20 Dicembre 2010

Another Enemy: The Dönmes or Crypto-Jews



Rifat Balì

An ‘enemy’ frequently encountered in the anti-Semitic rhetoric that occupies a
significant place in the intellectual world of Turkey’s right is the crypto-Jewish community
known as the Dönmes.2 The main reason that they are seen as ‘enemies’ is the opinion,
widespread among the Turkish public, that converts to Islam never truly accept the religion of
Islam and continue to practice their Christianity or Judaism in secret. This is reflected in the
popular saying ‘Dönmes (religious converts) never change.’ (‘Dönmeler aslinda dönmez’).3
But although this view is held towards converts in general, when the term dönme is used in
rightist parlance, it appears, with few exeptions, not in reference to Greek, Armenian or even
Jewish converts to Islam, but more specifically to the followers of the 17th century Jewish
messianic claimant Sabbatai Sevi and their descendants. Following Sevi’s lead, many of his
adherents outwardly converted to Islam, while continuing to observe the heterodox Judaic
practices instituted by their leader.