State, Law, Civil Society and Islam in Contemporary Turkey

by Ihsan Yilmaz on . Posted in Islam in Contemporary Turkey: The Contributions of F. Gülen

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Some scholars have asserted that the different perceptions of Islam throughout the world in various local contexts have led to different 'Islams' since "considerable disagreements are apparent over what the fundamentals of Islam are and how they should be interpreted".[1] As one writer strongly emphasizes, "there are as many Islams as there are situations that sustain it".[2] In the same vein, this paper argues that there are different Islams in Turkey from a sociological perspective and puts the spotlight on these different types of co-existing unofficial and official Islams in Turkey.

This paper looks briefly at the secularization of  Turkey and argues that despite the rhetoric, there has always been an official version of Islam in Turkey that this study calls Lausannian Islam. Even though the Turkish state has always desired to have only the state version of Turkish Islam, unofficial Islam has persisted. This paper will focus on two versions of the unofficial Islam: political Islam of the Milli Görüş movement and Anatolian Islam of the faith-based Fethullah Gülen movement.

Turkey is one of the very first Muslim countries that encountered the modern west and its civilization and that attempted to respond to the challenges posed by the Western power and civilization. The questions surrounding these challenges, how to respond to them, preventing the collapse of the Empire, modernization and, transplantation of western institutions have always been on the agenda of the Turkish intellectuals. Thus, first discourses regarding modernity and the West were formulated in Turkey in the Muslim world. Until recently, practicing Muslim Turks' discourses on these issues have not been very positive. There has always been a reluctance to enter into a dialogue with modernity and the West and co-operate with them. Moreover, political Islam and instrumentalist use of religion influenced by the Middle Eastern experiences had existed in the socio-political sphere of the country.

Rigid approaches, rhetorics and discourses have been recently replaced by more analytical, flexible and tolerant ones. Fethullah Gülen and his faith-based movement are pioneering examples in this regard. This civil movement's discourse and practice of Anatolian Islam have also had transformative influences on society in general, and state Islam and political Islam in particular with regards to views on religion & politics relations, modernity, the West and inter-civilizational & inter-cultural dialogue.

State Islam: Lausannian Islam (Lozan Islami)

From a sociological point of view, we can speak of Turkish state(s) in the plural as we do vis-à-vis Islam(s) in Turkey. From the perspective of secularism, the attitude of the state towards the religion, it is obvious that there has not been a monolithic, uniform or linear pattern. This may be due to the fact that, different interest, power groups, elite, segments within the state have their different agendas, visions and ideas with regards to role of Islam within society if not within politics. From time to time, emphasis of the state on this role of Islam changes in accordance with conjecture, socio-politics and geo-politics.

The official state religion of Islam and the folk Islam of the Anatolian tribes people and villagers differed considerably even in the Ottoman State. Popular religious practices had become institutionalized in the form of Sufi orders. As the many parts of the country were settled, the leaders of these orders linked ordinary people to the rulers. Islam was the mediating link between local-level society and the political structure. Local people shared religion with the elite and 'religion provided the cultural fund that shaped political legitimacy. Thus, a universe of discourse was established through Islam, but affiliation and, of course, Islamic practices differed for the ruling elite and for the masses'.[3]

Secularist reforms of the Republican times can be traced back to the Ottoman period. The area of public life falling under Islamic religious jurisdiction was gradually reduced, thus causing a de facto secularization of the principal institutions of the state. The need for reform in the Ottoman State was first recognized in the 17th century when the state began to lose its strength. Reforms of that century were generally indigenous attempts, which mainly centered on strengthening the authority of the central government. However, after the 18th century the reform efforts took on a different tone as the Ottoman state opened its doors to the West.

Ottoman intellectuals and statesmen came to look at Westernization as a precondition of reform in the country. Therefore, a major shift in the understanding of reform came into existence. Indigenous solutions were not taken into account any more. During the 19th century, the basic concern of Ottoman reformers was to westernize the Ottoman military, educational, legal, and political institutions. To do this, they had to overcome Islam's all-encompassing and omnipotent power in the country that stems from the fact that Islam had penetrated into all substructures of the country's socio-political system. The dilemma of the reformers was apparent. On the one hand, an increasing number of them came to believe that the state's salvation rested in the acceptance of Western technology and Western institutional forms. Yet, no one could come up with a formula as to how Western technology and institutions would be adapted to an Islamic society without accepting Western civilization itself. This led to the construction of dual institutions. Rather than destroying traditional institutions, the 19th century reforms constructed new ones that were to co-exist alongside the traditional ones.

It was after the Ottoman state's collapse and the subsequent founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 that this duality was finally resolved in favor of totally accepting Western civilization. The Republican elite's passion for modernization, seen as an escape from backwardness, translated itself into a total dislike and distrust of all things associated with the ancient regime and the old way of life. Topping the long list of suspect establishments were religion and the religious institutions. The culture associated with religion and religiosity, such as dress code, was also deemed antithetical to contemporary civilization.

Founders of the Republic believed that there was not enough time to wait for the slow process of evolution. Secularism was implemented through a series of decisive steps taken to disestablish Islam from a role in law and education, and as the official religion of the state. Today, the preamble of the Constitution reads that:

The recognition that no protection shall be afforded to thoughts or opinions contrary to Turkish national interests, the principle of the indivisibility of the existence of Turkey with its State and territory, Turkish historical and moral values or the nationalism, principles, reforms and modernism of Atatürk and that, as required by the principle of secularism, there shall be no interference whatsoever of the sacred religious feelings in State affairs and politics. 

Although the Turkish State defined its attitude toward religion as 'laicism', an intellectual inheritance from the French Third Republic; there are certainly some elements that make the Turkish application unique. One of the most conspicuous of these elements is that the legal positivist Turkish state has assumed a role of a 'secular mujtahid' and has been interpreting Islam in the lines of its ideological vision. I term the outcome of these secular official ijtihads 'Lozan Islami (Lausannian Islam)' which has been the state Islam or official version of Islam of Turkey.

The Republican elite have:

claimed that true expression of religion could be found through the use of Turkish prayer, a language that all could understand, through translating the Koran into Turkish, rather than Arabic. They also drew historical parallels, asserting that their revolution mirrors the Protestant battles against Papism in its dislike of intermediaries and direct access to the faith for all. Thus, it was cleansed religion, without mysticism, without saints, and without independent religious institutions that was aimed at. It was also one closely controlled.[4]

To subordinate religion to the political establishment, the state has tried long to create its own version of Islam. In the state version of Islam, there is already no conflict between the religion and Turkish modernity that covers modern nation-state, secularism, democracy and no public role for religion. The reason d'etre of the Directorate of Religious Affairs has been to create a tailor-made national modern Turkish-Islam, definitely suppressing the transnational links and role, cut off from all international and transnational ties, specific and limited to the nation-state's official borders that were drawn with the Lausanne Treaty of 1924 between Turkey and the European powers. Article 27 of the Lausanne Treaty reads as:

No power or jurisdiction in political, legislative or administrative matters shall be exercised outside Turkish territory by the Turkish Government or authorities, for any reason whatsoever, over the nationals of a territory placed under the sovereignty or protectorate of the other Powers signatory of the present Treaty, or over the nationals of a territory detached from Turkey.

Although, it has been claimed that the state in Turkey has tried to make religion a private belief not affecting the public sphere with its adamant secularization ideology, this is not entirely true. The state has tried to make use of religion as a 'helping hand'.[5] This idea of religion has formulated religion in terms of its responsibility for the moral health of the nation.[6] Theoretical foundations of this mentality could be traced back to Durkheim who influenced Atatürk's 'intellectual mentor' Ziya Gökalp, translator of Durkheim's works into Turkish.

Durkheim's main thesis was that religion plays a significant role in uniting a society together. In his view, any coherent society must be at base a religious collectivity. He conceived integral nature of religion as the ceremonial and expressive glue that binds any social organization together. Religion as society's worship of itself was Durkheim's essential insight. He pointed out that the collective act of worship integrates social institutions. It does this in a special way with 'collective effervescence', which is a dynamic social force produced when people get together. It is the life of the group over and above the lives of the individuals who make up the group.

