Academic journal article Asian Social Science

History of Islamic Political Movements in Turkey

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

History of Islamic Political Movements in Turkey

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article investigates the history of Islamic political movements in Turkey. The time period of the article cover the time after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 to the year 2000. It is argued in the article that Islamic movements were largely suppressed in the period between 1923-1945 when the country was ruled with a single party regime led by the Republican Peoples Party. With the introduction of multi-party political system in 1945, political Islam found the opportunity for political activism in the body of Democrat Party. But the political Islam found a more organized opportunity with the establishment of National Order Party in 1970 and National Salvation Party in 1971 by Necmettin Erbakan. Based on a programme of National View, the Turkish political Islam was known for its aim to support material development with a parallel moral and spiritual development with a reaction to the west in interstate relations. Turkish political Islam expressed itself with Welfare Party in 1983 to function until 1998 with some clear changes in its programme particularly in its agreement with contemporary political institutions and later support for Turkey's integration with the west. Turkish political Islam experienced its first great electoral success during the WP period. However, the WP is closed down in 1998 by the Constitutional Court due to allegations about anti-secularism and driven to a process of breakdown.

Keywords: Islamic political movements, political Islam, secularism, Turkey

1. Introduction

Republic of Turkey is geographically located at a juncture of Europe and Asia with its smaller part in Southeastern Europe and its larger part in Western Asia. The country has a very strategic location as it is stated by Rouleau (2000) in his Turkey's dream of democracy:

"...and Turkey was too important a player on the international chessboard to be ignored. Bordering the oil fields of the Middle East, at the edge of the ex-soviet Turkic republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia (some of which are also rich in oil), and linked through its Ottoman past to the Balkans, Turkey has huge potential to play a stabilizing country in a turbulent region. Moreover, in the economic domain, Turkey had intensified its lucrative commercial and financial ties with Europe and had come to be considered one of the world's ten most promising emerging markets by the U.S government" (Rouleau, 2000).

The political trajectory of Turkey has been a subject of keen interest for the westerners for its geopolitical significance since the establishment of republic in 1923. 99 % of the Turkish people are Muslim and Islam plays a significant role in the epistemology and the culture of the people. Majority of the Turks belong to the hanafi sect and together with sufism they apply a strong influence on the character and identity of Turkish people (Dzakirin, 2010).

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, although Islam is an integral part of the epistemology and culture of Turkish society, political parties and organizations are prevented from having religious references in the name of securitizing secularism. However, the Islamist group found religious expression via contemporary political norms and institutions under the banner of conservative parties. Conservative parties came to the government multiple times with their policies towards freedom of religion, belief and conscience. In this article, the last six decades of Islamic political movements will be taken under analysis with a look into how they cohabitated with democratic political life. The main argument of the article is that political Islam in Turkey has met with favorable and unfavorable conditions in this period to become the major political actors some times and to be prohibited from political activism some others.

2. Concept of Islamic Political Movement

A movement could be identified as a group of individuals who share the same objectives, efforts and resolution to achieve some particular goals. …

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