The communal violence that broke out in Ballabhgarh in Haryana over an under-construction mosque has happened at a time when the one-year-old NDA government is going all out to claim that there are no social tensions and that minorities are safe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has pitched in saying minorities will not be discriminated against. It is comforting to hear PM Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley address the concerns of communal polarisation. But mere words no longer suffice in view of the apathy that has characterised the Centre’s initial response to the polarising statements and incidents of the past one year. This apathy — once again — is evident in Ballabhgarh where the Haryana state government appears to have left it to the Faridabad district administration, the police, and a local BJP MLA to mediate on the issue. It is hardly surprising then that the local Muslims view this as a political statement by the Haryana BJP government. It has been reported that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar visited two towns not far from the site of violence, Hathin and Sohna, on May 27 and May 30, for official functions but did not find it necessary to visit and comfort the victims.
All it took was a mosque, allegedly coming up on a disputed stretch of land, and adjoining a temple, for the nondescript Atali village near the Ballabhgarh town, hardly 50 kilometres from the national capital, to catapult into the national spotlight. Nearly 200 Muslims, whose houses and shops were vandalised or burnt, have taken refuge at a police station and have expressed fears of returning to the mohalla. The Muslims have demanded that the vandals be arrested and they be compensated while sticking firmly to their demand that the mosque be constructed at the same location. In a gesture of compromise, the majority community has offered to construct the mosque outside the village while bearing all the costs, which the victims have rejected. The police appear to have moved quickly to stop the tension and the violence from spreading and claiming any lives but its hesitation to proceed further and make arrests can only point to any one of the three scenarios: the victims are persuaded to enter into a peaceful settlement with the rioters; the rioters are enjoying political patronage; or the police fear that making arrests would escalate the situation.
Each one of these scenarios involves subversion of justice and the rule of law. Allowing rioters to go unscathed could encourage others to follow suit and embolden fundamentalists to instigate more communal riots. Those vexed with the mosque coming up should have approached the courts. The Muslims have claimed that they resumed construction of the mosque only after a stay imposed in 2008 was lifted recently. This version has not been contested so far. While comparisons with the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition may appear far-fetched, one still finds in the Ballabhgarh incident the same attitude of intolerance towards minorities and disregard for law.
Consider that some months ago, an under-construction church was demolished at Hissar but no action was taken. The Ballabhgarh incident presents an opportunity for the Modi government to take visible actions on the ground that can arrest the waning confidence among those sceptical about its willingness to tackle communal polarisation. On Monday, Union minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi slammed “political secularists” for creating fear among the minorities. The likes of Naqvi must realise that land disputes, population pressures and competing economic interests are all feeding into the communal cesspit. Naqvi’s rant signifies that the BJP is yet to take serious cognisance of minority fears.