Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism

Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism

Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism

Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism


Over the last decade, pious Muslims all over the world have gone through contradictory transformations. Though public attention commonly rests on the turn toward violence, this book's stories of transformation to "moderate Islam" in a previously radical district in Istanbul exemplify another experience.

In a shift away from distrust of the state to partial secularization, Islamists in Turkey transitioned through a process of absorption into existing power structures. With rich descriptions of life in the district of Sultanbeyli, this unique work investigates how religious activists organized, how authorities defeated them, and how the emergent pro-state Justice and Development Party incorporated them.

As Tugal reveals, the absorption of a radical movement was not simply the foregone conclusion of an inevitable world-historical trend but an outcome of contingent struggles. With a closing comparative look at Egypt and Iran, the book situates the Turkish case in a broad historical context and discusses why Islamic politics have not been similarly integrated into secular capitalism elsewhere.


Over the last de cades, pious Muslims all over the world have been going through deep and contradictory transformations. Public attention has focused on some Muslims' turn to violence and their cry for military jihad, ignoring more widely shared changes among the population. a personal story of transformation exemplifies another experience. When I met Yasin in 2000, he was a forty-year-old radical Islamist shop keeper. He had been one of the leaders of Islamist street action in his poor urban district in the 1990s. This district, Sultanbeyli, was at the forefront of Islamization in Istanbul during that decade. Yasin frequently went to unregistered, radical mosques for Friday sermons. Visitors took off their shoes in front of his office (to keep the environment clean and ready for ritual observance). He performed daily prayers regularly, together with partners and customers. Yasin, along with his partners and friends, did not support the (mainstream Islamist) Virtue Party (FP), which he found too submissive, cowardly, somewhat nationalistic, and obedient to the state. He was deeply committed to global Islamic unity and saw the Turkish nation-state as an artificial impediment.

When I was a newcomer in his district, I told Yasin I had heard that there were many Nurstudents (or Nurcus) in the district. He heartily laughed at this suggestion and said, “How can there be Nurstudents in a district where the Islamists are so strong?” Only an outsider like me could believe that there could be any followers of this pro-state, Turkish nationalist, pro-Western, and capitalist Islamic group in Sultanbeyli. My ignorance deeply embarrassed me.

When I visited Yasin again in 2006, he had started to attend the seminars of the Nurcus. He argued that this was the only Islamic movement that had a . . .

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