The Alevi are a religious, sub-ethnic and cultural
community in Turkey, numbering in the tens of millions. Alevi worship
takes place in assembly houses (cemevi) rather than mosques. The
ceremony, âyîn-i cem or simply cem, features music and dance (semah)
which symbolize the main planets around the Sun (by man and woman
turning in circles) and the putting off of one’s self and uniting with
God. In Alevism, men and women are regarded as equals, and pray side
by side. Unlike most other Muslim practices, Alevi rituals are
conducted mostly in Turkish.
Key Alevi characteristics include:
• Love and respect for all people (“The important thing is not
religion, but being a human being”)
• Tolerance towards other religions and ethnic groups (“If you hurt
another person, the ritual prayers you have done are counted as
• Respect for working people ("The greatest act of worship is to
Some consider Alevism a sect of specifically Twelver Shi‘a Islam,
since Alevis accept Twelver Shi‘i beliefs about Ali and the Twelve
Alevism is also closely related to the Bektashi Sufi lineage, in the
sense that both venerate Hajji Bektash Wali (Turkish: Hacibektaţ Veli),
a saint of the 13th century. Many Alevis refer to an "Alevi-Bektashi"
tradition, but this identity is not universally accepted, nor is the
combined name used by non-Turkish Bektashis (e.g., in the Balkans).
In addition to its religious aspect, Alevism is also closely
associated with Anatolian folk culture.
Modern Alevi theology has been profoundly influenced by humanism and
universalism. The 1990s brought a new emphasis on Alevism as a
cultural identity. Alevi communities today generally support
secularism after the Kemalist model.