Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in an Istanbul mosque for the Friday prayer today. While leaving the mosque, an Arab tourist appeared and greeted Erdogan with the Arabic words: "As-salamu alaykum."
Erdogan warmly welcomed the tourist, but his reply was not the traditional (and Islamic) "Wa alayka s-salam." Instead, he spoke in English, saying "I love you" while shaking hands.
I like the apparently uncalculated, sincere reaction of Erdogan, although his response was unconventional. Such a "wrong" reply to that greeting can actually upset you, if you're not the Prime Minister.
Let's read a story from today's Hürriyet:
"Gülben Ergen, a singer who presents a program on public broadcaster TRT, has found herself in the middle of an interesting debate. A viewer called the program and greeted her by saying 'As-Salamu Alaykum.' The famous singer replied 'Merhaba' (Hi), which angered a Twitter user. 'We are all Muslims. I wish everyone could reply according to Allah's way," the unnamed man tweeted. This message annoyed Ergen, who reacted with the following tweets: 'Should I learn how to greet from you? I don't judge you, I just greet you with 'Merhaba.' Why is this reaction?'"
Meanwhile, I'm observing a dangerous trend here. The conservative segment of the society seems getting more and more defiant each day in imposing its values. Such peer pressure is an unprecedented phenomenon in Turkish society.
After all, Erdogan is a prime minister and Ergen is a popstar, so they could challenge traditions and customs in their own ways. But what about silent masses who will be forced, shaped and directed towards a certain "conservative" way against their wills? What about the future of Turkey as a country with a democratic and pluralist society?