Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule/Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule/Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP

Article excerpt

BIROL A. YESILADA and BARRY RUBIN, EDS., Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule (London, New York: Routledge, 2011). Pp. 136. $133.00 cloth. $44.95 paper.

WILLIAM HALE and ERGUN ÖZBUDUN, Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP (New York: Routledge, 2010). Pp. 240. $138.00 cloth. $44.95 paper.

Some books give away their agenda and thesis almost too easily with their titles, others are more subtle and research oriented. Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule edited by Birol Yesilada and Barry Rubin, falls into the former category, while Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism by William Hale and Ergun Özbudun, clearly belongs to the latter. The tone of the first book can be summarized in one word: alarmism. The majority of the articles, ranging from domestic to foreign policy, in Yesilada and Rubin's edited volume are highly alarmed by the AKP's Islamic agenda. Their common denominator is their concern about the steady erosion of secularist and Kemalist values in the last ten years. Most characteristic of the overall narrative is Nur Bilge Criss's "Dismantling Turkey: The Will of the People." Criss concludes that what we are witnessing in Turkey is nothing less than the rise of Talibanesque worldviews, increased racism and xenophobia and the installation of political Islam. To be fair, the book also offers some more nuanced and balanced analysis with Mustafa Sen and Ahmet Sözen's articles. While Sen focuses on the transformation of Turkish political Islam in the last thirty years, Sözen looks at the AKP's foreign policy. Yet, even these more analytical attempts fail to surpass the reductionist paradigm of Islam versus secularism or pro-West versus anti-West as the defining cleavage in Turkish politics and society.

Scholars make a major mistake in analyzing Turkish domestic and foreign policy when they focus exclusively on a "pro-Western" versus "Islamic" divide in Ankara's strategic choices. This is an understandable fallacy. Turkey's population is almost fully Muslim, and the AKP, a political party with Islamic roots, has won three consecutive election victories. Many policymakers, analysts and scholars thus equate the notion of Turkish divergence from the West-or the fear of "losing Turkey"-with the idea of an Islamic revival. Moreover, this is exactly how some members within Turkey's Kemalist establishment-the military, the Republican People's Party (CHP) founded by Atatürk, and the judiciary-describe most AKP policies. Islamization of Turkey under AKP Rule is a familiar example of this genre of analysis.

While the growing importance of religion in Turkey should not be dismissed, it is important to see other drivers of social, political and economic change in Turkey. For instance, any attempt to look at civil-military relations in Turkey would see that civilian supremacy over the military is now becoming the norm. Yet, it is also clear that Turkey is still far from being a liberal democracy. What we see emerging in Turkey, is at best, a populist democracy with not much respect for individual freedom and constitutional rights. In that sense, the fundamental driver of Turkish politics and the permanent trait of Turkish political culture remain authoritarianism and nationalism. …

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