College papers help


The impact of history on the religion and politics of turkey

Elizabeth Farnsworth reports from Turkey on the conflicting roles of secularism and Islam in Turkish politics. Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, stuns visitors with its beauty and history. It may be unique in having been the seat of both Christian and Muslim empires, and it is still the place where Islam and the West most dramatically meet.

Europe ends and Asia begins here in Istanbul, and the Bosphorus is the strait that divides them. The currents are treacherous, flowing one direction on the surface and the opposite underneath. Turks have ridden those currents for centuries, as they navigated the fault line between west and east.

Turkey's national hero, Kemal Ataturk, recognized the fault line and forced through a political reformation in the 1920s, which made Turkey western enough to seam a bridge between the two worlds.

After helping to get rid of the Ottoman Empire, whose Islamic rulers he considered backwards, Ataturk established a secular republic. He banned the use of religion in politics, forbade the wearing of traditional Fezes and scarves in government buildings, and substituted the Latin alphabet for Arabic.

The result was a country which, though more than 90 percent Muslim, has leaned strongly west. Cengiz Cendar is a columnist for Yeni Shafak newspaper. We are a part of everything. We are a Balkan country. We are a country of Caucasus. We are a country of the Middle East.

Other Subject Areas

But we are part of the European system, both institutionally, politically, geographically, historically, and also culturally. Parts of Turkey, especially Istanbul, look and feel like Paris or London, with sidewalk cafes and yachts on the Bosphorus worth more than the average Turk's home. But there's another Turkey, too, and it spans rich and poor. It's a world where Islam plays a huge role in everyday life, and though this world exists even in Europeanized Istanbul, it's especially strong in neighborhoods like this one in Ankara, where people live much as they did in the villages they've left behind.

Women cook over communal outdoor stoves and cover their heads when outside the home. A political party claiming to speak for this Turkey may win elections this Sunday with potentially important consequences for this part of the world. Former Istanbul Mayor Tayyip Erdogan heads that party. It's called the Justice and Development, or AK Party, and it grew out of two other parties steeped in Islam that were banned in recent years by secular authorities.

Crowd cheering At rallies like this one near Ankara, Erdogan has been careful to avoid religious subjects. He has been lauding the free market and the European Union, which Turkey wants to join. On this day, he also stressed populist themes.

What you're telling me with this welcome, with this interest, is that Turkey will go through a major change after the November elections.

  • Turks have ridden those currents for centuries, as they navigated the fault line between west and east;
  • Cengiz Cendar is a columnist for Yeni Shafak newspaper;
  • Certainly, this approach is justified by the vast differences between the religious landscapes, as Berger demonstrates in his introductory article to his Desecularization of the World 1999;
  • But with the foundation of the Republic and its different concept of the duties of the state in controlling and engineering society, the battle against communities outside of state control became of structural and permanent feature, solidified through law;
  • Whether based on Sufi or Alevi roots, political changes such as the building of new nation states and shifts in religious policy empower new elites but also require new raw material for identity building;
  • Columbia University Press, 2012.

Cheers and applause I know… I know we have problems, big problems. Unemployment is out of control. I know we have a rampant crisis in education.

I know citizens are dying while waiting in line for admission to hospital. In response, the crowd chanted, "Tayyip prime minister. Turkey's very secular election authorities have banned his candidacy because he was convicted for what a prosecutor said was "Islamist sedition" in the 1990s, for having publicly read a poem with these words: Polls show the AK Party is likely to win the most votes in this Sunday's election, and could end up with a majority in parliament.

Cengiz Candar, who is a staunch secularist himself, said the banning is an example of a secular zealotry in Turkey. It's good that Turkey is an Islamic country to be secular, but, for example, in the Congress sessions in the United States, they start either by reading verses from the Holy Koran, or Bible, or Old Testament. And even on the dollar it's written, "In God We Trust.

AK Party candidates going door to door in Istanbul said they are campaigning for more freedom of expression generally, and that this will open the way to more religious freedom and prevent the rise of a more radical Islamic movement. Nimet Cubukcu has been a human rights lawyer in Istanbul for many years.

  1. Hart 2009 , another part can be located outside of state-controlled institutions, being much more in flux and producing creative solutions to changing circumstances.
  2. Karpat 2001 analyzes the transformation of the Ottoman Empire over the 19th and 20th centuries under the effects of Islam. There is charisma, a convincing discourse and wondrous tales Neubauer 2009.
  3. The Articles 23The following papers on religiosity and spirituality in Turkey beyond state control differ in their approach and disciplinary background, but they are born out of scientific curiosity and openness to the religious and social reality of current Turkey.
  4. Karpat 2001 analyzes the transformation of the Ottoman Empire over the 19th and 20th centuries under the effects of Islam. It's good that Turkey is an Islamic country to be secular, but, for example, in the Congress sessions in the United States, they start either by reading verses from the Holy Koran, or Bible, or Old Testament.

The most frequent violations of human rights that I've witnessed in Turkey relate to thought and freedom of expression. People are punished simply for expressing their thoughts. Turkey, which is a candidate for the European Union, must improve its record in this respect. Laws restricting freedom of expression must be repealed. Ibrahim Ozal is one of the founders of the AK Party, and nephew of a former prime minister. He graduated from a college in Istanbul founded by American missionaries, but he is a devout Muslim who said he tries to pray five times a day as dictated by his religion.

