Daily News with wires
Seeking to update the governmentâ€™s terminology for the 21st century, Turkeyâ€™s chief negotiator for European Union affairs has announced a decision to use the term â€œdifferent belief groupsâ€ instead of â€œgayrimÃ¼slimâ€ (non-Muslim) in official EU correspondence.
Egemen BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ said the decision was taken after he received a letter from the vice patriarch of the Ancient Syriac Orthodox Church, Yusuf Ã‡etin, daily HÃ¼rriyet reported Sunday.
According to Ã‡etin, â€œMuslimâ€ means â€œbelieverâ€ in Aramaic, a northwest Semitic language used in ancient times as the everyday speech of Syria. As such, the term â€œgayrimÃ¼slim,â€ which has been the preferred term for non-Muslims in Turkey, implied â€œnonbelievers.â€
â€œWe were directed by the patriarch to make such a change,â€ BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ told daily HÃ¼rriyet, referring to his meeting with Ã‡etin in 2009.
He also said Ã‡etin explained to him how the Syriacs used the word â€œMuslimâ€ to refer to believers in their language and that â€œgayrimÃ¼slimâ€ thus mean entailed â€œinfidelâ€ in Aramaic.
â€œWe noticed that we were making a mistake after such a linguistic explanation,â€ said BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ.
The government has already begun implementing the decision to use the term â€œdifferent belief groupsâ€ instead of â€œnon-Muslim,â€ BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ said, adding that he shared the vice patriarchâ€™s remarks with other officials and they responded positively.
â€œWe have discontinued using the term â€˜gayrimÃ¼slimâ€™ in correspondence with the EU General Secretariat,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, the weekly Åžalom reported that BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ recently met with representatives of Ä°zmirâ€™s Jewish community.
According to the newspaper, BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ said during the meeting that he did not like the usage of the terms â€œminorityâ€ and â€œgayrimÃ¼slimâ€ and that there needed to be research to define which population has the oldest roots in the country.
By doing so, people would then better discuss who was a minority and who was a majority, he said