Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Rise of Political Islam in Turkey and Its Effects on Turkish-Syrian Relations

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Rise of Political Islam in Turkey and Its Effects on Turkish-Syrian Relations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. This paper aims to explain the rise of political Islam in the last two decades in Turkey and its effects on Turkish Syrian relations. I believe, without referring to the historical and theoretical background of Political Islam, it would not be easy to understand the domestic and foreign policy practices of Turkey in recent years. In this respect, within the scope of this paper following questions will be explored in a combination: Will Turkey move away from its traditional modernity pattern? What effects will political Islam have on domestic and international politics of Turkey? What effects will Turkish-Syria tension create on regional security dynamics?

Keywords: Political Islam, Globalization, Secularity, Neo-Ottomanism, Totalitarianism, JDP

1. Introduction

Turkey is one of the main role players in the Middle East since the medieval ages. It has broadly effected the political, economic, and military interactions amongst the Middle Eastern societies, as well as the politics of great powers in the region. Ottomans have dominated the region more than four centuries until the end of the 19th century. But, after the collapse of Ottoman Empire, the region has entered into a new era, in which Turkey as a modern nation-state has retreated from the Middle East not only in physical borders but also in foreign politics. Starting with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey turned its face to the West as a Muslim-majority country, but also as a secular democratic state, and a NATO member.

With the end of Cold War, in parallel with the rise of globalization, political Islam in a global context has apparently affected Turkish domestic politics. This rise of Islam in a secular state has attracted the attention of West and other international circles. Since the beginning of Turkish Republican Era in the early 1920s, political Islam has never played such a dominant role in Turkish political life and never reached a significant socio-political power. However, enjoying the winds of globalization in the post-cold war term, political Islam have made significant changes on its political agenda contrary to its old discourse, and did not hesitate to embrace and widely use the values of western liberal democracy, human rights and rules of liberal economy.

2. Political Islam's Transformation in Global Era

In global context, there is a transformation from the old revolutionary Islamist politics which were refusing western values, into a kind of liberal political Islam widely using western methods to govern the state and the society. In this respect, JDP (Justice and Development Party) of Turkey, has proved to be a significant sample, rejecting the politics and discourse of old reformist Islamist parties of 1970s and 1980s.1 As Oliver Roy (2004) argues, political Islamists have not changed their rigid agenda of creating a society on Islamist rules, but only their methods and assets.2 It is a common perception that contemporary religious revival in Islam is targeting not only the society but also the state institutions which is the case in Turkey in the last decade. As Peter Mandaville asserts, political Islamists have a threephase agenda of short, medium and long terms. In the short term, they aim to transform the constitutional institutions according to the principles of their political aims. In mid-term they aim to transform the society into an Islamist society with acculturation and re-Islamisation projects. In the long term, although perceived as a utopia, their final aim is to create the global Ummah.3

Roy argues political Islam has been deeply affected by globalization and moves towards building a universal religious identity, delinked from any specific culture. In this respect, the Islamists of post cold-war era do not see Islam merely as a religion, but a political ideology that should shape all aspects of life over the society and the state structure. …

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