Turkey’s Directorate General of Religious Affairs head offers replacing funeral march with classical Ottoman hymn
Turkey’s Directorate General of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez has offered replacing the funeral march with Quran verses or an Ottoman hymn during the funerals of the fallen soldiers, as he cited letters from the families of the victims.
Görmez suggested using “Tekbir” by Buhurizade Mustafa Efendi, the 17th century Ottoman composer known as Itri, instead of Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s “Marche Funebre.”
“When I think about the issue as a scientist, as a citizen and as the Diyanet, the entrance of a composition called Funeral March by a Polish musician in between a mosque, martyr and Quran is not accurate,” said Görmez, while stressing that a number of families have stated the wish to change the march in applications and letters.
“I don’t know how much of an obligation this constitutes, but I think that the officials should elaborate on this. We have our own values and culture. Itri’s ‘Tekbir’ is a magnificent composition. Funerals have morals in Islamic customs,” Görmez added.
Görmez’s remarks came after a soldier’s funeral in which the friends of the soldiers silenced the band playing the funeral march with loud shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in the southeastern province of Hakkari’s Yüksekova district. After the incident, the head of Turkey’s War Veterans Foundation Lokman Aylar announced that they started a campaign to use Itri’s “Tekbir” in the funerals instead.
“A foreigner’s death march doesn’t suit our martyrs,” Aylar said on April 12.
Commenting on Görmez’s remarks on changing the march, world-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say’s father and composer-music critic Ahmet Say stressed that Chopin’s march has won prevalence internationally and using Itri’s “Tekbir” means breaking away from the international understanding.
“Chopin’s funeral march reflects a state of mourning. It’s a music that awakens a sense of mourning. It’s not like a march. The funeral march is universal, we shouldn’t detach ourselves from it by saying Tekbir,” Say told daily Hürriyet.
Agreeing with Say’s comments, Presidential Symphony Orchestra General Music Director and Maestro Rengim Gökmen, said Chopin’s funeral march is accepted universally.
“Itri and Chopin are significant composers, who contributed to music history. Beethoven and other composers also have pieces that meet mourning and death, but none of them were accepted as such. Chopin’s piece was written for piano actually. It is played in the funerals because it is accepted universally,” Gökmen said, while adding that it is “inaccurate” for him to evaluate the religious aspect of the issue.