Is there any tie between your religious affiliation and the AK Party? As a party, as an institution, we have no politics based on religion. We have nothing to do with that. As a person, though, I try to be a religious person. I try to observe my… the religious principles of Islam, but this is only for myself. It has nothing to do with our thinking of running the government.

But candidates for parliament from parties like the CHP, which was founded by the secularist Ataturk, say the AK Party may have a hidden agenda. Kemal Dervis is a former minister of economy. Well, I think there is a part of them, frankly, in my view, that do not really believe in secularism as a model for society. They have to say it. You know, legally they cannot not say it, but I am pretty sure that not all of them, but many of them do not have a secular Turkey as their model, as their dream; they do have a religious state as their dream.

Sedat Ergin, Ankara bureau chief for "Hurriyet" newspaper, agrees. He said a look at Erdogan's public record reveals his true intentions. He went public by saying that his only reference is Islam, and that if they assume responsibility in government, they would amend, change the laws in accord with Islamic principles. There are these accusations, and of course some people will believe this, but I believe that after we come to the… come to power as a government, and they see how we run the government, they will realize afterwards that it is as we tell them.

We also visited other poorer neighborhoods of Istanbul with AK candidates. In this one, the party could win up to 80 percent of the votes according to polls.

A big issue for women in this neighborhood is the ban on wearing religious garb in government offices and schools, including universities. Erdogan's wife covers her head, and his daughters attend school in America, where they're free to wear scarves to class. Women here said they were angry about the restrictions on what they can wear. Even we can't go some places because of our headscarves. The government doesn't like them.

  • Women here said they were angry about the restrictions on what they can wear;
  • It may be unique in having been the seat of both Christian and Muslim empires, and it is still the place where Islam and the West most dramatically meet.

Erdogan has said in the past he wants a loosening of the laws on religious clothing. The question is, if the AK Party does well in the elections, are there ways to override the ban on his candidacy so he can become prime minister and make good on his promises?

Will laws be changed so that you can be prime minister? This is not really a personal question, but rather one that concerns the nation. As long as bans of this type are in place, it's not Tayyip Erdogan who's being stopped, it's democracy that is being impeded and wounded. Erdogan and other AK candidates watch what they say because of fear of what the military might do. Since Ataturk, Turkey's generals have been the country's most ardent defenders of secularism. Retired Major General Armagan Kuloglu: The secularism is very important for Turkey, and Turks are, of course, very sensitive about the subject because if we lose secularism, we can go to the Middle Ages.

What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

And specifically, he said, without secularism, Turkey could be led by fundamentalists, like Iran. The military has actively intervened over the years when secularism seemed threatened— most recently in 1997, when tanks were sent into the streets of Sincan, near Ankara, to intimidate a mayor considered provocatively Islamist. Later that year, the military helped force out of office the prime minister who founded the Islamic party AK grew out of. Columnist Cengiz Candar said Turkey can't be a strong bridge between East and west, unless Islamic ideas can be more openly expressed.

We are Muslims, and being Muslims we can contribute to the civilization; therefore we cannot throw away Islam to satisfy secularism or those who want to see us role models for the Islamic world being staunchly secularist.

Religion and Politics in Turkey

This is an especially tense time for Turkey to be in the midst of controversial elections like these because of the looming issue of Iraq. Erdogan has avoided saying much about Iraq except that Turkey will help the United States if it becomes necessary.

The problem is, who will the United States deal with if there is a war soon? The elections will take place November 3.

  1. A weakening of one pillar or a ban in a certain country e. Turkey's very secular election authorities have banned his candidacy because he was convicted for what a prosecutor said was "Islamist sedition" in the 1990s, for having publicly read a poem with these words.
  2. Anna Neubauer has analyzed the different means and methods of attracting followers. We have nothing to do with that.
  3. Some titles are mentioned in this paper as well as in the following articles.
  4. New editions of this work have been published, the latest in 2001. The two participating Sheikhs wore street clothes.
  5. Both books are based on aspects of the biography of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and on the relation between him and his mystical friend Shams-e Tabrizi. The legality of some of the so-labelled communities or practices is a different question, in some cases not easily answered.

Then it could take a month or two till we have a new government. Only then, I think, the American administration could find a relevant interlocutor in Ankara. The elections also coincide with another big problem for Turkey.

  • Some titles are mentioned in this paper as well as in the following articles;
  • Furthermore, both papers examine communities in the making;
  • There is charisma, a convincing discourse and wondrous tales Neubauer 2009;
  • Will laws be changed so that you can be prime minister?
  • AK Party candidates going door to door in Istanbul said they are campaigning for more freedom of expression generally, and that this will open the way to more religious freedom and prevent the rise of a more radical Islamic movement.

As we were leaving Istanbul two weeks ago, people in the streets expressed their discontent over recent news that Turkey may not get a date soon for entry into the European Union, even though 12 other nations, including Bulgaria and Romania will. In meetings this month, EU officials praised recent reforms in Turkey like ending the death penalty, but insisted the country has still not fulfilled the criteria for entry, which include an end to torture and respect for minority rights.

Some people here said they fear the EU may never accept them. I'm convinced that the reason is that Turkey is an Islamic country. I remember recently when a European prime minister said insulting things about Islam and Turkey because Turkey is a Muslim country.

With a decision from the EU due in December, war with Iraq a possibility soon, and elections this weekend, the Turkey of Ataturk, who is buried in this mausoleum, is at a critical juncture in its attempts to balance secularism and religion, West and East. Learn more More Ways to Watch.