Gökalp had systematically advocated domination of Turkish culture with forms of western civilization rather than importing institutions as they had developed in the west. His sociological orientation, taking a nation as a political and cultural unity, helped him his advocacy of Turkism. Atatürk's movement and Gökalp's ideas had a close interaction in that Kemalism was affected by Ziya Gökalp in the formulation of nationalism as a principle, and Gökalp was affected by Kemalism which rejected any ambition beyond the borders of the new Turkey.[7]

So, in this Durkhemian mentality, an approved version of Islam, 'Lausannian-Islam' (Lozan Islami), could and should play a public role within the borders of the Turkish Republic. Thus, the main task of the Directorate has been to control and to shape Islam in accordance with the needs of the secular nation-state to the effect of creating a secular, modern, national, official 'Lausannian-Islam'.

The application of laicism in Turkey has taken on a slightly different form, in that religious affairs in Turkey has been placed under the auspices of the state and justification for doing so has been explained in reference to Turkey's 'special and unique' circumstances.[8] To those aware that laicism as a concept espouses the idea that religion and state are kept distinct and separate, then this Turkish version of laicism would appear to be self-contradictory. The Kemalist élite however, thought that if religion and state are non-separable components in Islam, then the best way maintaining keeping Islam out of the public and political life would be to place it under the control and supervision of the state. Thus, the Article 24/4 of the constitution reads as:

Education and instruction in religion and ethics shall be conducted under State supervision and control. Instruction in religious culture and moral education shall be compulsory in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Other religious education and instruction shall be subject to the individual's own desire, and in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.

As a result, religious institutions were linked to state bureaucracy. Then, the state started to interfere in religious affairs during the Republican era. One of the instruments of this interference and control has been the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Rona Aybay explains away why there was a need for the establishment of this state apparatus:

the fact that the Office of Religious Affairs, which deals only with Islam, is made a constructional organ raises some doubts about this neutrality. It should be mentioned, however, that the existence of such an Office incorporated in the General Administration may be justified by certain peculiarities of Turkish society, such as the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim together with the economic and moral power possessed by the religious foundations which were inherited from the Ottoman Empire.[9]

The Directorate of Religious Affairs was established in 1923 at the instigation of the members of the Grand National Assembly as a replacement of for the Ottoman Ministry of Religion. Later constitutions that were prepared after the coup d'etats of 1960 and 1980, its place in the system was re-confirmed. Now, the 1982 constitution provides that the Directorate is directly responsible to the Prime Minister and has no direct contact with daily politics.[10] Article 136 of the constitution reads that:

The Department of Religious Affairs, which is within the general administration, shall exercise its duties prescribed in its particular law, in accordance with the principles of secularism, removed from all political views and ideas, and aiming at national solidarity and integrity.

Soon after the establishment of the Directorate of Religious Affairs all Islamic activities were tried to be placed under the auspices of this organ of the state. As a result, religious institutions are linked to the state bureaucracy, without any autonomy. As Shankland portrays it, the Republican elite regard their 'ultimate task to preserve the Republic and its borders. This means that, if necessary, it is fully prepared to use orthodox Islam as a bulwark against communism or as a means of achieving harmony in the community'.[11] Establishment of the Directorate of Religious Affairs with a substantial budget, over 80 thousand employees is a result of the understanding of Turkish type of laicism.

The Directorate has an extensive organization. It controls all 86 thousand mosques and employs the imams, muftis and muezzins who are the salaried employees of the state. The mufti acts as a local link between the believer and the state; he also administers the imams attached to every mosque and distributes sermons and other materials sent to them from above. The imams are not just part of an administrative structure; they are also subject ideologically to the decisions made by their superiors in the announcements that they make and the sermons that they preach. This tight supervisory structure leaves 'imams with little leeway to create their own interpretation of religion'.[12] The teachers, textbooks, and curricula of all religious schooling are under the direct supervision of the Director-General of Religious Education, a separate office of the Ministry of Education.

Official ijtihads in a secular state

Since the adoption of Islam by Turks, a religious authority existed at the top of the state to advise the Sultan on religious issues. The Ottoman state formed a judicial system based on Islamic principles as well. The judiciary, organized as a network of judges (qadi) was one of the essential powers of the Ottoman regime.

Later, this practice was institutionalized and the position of Sheikh al-Islam emerged as an authority that approved or refused Sultan's rulings according to Islamic principles. Sheikh al- Islam issued fatwas to determine the policies of the Ottoman administration.

Albeit secular, the Turkish Republic has set up an ijtihad committee, the Directorate of Religious Affairs High Council of Religious Affairs, HCRA. The pervasiveness of Islamic law in Turkish society is so evident that the state has needed to respond to this socio-legal reality by establishing this committee.

This organ of the state has a somewhat awkward status. While the state does not recognize Muslim law, and arguing for its application is a criminal offence, the HCRA bases its arguments on officially non-recognized Islamic legal and jurisprudential sources. This committee endeavors to produce fatwas to the questions put to it. The HCRA responds to the socio-legal reality by exercising ijtihad and by also employing takhayyur.

The Diyanet published a book of fatwas in 1995: Fatwas on Contemporary Problems. This book of fatwas by the HCRA is important as an indication of the extension of the religious domain to the social domain. It is a consequence of the fact that the Diyanet itself could not limit its functions as before to the administration of the religious personnel of the secularist state. It thus began to extend its functions to advise the public on problems of daily life through fatwas. In its introduction, the authors justify their book by referring to the constitution of the Religious Affairs Administration:

in order to prevent the misguidance of our society by those with insufficient knowledge, and hence preventing the exploitation of society's religious feelings for various purposes, the duty and authority for the religious enlightenment of society and the resolution of the religious problems of daily life, is given to the (HCRA).

It is evident that the HCRA fatwas look like an attempt by the state to regain religious control over the public. A fatwa website of the HCRA is in service, too: the Directorate of Religious Affairs Fatwa Site.[13]

When a financial crisis erupted last year, the Directorate prepared a Friday sermon to discourage the faithful using US Dollars and this sermon was delivered -as it is obligatory- by imams in 86 thousand or so mosques of Turkey. Kürşat Bumin of Yeni Şafak critically made fun of the state's this move making reference to the article 24 of the Turkish constitution which puts that:

No one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings, or things held sacred by religion, in any manner whatsoever, for the purpose of personal or political influence, or for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political, and legal order of the State on religious tenets.

One can give several examples of the state's this attitude. In every Friday sermon, there is another official concern that needs to be underlined. In eid al-adha, the faithful are not allowed to donate the skin of the animal that they sacrifice to anyone they want. According to the state's ijtihad, they have to give it to the state's Turkish Air Institution. It is a punishable offence to donate the skin to non-state organizations.[14]

Survival of unofficial civil Islam in the public sphere

The state under the reins of the Kemalist assumed that cultural change could be imposed from above through the force of law. One of the major expected changes was the secularization of society. In the Republican epistemology, religion is imprisoned into the conscience of the individual and places of worship in the society and is not allowed to mix with and interfere in public life.[15] Article 24 of the constitution puts that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religious belief and conviction.

Acts of worship, religious services, and ceremonies shall be conducted freely, provided that they do not violate the provisions of Article 14.

No one shall be compelled to worship, or to participate in religious ceremonies and rites, to reveal religious beliefs and convictions, or be blamed or accused because of his religious beliefs and convictions.

Education and instruction in religion and ethics shall be conducted under State supervision and control. Instruction in religious culture and moral education shall be compulsory in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Other religious education and instruction shall be subject to the individual's own desire, and in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.

No one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings, or things held sacred by religion, in any manner whatsoever, for the purpose of personal or political influence, or for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political, and legal order of the State on religious tenets.

