IPSA: Islam and Politics in Turkey


Update: This panel has been merged with another panel because of recent withdrawals of paper presenters. The new title of the merged panel is “Turkey: Politics, State, and Governance” and the details are available here. Aside from original panelists such as Dr. Tok and Mr. Dalay, I added Mr. Faraz Alidina paper on “Islamism, Secularism and Political Bargaining in Turkey: Revisiting Moderation Theory.” The other new presenters coming from another panel were from Dr. Oguzhan Goktolga’s “A Local Governance Experience in Turkey: From “Local Agenda 21″s to City Councils,” Ms. Nilay Baycar’s “Turkish Democracy under the Justice and Development Party (the JDP), 2002-2014,” and “Between Recognition and Autonomy: Turkey’s International Development Assistance” co-authored by Dr. Serif Onur Bahcecik and Dr. Işıl Anıl.


Co-IRIS will be presenting a panel entitled “Islam and Politics in Turkey” for the 23rd World Congress of Political Science on July 19-24, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. <Link>

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This panel aims to provide a detailed analysis of the state of Islam and Politics in Turkey, discuss major figures and political elites, and focus on the post-independence era. It will include discussions and analyses of the following topics:
1. Islam and identity (formative role)
2. Islam and the forces/challenges of modernity
3. Islam and the nation-state
4. Attempts at Islamic reform or renewal
5. The interaction between the state and religion
6. The various manifestations of Islam and politics
7. The role/use of Islam in the democratization process
8. The future of Islam in Turkey

AK Party: A Conservative or In Pursuit of a New Religiosity? by Prof. Dr. Istar Gozaydin

This paper scrutinizes legal regulations in Turkey concerning any intervention on the body including euthanasia, cell research etc., but especially focusing on abortion, c- section and artificial insemination. Controversies and public debates related to these issues among different “life-styled” actors will be presented in a historical context. Thus it is targeted to map a change in role of religion in Turkey in time.

De-Securitizing the Gezi Protest: the Case of “Anti-Capitalist Muslims” by Dr. Gül Ceylan Tok

De-securitization is proposed by the Copenhagen School as the reverse process whereby an issue shifts out of the emergency mode and back into the normal bargaining processes of the political sphere (Buzan et al.1998). This paper analyzes the role of the “Anti-Capitalist Muslims”, a group of pious activists opposing the neo-liberal policies of the AK Parti government of Turkey, on the de-securitization of the Gezi Park protests. A small protest organized at the end of May 2013 against the destruction of the Gezi Park, a public park, has quickly spread all around Turkey and turned into mass demonstration against the AK Parti government. Four people died and hundreds were injured as a result of the police brutality against the protesters.

People attended the protests for different reasons. They resisted ‘the extreme urban development of the past ten years’, ‘restrictions on the freedom of speech and media’ and ‘moralizing intrusions into the citizen’s way of life’ (Gole 2013). A major reason that united such a diverse crowd was Prime Minister Erdogan’s authoritarian discourse demeaning opposing voices as marginal groups. Prime Minister tried to securitize the Gezi protests by presenting the protesters as security threat to the Muslims particularly headscarf women and framing the protests as a secularist and militarist backlash against the elected government. This paper examines how the “Anti-Capitalist Muslims” have challenged this discourse and the polarization between Islamists and secularists promoted by the Prime Minister.

Turkey’s Political Islam and the West by Mr. Galip Dalay

From the Welfare Party (WP) to the Justice and Development Party (JDP), foreign policies of Islamic parties have attracted disproportionate scrutiny. One of the focal points has been their approach to the West and Western-oriented institutions. This article, based on Jack S. Levy’s concept of learning in foreign policy, is divided into periods to better show the evolution of foreign policy perspectives: the Welfare Party period, the Virtue Party in transition, and the first (2002 – 2006), second (2006 – 2010/11), and third (2011 – ) periods of JDP rule. I argue that from WP rule until the JDP’s first period in power, these parties’ approach to the West has been largely motivated by domestic considerations for different reasons.

The WP defined the West as its Islamist identity’s “other” and sought to create an alternative framework; the JDP regarded the West as an instrument to gain legitimacy, both domestically and internationally. Yet, in its second term, the JDP attempted to balance its Western focused foreign policy with alternative complementary frameworks to achieve a more prominent international role. However, the JDP’s third term has been shaped by the Arab Spring and characterised by uncertainty about Turkey’s relations with the west. Hence, JDP rule has seen the emergence of a newly outward-facing political Islam in Turkey.

Turkishness in Between Nation and Ummah by Ms. Didem Doganyilmaz

In late 1910s, before the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, a tool should be found in order to mobilize people against the hostile forces, and it was nothing but the religion. The reason why it was religion hides behind the social conditions of the Ottoman Empire, in which the people were just the subjects of the Sultan and were not aware of any other identity, but the religious one. As a result of the Ottoman Millet System, the population were divided with respect to their religion and consequently, during the Turkish Independence War, Muslims, in other words Ummah, unified to protect both themselves and the religion against non­Muslim hostile forces.

After the victory of the war, the nation building process was started by M.K. Atatürk and his colleagues, and the newborn republic had its first constitution in 1924, in which it was written “The religion of the state is Islam…” in its second article. So, would being a “Turk” be equal to being a Muslim? What were the prerequisites of Turkishness, of being a citizen of the Republic of Turkey? Religion? With laicization and westernization process, religious references were swept away from political structure with intention to create a nation regardless of any religious components; however, within time, Islamic identity started to be pointed out with its superiority and association with real Turkishness.

What is the real Turkishness? Is it the new nation identity based on western perspective started to be built with the proclamation of the Republic; or, is it the traditional one based on Ottoman Islamic heritage? Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, these two identities have been in a struggle with accusing the other of undermining the real Turkishness. While, supporters of new identity have claimed that distinguishments of Islam was a threat of reactionary, supporters of traditional identity have claimed that laicism was against their cultural values and religion itself.

This paper will analyze the struggle of two different perceptions of Turkishness within a historical context of political discourses. In which period of the Republic, have Turkish politics trended to tie up to which identity? With consideration of last decade’s discourses and events, such as Gezi Park Protests, today, what does Turkishness stand for?

Key words: Turkishness, Turkish nation, ummah, Ottoman Islamic heritage, Republic of Turkey, laicism, identity struggle.

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