Humanism Amidst Our Machines   /   Summer 2011   /    Essays And Short Takes

The Theological Roots of Liberalism in Turkey: “Muslimism” from Islamic Fashion to Foreign Policy

Neslihan Cevik

Many social theorists, especially in international relations and sociology, assume that there is a divide both between religion and modernity and between politics and culture. These divides are then used in depictions of Islamic revivalism, portraying Islam as intrinsically anti-modern and Islamic movements as reactions against modernity, in the form of either private cultural escape or violent political mobilization. This is not only a Western perspective; it is shared by elites in the Muslim world, most ambitiously by Turkish elites.

Given this interpretive frame, it is not surprising that the rise of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) in Turkey, along with a national assembly that started to look more and more religious (the president and prime minister had veiled wives and a majority of congressmen defined themselves as observant Muslims), was alarming for secularist Turks and Western observers, who fully expected the party to infuse religiosity inside the state, eventually leading to a Sharia state, and to seek intra-Umma alliances internationally, leading to an overall Islamization.

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