However, it is now recognized that the place and influence of civil Islam in Turkish social life has not changed a great deal. With Atatürk's death in 1938, a transitional period began, and by the early 1940s the ruling elite had to give in to pressures of democratization. In 1950 Atatürk's founding Republican People's Party lost the election and Turkey started experiencing a surge of renewed Islamic sentiment. Competitive political parties meant that different interests could be voiced in the public sphere that also meant giving concessions to Islamic revivalism. Islamic schools were opened and private religious instruction was allowed.[16]

Even though civil Islam has been officially removed from public life, it is still deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of the people. Although the state has kept an eye on the former religious leaders, their successors and the religious functionaries, they have regained something of their influence in public life by attracting masses into their religious atmosphere.[17] The Kemalist ideology, which had national, secular and modern elements, could not fill the gap which civil Islam was supposed have forcefully vacated. The state, through its secular policies and programs of westernization, threatened the value system of the Muslim people in the country without providing, at the same time, a satisfactory and all-encompassing ideological framework which could have mass appeal and was capable of replacing civil Islam.[18] Bifurcation between the élite and the masses made it difficult for the Kemalists to carry out their reforms from above.[19]

Atatürk wanted to make religion a private concern, but unanticipated social consequences soon caught up with him. As the boundaries of the private have become enlarged in Turkey an unforeseen development has occurred. As private every-day life has increasingly been given new richness and variety, religion has become a central focus of life and acquired a new power. Religion has received a new uplift from the privatizing wave; private religious instruction, Islamic fashion in clothes, manufacturing and music, Islamic learned journals, all of them aspects of private life, have made Islam pervasive in a modern sense in Turkish society, and have worked against religion becoming a private belief.[20]

As a recent study on Turkey reconfirmed '(t)he vibrancy of Islam is remarkable in almost all areas of Turkish life This Islam is neither a replacement for, nor an alternative to, the modern world: it is an integral part of life'.[21] Even though the Kemalist system has survived, 'the situation today differs in this, and other ways, from that future envisaged by many of the Republic's founders'.[22] It was the introduction of Democracy in late 1940s that provided the key link between rulers and ruled. 'As campaigning for votes began, in spite of the repeated emphasis on ensuring that politics and religion were henceforth to be separate, politicians were hardly able to resist the offer to support for Islamic mores as a way of attracting votes'.[23]

The changes observed at the social level are even more significant. One of them is the recourse among the Islamic circles to fatwas. Fatwa books are best-sellers. These fatwas cover almost all conceivable issues: working in Europe, madhhabs, using amplifier when reciting adhan (call to prayer), Friday prayer and work, dar al-Islam, fasting and travelling by train, stock exchange, tax, halal meat, marrying no-Muslim woman, talaq, court divorce, polygamy, nationalism, unemployment benefit, inflation, interest, customs tax, bribery, depositing money at a bank in non-Muslim countries, selling alcohol in a non-Muslim country, gambling in dar al-harb, sterilization, plastic surgery, using perfumes, abortion, ijtihad, military service, organ transplantation, prayers (salat) on bus, VAT, mortgage, European Union, golden tooth, alcohol in medication, eau de cologne, life insurance, interest, inflation, insurance, life insurance, feminism, nikah, and fertility clinics. In addition to fatwa books, many newspapers have fatwa columns. Recently, the number of Turkish fatwas sites on the inter-net has increased. Also, through various popular newsgroups and e-mail discussion lists, Turkish Muslims solicit information about what 'Islam' says about any particular issue.

With the explosive growth of Islam in society in recent decades, there are some indicators to suggest that it is practically impossible to keep the distance between the civic domain and the religious domain any longer. The growing popularity of officially unrecognized Islamic orders and communities in every layer of society in recent decades is one of these indicators. In this regard, it is also worth mentioning that a recent survey has found that 14.1% of the Turkish people have accounts with interest-free Islamic finance institutions despite the fact that such finance institutions carry no state guarantee for any losses, as opposed to mainstream banks.[24]

Civil Islam: Gülen and his movement

Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar, thinker, writer, and poet. He has inspired many people in Turkey to establish educational institutions that combine modern sciences with ethics and spirituality. His efforts have resulted in the emergence of the Gülen movement, a faith-inspired collectivity whose boundaries are extremely loose and difficult to specify. The actual size of Gülen's millions of followers and sympathizers is not exactly known. But it is agreed that it is the largest civil movement in the country. Gülen is now described as an opinion leader in Turkey.[25]Most importantly, it is claimed, "Gülen has made himself a most likely candidate for religious leader of the new Turkey".[26] Indeed, in newspapers, he is at times referred to as the unofficial civil religious leader of Turkey.[27]

Gülen's discourse has had and will have major influences on the future shape of Turkey and its region. His discourse's transformative influences firstly and mainly could be observed in his movement. At a second level, this transformation would affect the surrounding wider society in la longe duree. There has been a change in Turkish society on certain issues and this change has been towards the discourse of Gülen that he has been advocating for the last three decades.

Gülen sees diversity and pluralism as a natural fact. He wants those differences to be admitted and to be professed explicitly.  He believes that the dissemination of faith through persuasion is the only method to spread it to the civilized world. Tolerance is the magic word and practice.[28]

He is of the firm opinion that Turks have interpreted and applied in a certain way so that it could be called Turkish Islam.[29] He states that:

The Hanafi understanding and Turkish interpretation dominates more than three-fourths of the Islamic world. This understanding is very dear to me. If you like you can call this Turkish Islam. Just as I see no serious canonical obstacle to this, I don't think it should upset anyone.[30] The Turkish nation interpreted Islam in the areas open to interpretation it attained a very broad spectrum and became the religion of great states. For this reason, I think the Turkish Muslimness is appropriate. Another aspect of this is that in addition to profound devotion to the Qur'an and Sunnah, the Turks always have been open to Sufism, Islam's spiritual aspect.[31] Turkish Islam is composed of the main, unchanging principles of Islam found in the Qur'an and Sunnah, as well as in the forms that its aspects open to interpretation assumed during Turkish history, together with Sufism This is why Turkish Islam always has been broader, deeper, more tolerant and inclusive, and based on love.[32]

By making reference to the Turkish-Islam of Seljuks and Ottomans and their practice of religious pluralism, he underlines that:

(T)he Muslim world has a good record of dealing with the Jews: there has been almost no discrimination, and there has been no Holocaust, denial of basic human rights, or genocide. On the contrary, Jews have always been welcomed in times of trouble, as when the Ottoman State embraced them after their expulsion from Andalusia.[33]

A legally pluralist system existed at these times as well.  He is also tolerant of internal Muslim legal and cultural pluralism. In this context, for instance, he puts that "Alawis definitely enrich Turkish culture" and encourages Alawis to transform to a written culture from oral culture to preserve their identities.[34] He stresses that "Alawi meeting or prayer houses should be supported. In our history, a synagogue, a church, and a mosque stood side by side in many places".[35]

In Gülen's philosophy, secularism is not understood as a non-Muslim way of life. The separation between sacred and profane and its projection onto social life is accepted. The rejection of the sacred is not accepted. He claims that such an understanding of secularism existed in the Seljuks and Ottomans. Gülen makes a reference to Western type of secularism and argues that within the boundaries of this type of secularism, Islam and the secularity of the state could be compatible. He emphasizes that such an understanding of secularism existed in the Seljuks and Ottomans: they employed ijtihad in worldly matters, enacted laws and decrees to respond to challenges in their times.

Gülen argues, democracy -in spite of its shortcomings- is now the only viable political system, and people should strive to modernize and consolidate democratic institutions in order to build a society where individual rights and freedoms are respected and protected, where equal opportunity for all is more than a dream. According to Gülen, mankind has not yet designed a better governing system than democracy.[36]

Gülen also maintains that as a political and governing system, democracy is, at present, the only alternative left in the world. In his understanding democracy, in its current shape, is not an ideal that has been reached but a method and a process "that is being continually developed and revised".[37]

 He argues that "(i)t's a process of no return that must develop and mature Democracy one day will attain a very high level. But we have to wait for the interpretation of time".[38] Gülen powerfully states that:

Democracy has developed over time. Just as it has gone through many different stages, it will continue to go through other stages in the future to improve itself. Along the way, it will be shaped into a more humane and just system, one based on righteousness and reality. If human beings are considered as a whole, without disregarding the spiritual dimension of their existence and their spiritual needs, and without forgetting that human life is not limited to this mortal life and that all people have a great craving for eternity, democracy could reach its peak of perfection and bring even more happiness to humanity. Islamic principles of equality, tolerance, and justice can help it do just that.[39]

He does not see a contradiction between 'Islamic administration' and democracy:

As Islam holds individuals and societies responsible for their own fate, people must be responsible for governing themselves. The Qur'an addresses society with such phrases as: "O people!" and "O believers!" The duties entrusted to modern democratic systems are those that Islam refers to society and classifies, in order of importance, as "absolutely necessary, relatively necessary, and commendable to carry out." People cooperate with one another in sharing these duties and establishing the essential foundations necessary to perform them. The government is composed of all of these foundations. Thus, Islam recommends a government based on a social contract. People elect the administrators, and establish a council to debate common issues. Also, the society as a whole participates in auditing the administration.[40]

Islam, for Gülen, is not a political project to be implemented. It is a repository of discourse and practices for the evolution of a just and ethical society. He strongly states that:

Islam does not propose a certain unchangeable form of government or attempt to shape it. Instead, Islam establishes fundamental principles that orient a government's general character, leaving it to the people to choose the type and form of government according to time and circumstances.[41]

Because he is critical of the 'instrumentalization' of religion in politics, he constantly criticizes discourses, rhetoric, practices and policies of the 'political Islam' of Turkey.

