THE FALSE SUFI SEMA

“There is one important issue which I should raise here.  It is to do with the representations of the Whirling Ceremony which have been seen around the world since the 1950s.  These began after the Turkish government relaxed the legal ban on the Mevlevi and their ceremony.  The original relaxation only applied once a year to the special day of the Mevlevi on 17th December.  This is the anniversary of the passing of Rumi from this world, which in 1953, was allowed to be celebrated in Konya for the first time since 1925.  In the first few years of the relaxation those who gathered in Konya were the dervishes who previously had connections with the closed Tekkes or were their descendants.  They were the true Mevlevi.  They had all been continuing the ceremony in their private homes in defiance of the legal ban.  Resuhi Baykara was the Sheikh at that time.”  

“As time passed the Konya Tourist Association took an interest in the ceremony and eventually the press and other public media were involved.  There is a documented incident in 1967 when Resuhi forbade a photographer to violate the Sema space, which is reserved for the feet of dervishes during the ceremony.  After that Resuhi did not continue in Konya due to the ceremony becoming more of a tourist attraction.”

“The changes that occurred in the years to come in the Konya ceremony have gradually made the whole event into a touristic show.  The governments of Turkey and Konya have controlled the event and have even taken over the appointment of musicians and the whirlers, none of whom are now connected with the Mevlevi in any way.  Turks whom I have known in Konya have been allowed to take part in the event for up to three years.  After which the whole company are changed.  This is an attempt to prevent it becoming a dervish activity.”  

“The Turkish government have promoted it as a cultural event and it has been allowed to travel to many countries world-wide as a show.”  

“The truth of this event now is that it is far from being a Sufi ceremony any more than a Russian ballet performance is.  Even so it does give rise to a certain sense of awe in westerners, who do not really know what it is they are watching.”

(Dr. Prosser, The Music of Rumi - preview)
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