Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Comparing Islamic Resurgence Movements in Turkey and Iran

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Comparing Islamic Resurgence Movements in Turkey and Iran

Article excerpt

This article examines and compares the Islamic resurgence movements in Iran between the 1950s to the revolution of 1979 and in Turkey from the 1950s to the present. It focuses on wide-ranging socioeconomic, political, ideological, psychological, historical, and cultural factors, in addition to the religious and spiritual motivations, behind the phenomenon of Islamic revivalism and intends to find the similarities and/or differences between the Islamization movements in both countries.

We are witnessing the ongoing and increasing revival of Islam in the contemporary Muslim world. This has been the motivation for my article, which focuses on the Islamic resurgence movements in Iran from the 1950s to the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and in Turkey from the 1950s up to the present day. In choosing these two non-Arab Muslim countries, which were never formally colonized, I argue that in spite of certain parallels in the revival of Islamic movements in the Muslim world, they have diverse, deep-rooted historical foundations and unique features and therefore should be analyzed distinctively in consideration of the internal dynamics and specificities of each country.

In my study, I ended the analysis of Islamic revivalism in Iran with the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic that marked the opening of a new era in which the secularist regime was replaced with a theocratic one. I considered this as the ultimate stage that Islamic activism can reach. In other words, the Islamic resurgence movement in Iran has resulted in the establishment of an Islamic order. However, in contrast to Iran, given the country-specific conditions, religious revivalism in Turkey is still an evolving and dynamic process, which continues to develop by taking different forms and appearances in its struggle with the established secular forces. Therefore, the analysis of Islamic revivalism in Turkey is carried up to the present.

The present study aims to determine the essential factors which account for the Islamist mobilization in each of these countries. Which factors mobilize the masses along Islamist lines? Who are the actors and supporters? What are the similarities and differences in the nature of Islamic revival movements in both countries? Is there a common pattern? are the implications and consequences of the Islamic movements in Iran and Turkey? Why have the outcomes been different? These are the questions that I will answer in this article in consideration of the unexpected occurrence of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the electoral success in Turkey of the Islamist Welfare Party and its successor, the Justice and Development Pary (AKP).

There exists a huge body of literature about the Islamic revival process in both Turkey and Iran that posits different explanations or generalizations about its occurrence, nature, and consequences. This study intends to deal with each of these factors separately and find the similarities and/or differences - if there are any - between the Islamization movements in both countries by employing an all-encompassing and comparative approach. Thus it will focus on wide-ranging socioeconomic, political, ideological, psychological, historical, and cultural factors besides the religious and spiritual motivations behind the phenomenon of Islamic revivalism in Turkey and Iran.

Before focusing on each factor separately, it is useful to begin with an overview of the general characteristics of the Islamic revival process in each country.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

Islam is a very important element in both Iranian and Turkish social, cultural, and political life. Moreover, in Iran and Turkey alike Islamic movements are instigated mainly by - although by no means only by - the alienated and disinherited groups of society. As Shireen Hunter points out, Islam was used as a means of opposition and resistance by various elements of society from different economic and social milieus to express their discontent and resentment towards the state's policies. …

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