Thus, Gülen, while encouraging everybody to participate in elections and to vote, never spells any specific party or candidate. He gives the guidelines, such as honesty, being truly democratic, being suitable for the job, the socio-political conditions and so on. In any party, one could find such candidates. At the end of the day, if every voter behaves in this manner, all the elected will be in tune with Gülen's ideals, regardless of the party affiliation. Most importantly, as he does not categorically affiliate with any of the parties, they will always be hopeful and will try to earn his sympathy. Moreover, his supra-party discourse could easily attract everybody from all walks of life.

Regarding an Islamic state, it is obvious that he is in favor of a bottom-up approach and his desire is to transform individuals, an ideal that cannot be fulfilled by force or from the top.[42]

As noted above, he advocates an Anatolian-Islam or Anatolian-Sufism that puts an emphasis on tolerance and Turkish modernity as an alternative to Saudi or Iranian versions or images, emphasizing that this discourse of Islam is not in contradiction with the modern world. His discourse represents a kind of 'moderate Islam', even though he strongly rejects such a definition as in his view Islam is already moderate.

In a written response to questions from The New York Times, he said, "he was not seeking to establish an Islamic regime but did support efforts to ensure that the government treated ethnic and ideological differences as a cultural mosaic, not a reason for discrimination".[43] The discourse of Gülen utilizes Mustafa Kemal as a commonly appreciated Turkish value and polishes Kemal's aspects that are in tune with Gülen's ideal of golden generation.

Democratic Leftist Prime Minister, as he then was, Bülent Ecevit has been supportive of Gülen and his activities. On several occasions he praised these activities. When he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2000, he emphasized, in his speech, the importance of Gülen schools all over the world and how these schools contribute to the Turkish culture.[44] When receiving the Journalists and Writers Foundation's representatives at his office, he reiterated that he supports these schools because he believes that they are spreading the Turkish culture, to an extent not succeeded by the 600 years old Ottoman State.[45]

The atmosphere of tolerance and mutual understanding has influenced the founding party of the Republic as well, the Republican People's Party (CHP). This party has undergoing a transformation for the last few months. After losing at the elections heavily, Deniz Baykal quit as the leader of the party, some time later he returned to politics saying that he and his discourse have changed and was re-elected as leader. Now he defends an Anatolian tolerance, he pays respect to the Ottomans, to the religious scholars of the past, and employs a warm language regarding the issues of religion.[46] He argues that "he wants to come to power in this world while desiring to go to heaven in the hereafter".[47] He says he admires the understandings of Rumi, Yunus Emre, Haci Bektaş, and Yesevi and finds their ideas as progressive and revolutionary.[48] Baykal calls his new politics 'Anatolian leftism' in an interview by liberal Hürriyet columnist Cüneyt Ülsever at a program of the Gülen movement's Samanyolu TV on 24 April 2001. It is obvious that most of these ideas are what Gülen has been arguing for more than 30 years. Baykal, when asked if he had been saying these before, replied that "(the ideology of) social democracy has come to this point very recently."[49] Indeed, this transformation process began some ten years ago at the grassroots level. The ordinary people had already left their ideological camps of the pre-1980s and have been tolerant of each other; this is what has forced Baykal to change as a receptive leader.

Most scholars agree that "Gülen continues a long Sufi tradition of seeking to address the spiritual needs of people, to educate the masses, and to provide some stability in times of turmoil. Like many previous Sufi figures (including the towering thirteenth-century figure, Jalal al-Din Rumi), he is suspected of seeking political power. However, any change from this apolitical stance will firstly harm his movement".[50] Even though Gülen consistently reiterates that he has no political claims; that he is against the instrumentalist use of religion in politics; that his emphasis is on individuals and so on, the militarist elite who see themselves as the staunch guardians of the regime regard Gülen and his movement as a potential threat to the state. Those fears seemed confirmed two years ago when television stations broadcast excerpts from videocassettes in which he seemed to urge his sympathizers to 'patiently and secretly' infiltrate the government.[51] He had also made some vague statements that were somewhat critical of the Turkish establishment. Gülen said his words had been taken out of context, and some altered; he said he had counseled patience to sympathizers faced with corrupt civil servants and administrators intolerant of workers who were practicing Muslims.[52] "Statements and words were picked with tweezers and montaged to serve the purposes of whoever was behind this," he said.[53] The militarist elite remains suspicious and claims that he seeks to gain political power over state institutions, including the army. The reason why Gülen employs such a vague language on certain issues is understandable given that the authoritarian state does not tolerate any rivals in social sphere, one of the major reasons of Turkish civil society's immaturity and weakness in the face of the almighty state.

To sum up, given that Gülen has achieved autonomy from state power and has been able to mobilize a large segment of society and that he is of an Islamic background with which the laicist state's policies have felt unease, he will always be depicted as a potential threat by some.[54]

As we already noted above, Gülen sees diversity and pluralism as a natural fact; he wants those differences to be admitted and to be explicitly professed. Gülen is an adamant supporter and promoter of inter-faith dialogue. He argues that there is no rule requiring that the style used in the Qur'an (in order to express the obstinacy and enmity of some Jews and Christians toward 'truth') should also be used for every Jew or Christian in every era; "the verses condemning and rebuking the Jews and Christians are either about the some Jews and Christians who lived in the time of the Prophet Muhammad or their own Prophets".[55]

In his view, a believer must communicate with any kind of thought and system; like Rumi's compass, "such a person is like a compass with one foot well-established in the center of belief and Islam and the other foot with people of many nations".[56]  To this end, Gülen pioneered the establishment of the Journalists and Writers Foundation in 1994, the activities of that promote dialogue and tolerance among all strata of society.

Gülen has been quick to respond to the challenges and opportunities of globalization and his dialog efforts should be evaluated in this context as well. He has been supportive of Turkey's accession to the European Union.[57] He says, "If both Europe and Turkey could come to a mutually acceptable agreement, the future could be promising. But this demands intelligent people with one eye on the larger world and one eye on their own world".[58]

He has also encouraged Turkish people to migrate to these countries in order to be honorary representatives and ambassadors of Turkey.  In Gülen's discourse, realism has a substantial place. He frequently states that the United States of America is currently the leader in the international arena and it is a better alternative in comparison to other non-democratic countries such as Russia or China.[59]

Influence of Gülen's Discourse

Gülen's discourse is not only at a rhetorical level; in praxis he encourages all his followers to realize his ideals. After espousing Gülen as an intellectual leader, his followers adapt themselves to his discourse and follow his ijtihads, even though he does not label them as ijtihad.

Gülen's followers have established many educational charitable trusts and foundations; and some followers have companies that give educational services.[60] Especially outside Turkey, businessmen who follow Gülen's message are very active in education. They built up "a vast educational empire that now counts nearly 300 schools in over 50 countries".[61]

The Gülen movement is generally deemed to be moderate and it "can be considered 'modern' in the sense that it espouses a worldview centered around the self-reflexive and politically participant individual's ability to realize personal goals while adhering to a collective identity, and it seeks to shape local networks and institutions in relation to global discourses of democracy, human rights, and the market economy".[62] In stressing the links between Islam, reason, science, and modernity, and the lack of inherent clash between East and West, Gülen movement promotes education at all levels and appeals to a growing number of Turks.[63]

The movement tries to bring all scholars and intellectuals regardless of their ethnic, ideological, religious and cultural backgrounds. The Journalists and Writers Foundation also works as a think-tank in related issues. The Abant Platform is a result of the attempt at finding solutions to Turkey's problems by bringing together scholars and intellectuals of all colors. This platform is the first of it s kind in near Turkish history where intellectuals could agree to disagree on sensitive issues as laicism, secularism, religion, and reason relations. The Foundation organizes Abant Conventions annually. And, every convention ends with a declaration. In 1998, the theme was 'Islam and secularism', in 1999 'religion and state relations' and in 2000, the topic was 'the democratic state within the framework of rule of law'.

