Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Islamist Views on Foreign Policy: Examples of Turkish Pan-Islamism in the Writings of Sezai Karakoc and Necmettin Erbakan

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Islamist Views on Foreign Policy: Examples of Turkish Pan-Islamism in the Writings of Sezai Karakoc and Necmettin Erbakan

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT In the case of Turkey, competing foreign policy perspectives have always represented a central issue in the ideological clash between Kemalism and Islamism, revolving around the definition of Turkey's identity and its future in the international arena. This paper analyzes the foreign policy writings of two dissimilar figures of Turkey's political Islam, namely Necmettin Erbakan and Sezai Karakoc, both considered central for the development of the Islamist ideology in Turkey. This study explores their texts and detects similitudes revealing their common connection with Turkey's expression of the Pan-Islamist trend that reemerged during the Cold War. The analysis of these two authors concludes by pointing out the nationalist element characterizing Turkish Islamism--and Turkish Pan-Islamism--in comparison with analogous non-Turkish expressions of this ideology.

Introduction

The National Outlook movement (NO, Milli Gorus), to which several political parties were affiliated throughout Turkey's political history, stood for decades as the main representative of Islamism in the country. The national identity envisioned by Milli Gorus had very important implications for the field of foreign relations. During the two decades between the 1960 and the 1980 coups, for the first time in Turkish republican history, new circumstances allowed a free debate on foreign policy issues to emerge. (1) The 1961 Constitution allowed a "liberalization of the political spectrum," (2) and the translation of many foreign ideological texts, including the Islamist ones, affected the Turkish context. (3) Religion became more visible and important within the country's political process. (4)

For most Turkish Islamists, both inside and outside the NO, belonging to the Turkish nation was ideologically subordinate to their belonging within the transnational Islamic community, glorifying Turkey's leading role due to its Ottoman legacy notwithstanding. The Kemalist project of cutting ties with the Muslim world to bolster the Republic's Western orientation was for the Islamists a violence inflicted on the genuine identity of the Turks as members of the umma (the community of Muslim believers), forerunners of the Muslim world and heirs to the Ottoman State. Therefore, foreign policy became a crucial symbol of the divergence between Kemalists and Islamists in Turkey. Foreign policy became one of the most evident examples of the clash between the two camps, (5) sometimes emerging as tension among different institutions. (6) The transnational integrity of the umma, the theoretical prerequisite of political Islam's approach to international relations, (7) whether it projects a unified Islamic state or just enhanced cooperation among Muslim countries, is also the precondition for the elaboration and the spread of the ideal of Pan-Islamism throughout the history of Islamist thought.

This paper demonstrates, through the writings of Turkish Islamists Sezai Karakoc and Necmettin Erbakan, the two authors' belonging within a neo-Pan-Islamist trend. By finding the elements of this trend in their texts, it attempts to show how Turkey's Islamists elaborated their vision of the world order and their approach to foreign affairs in light of the new Pan-Islamism of the 1960s, whose major exponents outside of Turkey were the Pakistani Abul A'la Maududi and the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb. This analysis detects in Karakoc and Erbakan's articles the West-Islam dichotomy that underlies the new Pan-Islamism that emerged during the Cold War, as did a new conceptualization of umma. Together with the reference to the umma, this dichotomy is both a link with the old Pan-Islamism and a constant point of emphasis for these authors. Consequently, I observe the ideology expressed in the authors' texts as constructed in opposition to other ideologies and "outgroups" that were present in Turkey and which they labeled "Western-made." This opposition is explicitly revealed not only through their choice of topics and the specific meanings they attach to them, but also by the discursive strategies they used to mark their distinctions from the others. …

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