Tattoos. In my hometown, Los Angeles, tattoos are the favorite accessory. Once thought to be something reserved for the rebellious, the criminal, or the addict, tattoos have become as common in Los Angeles as the “wife-beater” tank top. Although each piece and the reasoning for getting said tattoo remain unique to the owner, tattoos are no longer the taboo thing to do.
Since I have been here in Istanbul, I have received “special attention” due to my own myriad of tattoos. However “special attention” in this case is not necessarily a positive thing. Dirty looks are the most common of reactions that I receive when someone sees my ink. I have also received looks of curiosity and the occasional jaw-drop. My favorite reactions are those of the children who either stare at me wide-eyed or who are sheepishly intrigued by my “unusual” appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I expected these reactions before I arrived in Istanbul. I have traveled the world enough to know that I can be a bit of an oddity. And I am not complaining by any means… I just find it interesting.
Coming from a culture where body modification has become all the rage, I am struck by how differently it is viewed here and curious as to what inspires such disapproval.
Istanbul, although secular, is a predominantly Muslim city. According to the Islamic faith, tattoos and other body modifications are considered to be Haraam, or forbidden. From what I understand (which isn’t much), because they involve changing the creation of Allah Taa’la, tattoos are something that is not permitted within the Islamic faith. Upon researching the subject, I discovered that the prophet Muhammad cursed those who did tattoos and those who got them. This might explain why I have seen so few tattoos here in Istanbul.
One of my classmates here in Istanbul mentioned to me that she had asked her Kurdish friend about the views on tattoos here in Istanbul. She amusedly reported to me that he had said that people with tattoos are believed to be Satanists. So apparently I am a Satanist… We all had a good laugh about that. But it left me wondering, am I really thought to be a Satanist? Well, according to The Holy Qur’an, such alterations are considered to be inspired by Satan (shaytaan) who commands his devotees to change what Allah has created. Since I am far from an expert on Islam, in fact I claim to know nothing at all about the faith, I cannot be sure if this is an accurate account of the belief. However, it does make me wonder are tattoos really considered to be so bad as to be inspired by Satan? If so, no wonder I get the looks that I do!
So I then wonder: what about the people here in Turkey that do have tattoos? I know I have seen a few during my time here. Are they ex-pats? Are they not Muslims? Are they simply young and rebellious? What are the consequences, if any, that those who have tattoos face? Are they considered to be social deviants? Do they become outcasts? Are there repercussions within their families? Or do they simply receive the same looks that I get? I do not have the answers to these questions, but I hope to get them answered before the end of my time here.
Whatever the outlook here is, in regards to tattoos, I will continue to wear my ink with pride 🙂
Peace and Love