The 1998 Abant Declaration attempts to redefine the meaning of laicism in accordance with the way it is practiced in Anglo-Saxon cultures. Moreover, the Declaration reinterprets Islamic theology to respond to modern challenges. It was underscored in the declaration that revelation and reason do not conflict; individuals should use their reason to organize their social life; the state should be neutral on beliefs and faiths prevalent in the society; governance of the state cannot be based on the dominance of one religious tradition; secularism should expand individual freedoms and rights and should not exclude any person from the public sphere.

Gülen's discourse and practice have obtained the support of a number of well-known liberal intellectuals such as the journalists Mehmet Altan, Ali Bayramoglu, Mehmet Barlas, Etyen Mahcupyan, Mehmet Ali Birand, Gulay Gokturk, Taha Akyol, Cuneyt Ulsever and Cengiz Candar who argue that the solution to Turkey's problems depends on reaching a consensus. Moreover, scholars who were deemed to be 'radical Islamist' now fully support Gülen's thought and practice.

Interfaith dialogue all over the world is on the agenda of the movement. In the countries where they reside, by utilizing the concept of dar al-hizmet, they either establish interfaith organizations; associations and societies or they are in close contact with the men of faith. Thus, for instance, Turkish businessmen in Korea take the Buddhist priests to Turkey to visit historical places where believers of different faiths had lived peacefully. In Thailand, the administrators of Fatih College regularly visit Buddhist authorities and priests and report to them the progress of the Thai pupils. In Russia, Romania, Georgia, South Africa, Senegal, etc., the praxis is the same. They all believe that interfaith and intercultural dialogue is a must to reach a general universal peace and that the first step in establishing it is to forget past tensions, ignore polemical arguments, and give precedence to common values. The teachers, administrators, and businessmen who immigrated to these countries with the intention of hijra, all reiterate that their intention is "to prepare mankind for the birth of the century of tolerance and understanding that will lead to the cooperation of civilizations, and to strengthen bonds among all the peoples of the world; what people have in common, not only within a nation, but across national-political boundaries in the world as a whole, is far greater than what divides and separates them". [64]

The movement's schools are virtually the only Turkish presence in many countries, a fact acknowledged by the Turkish intelligentsia. Özdem Sanberk, director of the Economic and Social Studies Foundation and former Turkish ambassador to London, summarizes the liberal democratic Turkish intellectual approach to the schools: "Strategically speaking, the schools are something that should be supported by the state because you have a Turkish presence in these countries."[65] It must be noted that until the movement established these schools, there was no mention of such an international project, even in theory, by the state, think tanks, research centers, or academics.[66]

In the Gülen schools, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Shamans, etc. study together in peace says Cemal Uşşak and adds in the larger Muslim world, this tolerance poses a potential challenge to Islamism, for its ideas may find receptive audiences among those with access to the outside world. The schools all have been supportive of Turkey's accession to the European Union and have been aware that the United States is currently the leader in the international arena and is a better alternative as compared with Russia or China.

Changes in political Islam: From Milli Görüş to AK Parti

Milli Görüş (The National Outlook Movement) of Erbakan has been the notable representative of the 'political Islam' in Turkey.[67] The movement has successively established the National Order (26 Jan 1970- 14 Jan 1971), the National Salvation (11 Oct 1972- 12 Sept 1980), the Welfare (19 July 1983- 16 Jan 1998), the Virtue (17 Dec 1997- 22 June 2001) and Felicity (Saadet) Parties (20 July 2001-present). With the exception of the existing Felicity (Saadet) Party, all others were closed down by the Kemalist establishment.

Until 1998, the Movement was totally under the influence of Middle Eastern political Islam to a certain extent and its ideology was based on the binary opposition of West versus East. Its perception of the West comprised of elements such as colonial, unjust, oppressive and Christian. Especially, a strong emphasis on Judaeo-Christian heritage of the West was an important part of the movement's discourse. Political economic worldview of the movement was heavily centralist.

The movement was initially opposed to Turkey's EU membership saying that Turkey was more attached to the Islamic countries and the European Union was a 'Christian Club'.[68] The Movement's leader, Erbakan, used to belittle the supporters of Turkey's EU membership as 'naïve imitators of the West'. The movement had opposed Turkey's European Union membership for three decades. The National Salvation Party argued in 1970s that "Turkey should not attempt to join the European Economic Community, since this would merely perpetuate its role as an economic underlining of 'Western-Christian capitalism'".[69] The Welfare Party that was established in 1983, till its closure by the Constitutional Court in 1998 emphasized that it will end close association with the West, starting closer cooperation with the surrounding Islamic states.[70] Erbakan even sought to implement these policies during his brief tenure as the prime minister in 1997.

Milli Görüş movement over the years has been transforming itself and during the last decade it has been observed that the party of the movement, first Welfare and after its closure Virtue, has moved from religious right to the centre right, representing the interests of the periphery that involves pious practising Muslims, a new emerging Anatolian middle class bourgeoisie, the urban poor and Kurds.  The movement's ideology has been a mixture of Ottomanism, nationalism, modernism and Islamism. The worldview of Milli Görüş puts a special emphasis on faith, morality and virtue, claiming that new generations had to be patriotic and self-sacrificing people equipped with the latest know-how so that Turkey would carry the torch in the scientific, technological and civilizational race.[71] As Popes underline in their book 'Turkey Unveiled', very few, if any, of the senior members of the movement and its party are clerics; most are young Western-educated intellectuals.[72]  

After the post-modern coup of 28 February 1997, the Movement has evolved into the Virtue Party, and this party has emphasised democracy, rule of law and joining the European Union.[73] The party has been forced to reconsider modernity, democracy and multiculturalism as universal values rather than seeing them as an extension of Western domination.[74] In parallel with the emergence of a new 'Anatolian capitalist class'[75] and with efforts to evolve into a mass political party, slogans, now, include 'pluralist society', 'basic rights and liberties', 'more democracy', 'privatisation', 'decentralisation' and 'globalisation'.[76] The party completely eliminated its discourse against western values and institutions.[77] The Virtue Party did not employ an Erbakan-style anti-western discourse. In its election manifesto of 18 April 1998, the party pledged that to accomplish the goal of Turkey's accession to the European Union is fundamental.[78] Moreover, the party's chairman stated that the strategic and defense relations with the USA should continue, extending to economic cooperation and investment.[79]

The Virtue party was socially conservative, culturally nationalistic, free-market oriented, not anti-western, and was seeking a centrist image.[80] The party representatives frequented western capitals to convince the Western power elite that they are more democratic than the Islamists and that they were in favor of the European Union.[81]

The fundamental incompatibility between secular and religious worldviews is no longer automatically assumed in the Millli Görüş circles.[82] An Anglo-Saxon discourse of secularism is now espoused: 'religion will not interfere in the affairs of the state while the state will not interfere with religion'. The chairman of the Virtue Party, M. Recai Kutan, admits that they did not seek dialogue and co-operation with other groups in society. He also declares that Islam will not be a source for legislation, instead, logic and science will mould public policies.[83]  The Virtue Party had highly educated, upper-class modern women members of the parliament such as Nazli Ilicak and Prof. Oya Akgönenç who do not wear a headscarf. This has never been the case with the parties that precede the Virtue.

Some members of party, known as yenilikçiler (renewers), declared the failure of political Islam that they confused the conditions of Turkey with the Middles Eastern experiences and that they were under the influence of the Middle Eastern political Islamists but not local Muslim intellectuals. These young renewers are much more liberal than their elders. Their discourse is more sophisticated and they have learned to avoid the confrontational rhetoric, opting instead for a message of democracy and human rights.[84]

These younger generations, in spite of the movement's tradition, openly argued that the Welfare Party made a mistake by openly using religion. They pinpoint that the motto of the party should be 'democracy and secularism for everybody'. For instance, Tayyip Erdoğan underlines in a newspaper interview that state could not and should not have a religion; it is individuals that have religious affiliation. He further emphasizes the importance of democracy, free market economy and human rights.[85] Another yenilikçi Bulent Arinc underlines that "respect for other people's views and beliefs is the gist of democracy". He argued that the Virtue needs to further the democratization process as opposed to focusing on religion.[86] Abdullah Gül, who contested against -first ever in the history of the movement- Erbakan-supported Recai Kutan for the Party Chair, concurs with these new ideas and firmly emphasizes that our demand is religious freedom not an Islamic state. He underlines that the best way of government is democracy as it is a system that does not stop its search for good.[87]

Indeed, a prominent Muslim intellectual, Ali Bulaç, affirms that "if the meaning of political Islam is to establish a theocratic state, it is finished", pointing out that being, once, a cause for conflict and polarization, Islam is now a base for reconciliation.[88]  Now, it is argued that the Virtue Party or the movement has the potential to evolve into a Muslim democrat party, very similar to Christian democrat parties of Europe.[89]

On 22 June 2001, the Constitutional Court ruled the closure of the Fazilet (Virtue) party for being a 'center of Islamic fundamentalism and a mere successor of the outlawed Welfare Party'. It furthermore ordered the confiscation of the party's assets, the toppling from the Turkish Grand National Assembly of two of its MPs and the banning of further three members from political activities for five years. Indeed, all of these closed parties had been accused of violating the constitutional provision that the Turkish Republic is a secular state.

