A grocer in central Kayseri province, Turkey, is receiving national attention for changing the name of the Turkish priest plum to “Imam plum,” at the behest of customers who were “uncomfortable” with the non-Islamic name.
Caner Topuz tells Turkish media that he has been selling these plums with the moniker “Imam plum” for two years and changed the name after customers began “demanding” that they do something about the use of the term “priest” for their fruit. “According to the demand coming from our customers and because we were uncomfortable with it, we changed the name [of the plum species],” he explained, noting that it costs five Turkish Lira a kilogram, or about $0.84 a pound.
Topuz justified the name change by arguing that “legend has it” the plum was never called a priest, or papaz, plum, but actually the tapaz plum, and the similar name confused people. He confirmed to CNN Turk that he has received “positive responses” from customers who are more comfortable buying the more halal-sounding food from him now.
The Turkish priest plum is more often referred to as the “green plum” (yeşil eriği), however. Topuz was not asked why he did not simply refer to the plum as “green,” rather than keep its name religion-themed.
The green plum is common in Turkish and Middle Eastern food, and is sour throughout its ripening. It is harvested in the spring and used for tart condiments and as a sour accompaniment to many foods.
The name change recalls several similar instances in the West, though none religion-based. In the United States, Americans renamed French fries “freedom fries” for some months in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in protest of the French government’s refusal to support the United States’ efforts in the War on Terror. In Germany, a group of Roma protesters called for Germans to rename the popular condiment Zigeunersauce, or “Gypsy sauce,” calling it especially discriminatory as it had no connections to actual Roma cuisine.
The “Imam plum” arrives at a time in Turkish political history that has been significantly more receptive to Islamist attitudes, however. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the Islamist AK Party– who has seen his popularity decline significantly in the past six months– made international headlines with claims that Muslims had discovered the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and has insisted in a more robust role for religion in Turkey. “The Caliph is coming, get ready,” said the head of the AKP of Erdogan in March. As of this week, however, the AKP kept its majority in the Turkish parliament by only a sliver of support, and has seen its appeal dwindle with the rise of Kurdish and secularist parties.