TURKEY: Turkey, Islamists and Democracy: Transition and Globalization in a Muslim State

By Sayari, Sabri | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

TURKEY: Turkey, Islamists and Democracy: Transition and Globalization in a Muslim State


Sayari, Sabri, The Middle East Journal


TURKEY Turkey, Islamists and Democracy: Transition and Globalization in a Muslim State, by Yildiz Atasoy. London, UK and New York: LB. Tauris, 2005. xii + 190 pages. Tables. Refs. to p. 214. Index to p. 227. $45.

In Turkey, Islamists and Democracy, Yildiz Atasoy seeks to analyze the growth of the Islamist movement in Turkey by focusing on the internal and international context of Turkey's political and economic development. Although the author notes that "Islamic politics" has its roots in the Ottoman Empire, she offers only a few observations regarding state-society relations during the Ottoman period. Rather, the main thrust of the book is on the modern Turkish Republic, with special emphasis on the secularization policies that were implemented during the formative years of the Republic, the emergence of new trends in Turkish politics, economy, and foreign policy following the transition to democracy after World War II, and the growing political power of the Islamist parties in the 1990s, which coincided with the end of the Cold War and economic globalization. The author's principal argument is that Islam in Turkey should be analyzed in terms of the domestic responses to global developments and the "opportunities and constraints [that] are presented to the citizens within these larger mechanisms of change" (p. 21).

Its lofty theoretical ambitions notwithstanding, this study is essentially a general survey of political and economic changes in Turkey since the 1920s and some of the major developments in the international system which had an impact on Turkish politics, economy, and foreign policy. The book also provides a similarly general overview of the origins and growth of the Islamist movement in Turkey, with special emphasis on what Atasoy calls the "Islamist search for selfhood." Arguably the strongest sections of the study are those that analyze the Islamist responses to the Republic's modernization project following the onset of political liberalization and multi-party politics in the late 1940s and the impact of the increased globalization of the world economy on the growth of Islamist business activities in Turkey. Although the main arguments of the book are largely based on secondary sources, it is sprinkled with a few personal observations of the author. In one of these, Atasoy offers useful information drawn from interviews she conducted in a youth hostel in a small town near Ankara (organized by a prominent religious sect, Suleymanclar) about the inroads that the Islamists have made into the education of young students in Turkey in recent years.

Despite these interesting insights, however, the book breaks no new ground, especially on the critical issue of Turkey's efforts to accommodate Islam within the framework of democratic politics. Those who are familiar with Turkish politics and the country's international political and economic relations, will not find much that is new in Atasoy's overview of the events that have shaped the course of the country's development and its role in the international system since the 1920s. …

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