The Felicity Party was founded on 20 July 2001 by the members of the Virtue Party that had been declared unconstitutional on the grounds of threatening the secular nature of Turkey's constitution. This provoked debate within the ranks of Milli Görüş with the gelenekçiler or traditionalists remaining true to the Turkish Islamist movement's traditional Islamic fundamentalism aims, and the yenilikçiler or renewers, led by current prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeking to adopt Islamist politics to a secular democratic system. The Felicity Party has not been particularly successful electorally, polling just 2.5% of the vote in the 3 November2002 general elections, thereby failing to pass the 10% threshold necessary to gain representation in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. It was more slightly more successful in the local elections of 29 March2004, winning 4.1% of the vote and a number of mayoralties, although none of any particular significance.

The Felicity Party has found itself outflanked and outclassed by the successful Justice and Development Party (AKP or AK Parti) government, although it has launched sustained attacks of the government's desire to join the European Union, military ties with Israel and the United States, gradualism and general acceptance of Turkish state secularism. It is led by veteran politician Necmettin Erbakan, and a key weakness is that is dominated by almost elderly politicians of 1970s and it has failed to foster a new generation of leaders.[90]

Even though, the Milli Görüş movement "has been more reactive and less imaginative in regard to societal transformation than have the Nurcus",[91] their new discourse after the closure of the Welfare and Virtue Parties and the emergence of yenilikçiler and today's ruling AKP has shown that they are changing and transforming as well, coming closer to Nursi and Gülen's line on the issues of state-religion-society relations.

Changes in State Islam: Post-Lozan Islami (Post-Lausannian Islam)

Inter-religious dialogue has only started taking place on the agenda of the state after the criticisms made against the Directorate by the 'laicist' circles on the basis that while an unofficial leader with no authority, i.e. Fethullah Gülen, was dealing with inter-religious dialogue and even paying a visit to the Pope in Vatican, the Directorate was ultimately inactive.[92] Underlying psychology of this reaction was that the Republican laicists did not want the religion out of control.[93] After a while, the Directorate totally renewed its discourse and started including elements of inter-religious dialogue, dialogue between Christians and Muslims and so on. Before, although there was not necessarily anything against these themes in the discourse of the Directorate, but there was not any mention of them either. These themes were irrelevant for the state-sponsored 'Turkish religion'. Only recently, the Directorate has established a unit for inter-religious dialogue. It is true that the Directorate has had a division dealing with extra-territorial affairs but this division's activities only cover the Turkish citizens in the West. Very rarely, imams who are sent abroad for helping the Turkish citizens, would know the language, let alone the culture, of the respective country, making a dialogue with the people other than the Turks virtually impossible. Another factor that forced the Directorate to change its vision is the Turkey's bid to the European Union. It is expected from the Directorate that it could add a Turkish flavor to the European Islam and adapt Turkish Islam to the new polity.

Currently, the Directorate is trying to get ready for the European Union, being aware that they will have a mission of representing a moderate and tolerant Islam.[94] Moreover, authorities voice their desire to reinterpret Islam in the face of the challenges of modernity, new developments of the age, Muslims living in non-Muslim western territories, inter-religious dialogue, and peaceful co-existence and emphasize that the Directorate's future activities will address such issues.[95]

The Directorate has a very busy schedule of activities with regards to dialogue. In 1998, while there was only one session among many others regarding dialogue in the Second Religion Congress (Ikinci Din Surasi), in year 2000, other than establishing a 'Directorship for Inter-religious Dialogue', the Directorate organized two major programs on the theme: 'International European Union Congress' during 3-7 May in Istanbul and 'Religion Meeting In the Year 2000 Faith and Tolerance Age' during 10-11 May in Tarsus (one of the former centers of Eastern Christianity).[96] Then during 14-18 June 2000, a committee headed by the then Director of the Religious Affairs, Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, paid a visit to Vatican and in 16 June 2000, Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz had a private meeting with the Pope.[97] This event attracted an impressive media attention in Turkey, with the headlines such as 'first ever in the history!' The columnists emphasized that this was a good idea to enter into dialogue with other religions, an idea that never bothered the Kemalist elite until Fethullah Gülen took the lead and threatened the assumed public monopoly of the state on religious matters. 

Opposition to the transformation and 'westophobia'

While vast majority of people in Turkey are eager to join the European Union, open to dialogue with other people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and do not see any clash between Islam and modernity, only a marginal minority do not share the views and practices of the majority on these issues. This opposing minority is not monolithic that they are of different extreme ideological backgrounds, such as laicists, ultra-leftists, ultra-traditionalists, and ultra-nationalists. Even though their argumentation style and conceptualizations change from a group to another, they generally concur with the view that the West is Turkey's enemy, that entering the European Union will disintegrate Turkey, and that the idea of dialogue between civilizations is a plot by the Papacy to engulf Islam. Due to the lack of space, I will only briefly mention some examples.

Mehmet Sevket Eygi, chief writer of the daily Milli Gazete, has reiterated many times his allegation that "the Papacy has 'bought' some community (movement) in Turkey to produce an adulterated, reformed and renewed Islam without shari'a, fiqh, sunnah and laws".[98] Whatever topic Eygi writes about in his column, he connects, if not skillfully, his argument to this issue and strongly and somewhat fiercely alleges that some groups are the secret agents of the Papacy in Turkey. He also repeatedly claims that some secret agreements between 'a group' and the Papacy and also the Orthodox Church has been reached that Heybeliada (Christian) seminary will be re-opened and when the conditions are right, some Greeks (Rum) will immigrate to Turkey.[99] To Eygi, the leader of this movement has agreed with the 'deep state (derin devlet)' to create an adulterated Islamic humanism instead of real Islam. For legal reasons, knowing that he is not able to prove his allegations, Eygi does not pronounce any specifics. Yet, it is clear that the only group or community that will fall within the ambit of his allegations is Gülen's community. While Sevket Eygi is alone in his daily in his adamant fight against the Papacy, the European Union and their 'secret agents'; almost all columnists in the marginal daily Yeni Mesaj, in one day or another, allow themselves to 'discuss' the issue of inter-religious dialogue. Their arguments are no different from Eygi's. They strongly reiterate that the Muslims who advocate dialogue with Christians and Europeans are either naïve, or ignorant or, for worse, traitors.[100] Indeed, an extreme leftist daily regularly claims that Gülen is a man of the Korean originated Moon Church.[101] An ultra-nationalist activist argues that "the CIA agents such as Graham Fuller and Paul Henze are pupils (murid) of Gülen".[102] It is also alleged by Yeni Hayat journal that Anatolia will be Christianized and Gülen's group is helping the Christians in this mission.

