Chinese Muslims in Turkey: The Story of Ramazan Kubilay

Continuing the last post about Chinese Muslims in Turkey, here is another excerpt from the same book. This time it is about Kazakh Muslims living in China who migrated to Turkey.

Ramazan Kubilay — Kazakh

Ramazan Kubilay is the son of the great Tursunbay, a Kazakh who helped lead his people out of China, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and Turkey, about the same time as the Uyghur Ibrahim. Though they come from the same part of Inner Asia (northwest China), the second and third generations of the Kubilay family claim not to have lost their Kazakh language or culture. They continue to reserve one part of their homes to sit on the floor and eat ‘Kazakh’ style and drink milk tea. To find appropriate spouses for their children, they have searched all over Europe among other Kazakh emigre families. Ramazan Kubilay is one of many extremely successful leather-factory owners, with boutiques throughout Europe, that assist him in maintaining these extended networks of Kazakhs in exile, who are now becoming active in advising the leaders of the new state of Kazakhstan.

When I asked why they attempted so hard to preserve what they thought to be a traditional Kazakh identity, they told me: ‘We are descended from the great Kazakh nomad leader Genghis Khan (he was Kazakh, you know, not Mongol); we know our entire genealogy, and it is the first thing every Kazakh remembers about themselves, besides being Muslim. Whenever we meet another person who looks Kazakh on the street, we don’t ask them if they are Kazakh, but what Kazakh lineage, which jüz they are from. Then we can see just how closely we are related’.

They are being given more opportunity to do so. The Turkish government gave 10,000 scholarships to invite Central Asians from the Central Asian states to study in Turkey while I was there in 1992-93, and 10,000 more the following year. Many were not prepared for the difficult adjustment that they would have living in Turkey. Not only do they complain about the cramped dormitories and less money than they expected to receive but also how difficult Turkish is to learn, how horrible the food is (no rice pilaf), and how different the culture is from home. They did not take to Turkish society as quickly as the politicians in Ankara expected. And many Central Asians are returning from turkey disappointed by what they found there, complaining of its secularism, hedonism, and inferior education, which many of them found far beneath their Russian training. At the same time, Turks in Turkey discovered how different they were from their ‘ancestors’ and ‘distant cousins’, leading to increasingly public doubts about Atatürk’s dogma regarding the Central Asian origins of the Turks.

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One response to “Chinese Muslims in Turkey: The Story of Ramazan Kubilay

  1. Pingback: Chinese Muslims in Turkey: The Story of Ramazan Kubilay · Scholarships·

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