In the same context, main theme of a book written by a retired General is that entering the European Union is a plot to disintegrate Turkey.[103] This view is supported by a marginal Maoist weekly, Aydinlik, nowadays seeking to ally itself with the army. The weekly regularly raises the issue and claims that entering the European Union will only help the reactionary forces and Kurdish separatists. On 22 September 2000, the chief writer of the daily, Dogu Perincek alleged again that entering the European Union means a divided Turkey.[104]

As Yavuz rightly underlines the state-invented 'Sevres syndrome' that the West is about the partition of the country is still 'used' in some circles.[105] As a result, from time to time, liberal democrat individuals, such as Meral Gezgin Eris, Chairwoman of the Economist Development Foundation (IKV), need to urge anti-EU people to give up their 'paranoia' of the EU that it will divide the country[106] and several influential columnists in the Turkish mainstream media keep writing about the virtues of joining to the EU to 'convince' the deep state' circles.[107]

Concluding remarks: Transformation of Turkish Islams

The Kemalist criticism of Ottoman Islam basically stemmed from an understanding that the religion had played a negatively conservative role in the socio-political structure of the Ottoman Empire. Another reason of these criticisms has its roots in the perception of the structural relationship between religious and political authority in traditional societies. Religious institutions have often stood as symbols of the former regimes in the eyes of revolutionary leaders. Said more precisely, they have conceived religion as a threat to their modernist movement and revolutions. Surprisingly, the roles have recently changed. Now, most practicing Muslims advocate Turkey's accession to the European Union, once perceived to be a 'Christian club', and believe that 'the Copenhagen criteria' are amr bil ma'ruf (ordering the good),[108] whilst the role of conservatism is now left to the Kemalist and 'deep state' elite.

Moreover, on these issues, activist Muslims either take the lead as in the example of the Gülen's faith-based movement or adapt themselves to the new Muslim discourse as in the example of the political Islam of Milli Görüş. Even the state gives a response for whatever reason, yet unknowingly transforming itself in the lines of the civil discourse. This is very observable regarding the issues of inter-religious dialogue. A civil movement has played a transformation role of the whole society, directly or not, even affecting the ideological stand of the state.

As sociologist Nilufer Göle aptly puts it, Muslim identity is in a process of normalization, transforming from being Islamist to Muslim[109], strongly showing that "buzzwords such as 'fundamentalism', and catchy phrases such as Samuel Huntington's rhyming 'West versus Rest' and Daniel Lerner's alliterative 'Mecca or merchanization' are of little use in understanding this reformation".[110] Factors such as positive mood for joining the EU, civil society's growth, independent media, telecommunications technology, satellites, inter-net, globalization, foreign encouragement and support, the role of religious leaders are all dynamically interlinked and intertwined in transforming the Turkish society despite the resistance of the 'forces of conservatism'. And, the 'renewal' of the religious or faith-based discourse has a major play to role.

(Ihsan Yilmaz, Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS, University of London)

[1] King, Michael, 'Introduction'. In: Michael King (ed) God's law versus state law: The construction of Islamic XE "Islamic"  identity XE "identity"  in Western Europe. London: Grey Seal, 1995, pp. 1-15. p.3.

[2] Al-Azmeh, Aziz, Islams and modernities. 2nd ed. London. New York: Verso, 1996, p. 1.

[3] Starr, June, Law as metaphor: From Islamic XE "Islamic"  courts to the palace of justice. New York: State University of New York Press, 1992, pp. 5-6.

[4] Shankland, David, Islam and Society in Turkey XE "Turkey"  (Huntingdon: The Eothen Press, 1999), 23.

[5] King, Michael 'The Muslim identity XE "identity"  in a secular XE "secular"  world'. In: Michael King (ed) God's law versus state law: The construction of Islamic XE "Islamic"  identity in Western Europe. London: Grey Seal, 1995, pp. 91-114, p. 105.

[6] Ibid. p. 106.

[7] Kongar, Emre, 'Turkey XE "Turkey" 's cultural transformation'. In Günsel Renda and C. Max Kortepeter (eds) The transformation of Turkish culture XE "culture" , the Atatürk legacy,The Kingston Press. Inc. Princeton, New Jersey, 1986, pp. 19-68.

[8] Saribay, Ali Yaşar 'Kemalist ideolojide modernleşmenin anlami: Sosyo-ekonomik bir çözümleme denemesi'. In: Ersin Kalaycioğlu and Ali Yaşar Saribay (eds) Türk siyasal hayatinin gelişimi. Istanbul: Beta, 1986, pp. 189-204, p. 200.

[9] Aybay, Rona 'Administrative Law'. Ansay T and Wallece D.(eds) Introduction to Turkish Law, Ankara, 1978, pp.53-84, p.58.

[10] Shankland, op. cit. p. 29.

[11] Ibid., p. 9.

[12] Ibid. p. 29.


[14] ;

[15] Mardin, Şerif 'Turkey XE "Turkey" : Islam and westernization'. In: Carlo Caldorola (ed) Religions and societies: Asia and the Middle East. Berlin et al: Mouton Publishers, 1982, pp. 171-198, p. 180.

[16] Starr, op. cit. 17-18.

[17] Rosenthal, Erwin I. J., Islam in the modern national state. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1965, p. 61.

[18] Saeed, Javaid, Islam and modernization XE "modernization" : A comparative analysis of Pakistan XE "Pakistan" , Egypt, and Turkey XE "Turkey" . Westport, Connecticut. London: Praeger, 1994, p. 165.

[19] Ibid., p. 172.

[20] Mardin, Şerif, Religion and social change in modern Turkey XE "Turkey" : The case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989, p. 229.

[21] Shankland, op. cit. pp. 15, 54-51.

[22] Ibid., p. 17.

[23] Ibid., p. 35.

[24] See 'Anar Anketi March 2001',

[25] Enis Berberoğlu, Hurriyet, 10 August 2000.

[26] Aras, Bülent, 'Turkish Islam's Moderate Face', Middle East Quarterly, September 1998, p. 27.

[27] Avni Özgürel, Radikal, 2 March 2001.

[28] Ünal, Ali and Alphonse Williams, Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gülen. Fairfax, VA: The Fountain, 2000, pp. 254-268.

[29] Ibid, pp. 54-58.

[30] Ibid, p. 52.

[31] Ibid, p. 56.

[32] Ibid, p. 43.

[33] Ibid, p. 243.

[34] Ibid, p. 67-70.

[35] Ibid, p. 67-70.

[36] See in detail, Yilmaz, Ihsan, Muslim laws, politics and society in modern nation-states. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, chapter 8.

[37] Gülen, Fethullah, 'A Comparative Approach to Islam and Democracy', SAIS Review, Volume XXI, No. 2 Summer-Fall 2001, pp. 133-138, p. 134.

[38] Unal and Williams, op. cit., p.150.

[39] Ibid., 137.

[40] Gülen, A Comparative , op. cit., 135-136.

[41] Ibid., p. 134.

[42] Altinoğlu, Ebru, Fethullah Gülen's Perception of State and Society. Istanbul: Bosphorus University, 1999, p. 102.

[43] Douglas Frantz, New York Times, 25 August 2000.

[44]Zaman, 23 February 2000.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Baykal, Aksiyon, 7 April, 2001.

[47]Zaman, 7 February 2001.

[48]Aksiyon, 7 April 2001.

[49] Ibid.; On the other hand, this change was found so radical by some party members that they were very quick to leave the party, encouraged and led by Ismet Inonu's son Erdal Inonu.

[50] Altinoğlu, op. cit., p. 102.

[51] Frantz, Douglas, New York Times, 25 August 2000.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54]  On this the Economist reported, "Turkey's generals, who consider themselves the guardians of their country's secular tradition, have their doubts. In the powerful National Security Council, where they can often squeeze Turkey's elected politicians into reversing decisions, they have repeatedly growled that Mr. Gülen's main goal is to overthrow the secular order brought in by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, 77 years ago. Mr. Gülen, they say, wants an Islamic regime; his schools are his main recruiting ground. The generals are annoyed by the refusal of Turkey's left-of-centre prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, to take action against them. Ironically, it was the generals who, after they last stepped in against a civilian government in 1980, urged Islamic groups to resist extreme left-wingers. Mr. Gülen was then touted as a moderate fellow who combined his religion with a healthy dose of Turkish nationalism and capitalist spirit. Through his schools, Iran's influence in the former communist Muslim republics could be stemmed. Mr. Gülen was even received by Pope John Paul in 1998", 'Islamic Evangelists', The Economist, Vol 356, Issue 8178 (7 August 2000), p. 52.

[55] Unal and Williams, op. cit., p. 260.

[56] Ibid., 206.

[57] Ibid., 189.

[58] Ibid., 58.

[59] Ibid., 192.

[60] 'Europe: Islamic evangelists', The Economist, 8 July 2000.

[61] Pope, Nicole, 'An Ottoman empire of the mind',, 1998..

[62] Yavuz,, Hakan, 'The assassination of collective memory: The case of Turkey', The Muslim World, 89:3-4, 1999, p. 195.

[63] Eickelman, Dale F., 'Inside the Islamic Reformation', Wilson Quarterly 22, No. 1, Winter 1998, p. 82.

[64] These are also based on my observations and interviews with these people in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Pakistan between 25 January-7 March 1998; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzya, 16-23 May 1998; Indonesia and Malaysia 19-26 December 2001.

[65] Douglas Frantz, New York Times, 25 August 2000. The Economist also reports that "Now the brotherhood is spreading its wings beyond Turkey and the former Soviet republics, where it already has nearly 300 schools. It also has Africa, South Asia and even Australia on the list. Mustafa Kemal Sirin, who runs the schools in Russia, says that, since opening four years ago, they have won a string of inter-school competitions in English and physics. ``There are no religious classes in our schools,'' he adds firmly. ``We promote Turkey and Turkish culture.'' Last week, a report circulating within government that collated the views of Turkish ambassadors in former Soviet Central Asia said that the schools did indeed enhance Turkey's role abroad", 'Islamic Evangelists', The Economist, op. cit., p. 52.

[66] The movement's potential importance in strengthening the Turkey's position in the international arena has been noted by scholars. In this regard, Fuller and Candar propose that the Gülen movement can play a strong and important role "of positively representing Turkey in the Muslim world, and demonstrating the moderate character of Turkish Islam and Islamism that denies neither democracy or good ties with the West", Candar, Cengiz; Fuller, Graham E. 'Grand geopolitics for a new Turkey', Mediterranean Quarterly, V. No 1 Winter 2001, pp. 22-38). They also put that "Turkish Islamists can assist in moderating other Islamist movements in the region and in supporting reconciliation through its own successful mode", ibid.

[67] This being said, it must be underlined that the political Islam of this movement is specific to Turkey and could be regarded as 'moderate' when it compared with the other representations of political Islam in the Muslim world, see Sahin Alpay, 19 September 2000.

[68] Ergil, Ergil, 'Identity crises and political instability in Turkey'. Journal of International Affairs. Fall 2000.

[69] Mardin, Serif 'Religion and politics in modern Turkey'. James P. Piscatori (ed) Islam in the political process. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 152.

[70] Yavuz, Hakan, 'Search for a new social contract in Turkey: Fethullah Gülen, the Virtue Party and the Kurds'. SAIS Review 19:1, 127.

[71] Heper, Metin, 'Islam, nationalism and the military: Prospects for the consolidation of democracy in Turkey', 2000.

[72] Pope, Nicole and Hugh Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 2000.

[73] See for instance, Cengiz Candar describes this military's intervention as a post-modern coup, Cengiz Candar, Sabah, 28 June 1997.

[74] Yavuz 'Cleansing', op. cit.

[75] Cuneyt Ulsever, one of the prominent liberal thinkers in Turkey and a columnist of the daily Hurriyet, contends that pioneers of the transformation within practicing Muslim section of society are these 'Anatolian capitalists' and the followers of Gülen, Interview with Cuneyt Ulsever, 4 June 2000, Zaman.

[76] See in detail the party's election pledges on these issues, Fazilet Partisi: Secim beyannamesinde ilkeler-hedefler, (Principles and goals in the election manifesto) 18 April 1999. Ankara: Virtue Party.

[77] Ergil, op. cit.

[78]Fazilet Partisi: Secim beyannamesinde ilkeler-hedefler, (Principles and goals in the election manifesto) 18 April 1999. Ankara: Virtue Party. 17.

[79] M. Recai Kutan, Fazilet Partisi Genel Baskani M. Recai Kutan'in secim beyannemsi  basin toplantisi (The Virtue Party Chairman M. Recai Kutan's press conference on the election manifesto), 20 March 1999, Istanbul: The Virtue Party, 23.

[80] Yavuz , 'Search', op. cit., p. 127.

[81] Ergil 'Identity', see for such a recent visit by the Party Chairman Kutan and his colleagues to the European capitals, Turkish dailes, last week of September 2000; see for example Yeni Safak, 23 September 2000 at

[82] Heper, 'Islam', op. cit. These changes come into reality in spite of the movement's charismatic and natural leader, Necmettin Erbakan. Recent comments and discussions in the Turkish media shows that while there has been a consensus that Erbakan and his discourse have not changed, people in his movement do not now share his worldview and discourse in toto and that they openly criticize his discourse, if not him as person. This is most observable in the tensions between yenilikciler (renewers) and gelenekciler (traditionalists, Erbakan's very close circle), see Turkish dailies 18-20 September 2000. 

[83] Heper, 'Islam', op. cit.

[84] htttp://, 22 May 2000.

[85] Interview with Eyup Can, Zaman.

[86] Yavuz, 'Search', op. cit., p. 128.

[87] Duzel, Nese, 'Interview with Abdullah Gul', Radikal, 5 May 2000 at

[88] Bulac, Ali, Zaman, 4 June 2000.

[89] See for such a comment, Alpay, Sahin, 'Siyasal Islam', Milliyet, 19 September 2000.


[91] Yavuz, 'Search', op. cit., p. 129.

[92] See for such a criticism levelled against Gülen, Hablemitoglu, Necip, Yeni Hayat, N. 52.

[93] See for such a comment, Yenibahar, Asim, 'Diyanet Baskani neden papayi ziyaret etti?' (Why the Director of Religious Affairs visited the Pope?), Akit, 20 June 2000. Yenibahar suggests that it is not difficult to conceive that 'some power elite' sent the Director to Vatican, in response to Gülen's visit.

[94] Interviews with Abdullah Ayan, Responsible Member of Interreligious Dialogue of the Directorate High Council for Religios Affairs (Din Isleri Yuksek Kurulu) and Yusuf Kalkan, Head of Foreign Affairs, as he then was, Ankara, 16 August 2000.

[95] I had an opportunity to have a long discussion with Yusuf Kalkan on these issues and the role of the Directorate in the future. He sincerely puts that their intention is not to export any ideology but to play their part to shape the future face of Islam in Europe and in the world, with an emphasis on tolerance and dialogue, interview with Yusuf Kalkan, Head of Foreign Affairs (Dis Iliskiler Daire Baskani), Ankara, 16 August 2000

[96] See in detail Diyanet, Aylik Dergi, N. 114, June 2000, 32-39.

[97] Detailed information can be found in the Turkish dailies of the time of visit or see in detail Diyanet, Aylik Dergi, N. 115, July 2000, 6-17. On the front cover, the journal features a picture of Mehmet Yilmaz shaking hands with the Pope. See also Diyanet Avrupa. N. 15, 15june-15 July 2000.

[98] Eygi, Mehmet Sevket, 'Turkic world', Milli Gazete, 5 May 2000.

[99] Eygi, 'Secret agreement with papacy', Milli Gazete, 26 May 2000.

[100] See, several issues of Yeni Mesaj, Without any exaggeration, it is probable to read such a 'comment' in any issue of the daily. See for examples, 23 September 2000, 6 May 2000, 7 June 2000, 8 June 2000, 17 June 2000, 29 June, 23 September 2000, as the same arguments are repeated, scanning these issues will give an idea. 

[101]Cumhuriyet, 3 December 2000.

[102] Hablemitoglu, Necip, Yeni Hayat, N. 52.

[103] Ilhan, Suat (2000) Avrupa Birligi'ne neden hayir? (Why 'no to European Union'). Istanbul: Otuken. (This publishing house is known to have ultra-nationalist tendencies).


[105] Yavuz, Hakan,  'Towards an Islamic liberalism? The Nurcu movement and Fethullah Gülen'. In: V. 53 N. 4 The Middle East Journal, 1999, p. 584; for a very recent example see all dailies in Turkey, 3 October 2000: In an opening ceremony a military school, one of the top generals declared that 'if the West forces us to decide between the EU and unity of our country, we will choose our country's unity'.

[106]Zaman, 15 September; A recent survey conducted in 17 cities on 2027 people shows that while 68.7% of the Turkish population supports joining the EU, only 9.9% opposes it, Sukru Elekdag 'Our mind is in Europe', Milliyet, 21 September 2000.

[107] See for example, Cemal, Hasan, 'Europe is not a plot, it is Atatürk's way', Sabah, 21 September 2000.

[108] Bulaç, Ali, Zaman, 4 June 2000.

[109] Göle, Nilufer, Zaman, 4 June 2000.

[110] Eickelman, 'Inside ', op. cit., 82.

Ihsan Yilmaz, The Muslim World, Special Issue, July 2005 - Vol. 95 Issue 3 Page 325-471