With the increasing international prominence of Turkey and its successful and internationally respected AK Party government of former Islamists, the Academia’s attention has focused on the Turkish Islamist experience. Turkey had already been seen as an almost unique case as far Islamstate- secularism-democracy relations were concerned but the recent transformation of the Turkish Islamism coupled with the global turmoil in the post-9/11 world has made the Turkish case much more important. Turkey’s recent election to the temporary post of the United Nations Security Council by a tremendous vote of 151 out of 192 member nations after more than 40 years should also be read from this perspective.
While Turkish Islamists’ recent transformation that has brought about their rise to the power has been applauded at home and abroad, there are relatively very few studies that analyze their transformation by taking into account the unique experience of Turkish Islamism starting from the 18th & 19th centuries’ Ottoman secularization, Young Ottomans of the 1860s and the Ottoman constitutionalism and democracy. Moreover, structural materialist analyses of Islamism and post-Islamism take globalization and Westernization as independent variables and try to analyze how they have influenced Islamists’ behavior. Although academics have drawn our attention to the globalization, international opportunity structures and failure of Islamist government experiences both in Turkey and abroad as the factors that have influenced the Islamists’ transformation, the socio-cultural variable needs to be taken into account as well. Dynamics that affected the change in the Turkish Islamists’ Islamic normative framework have not been analyzed in detail.
Thus, this study endeavors to analyze the main factors behind the newly emerged
tolerant normative framework of the AK Party leaders who were formerly Islamist.
After showing that there are good historical reasons arising from the Ottoman experience
of secularism and democracy and arguing based on a brief theoretical discussion
of the plurality of Islamisms, I will discuss that the Turkish Islamism has always
differed from the other Islamist experiences. Then, I will move on to the contemporary
times and will attempt to show that Islamic groups’ physical and discursive interaction
has been a crucial factor in the Turkish Islamism’s transformation. I argue that
the Gülen movement has been the most influential factor that has helped the AK Party
leaders to develop a more tolerant normative framework and to eventually jettison
their Islamism. It is of course difficult to establish casual relationship between
two social phenomena but we can underscore correlations. By focusing on the Gülen
movement, I in no way disregard the other domestic influences such as the transformation
of the formerly Islamist scholars and the newly emerged nascent Anatolian bourgeoisie.
But still, I argue that the Gülen movement has been the most dominant factor, because,
compared to the other factors, it is the most influential and widespread one with
its schools, dormitories, businessmen associations, charities and the media organizations.
Secondly, when we look at the discourses of the all main Islamic actors mentioned
in this study from an historical perspective, we find that while Gülen has been
advocating almost the same views for the last four decades, the other actors have
had to adapt their views during the course of the same time span and what is more,
their views converged to Gülen’s views. Needless to say, as I mainly focus on the
socio-cultural factors that have influenced the transformation of the AK Party leaders’
normative frameworks, I will not be looking at the external factors such as global
opportunity structures and domestic institutional constraints imposed by the aggressively
laicist establishment that have already been discussed elsewhere.
As my main hypothesis is that the Gülen movement has been the most influential
factor in the normative transformation of the former Islamists’ mental frameworks
and their religio-political worldviews, I will try to provide a comparative discourse
analysis between Fethullah Gülen’s and Islamists’ ideas on several issues that have
been relevant for both Islamism and newly-emerged post-Islamism. Our brief theoretical
discussion of Islamism and post-Islamism will thus help us to identify these relevant
issues (secularism, pluralism, democracy, rule of law, nationalism, state, Islamism,
religiosity, the other, borders and dialogue). This theoretical discussion is also
an essential prerequisite to understand the fundamental differences between Islamism and the Gülenian thought.
Islamism is a controversial term and its definitions vary. Even though the term
has been used widely for at least the last two decades, unfortunately, the distinction
between Islam, Islamic and Islamism is sometimes blurred and difficult
to discern as some writers use them interchangeably. The term generally refers to
political Islam, ideologisation of religion and instrumental use of Islam in politics.
Islamism is a set of ideologies enunciating the view that Islam is not only a religion
but also a political system. Depending on the one’s definition of politics, one
could even call an apolitical individual Islamist. Thus, it is sometimes employed
to make reference to observant and socially active Muslims as well regardless of
whether these people see Islam as an ideology; a political project to be implemented
and see Islam just like any other religion’s followers see their religion. Thus,
some scholars label socially active observant Muslims as Islamists but such a definition
considers almost all observant Muslims as Islamists. Calling any socially active
religious Muslim Islamist is thus simplistic as the main tenets of Islam –and indeed
any other major religion- require the faithful to be active participants in the
public sphere with an aim of reaching a more ethical and just society. Such usage
of the term blurs the differences between individuals who take Islam as an ideology
and condones its instrumentalist use politics and individuals who simply sees life
as a divine test and try to follow religion’s basic tenets such as giving alms,
helping the needy, trying to tackle socio-economic inequalities and so on. The term
is also used to define fundamentalist version of religion but still not all fundamentalists
have politics or political projects in mind. If the term Islamist is continued to
be used to cover observant Muslims as well, then we need to coin a specific term
that would only denote Muslims who ideologise Islam and see it as a political project.
At the moment, the term is “too nebulous a formulation to act as an analytical guide
capable of explaining either the nature of the Islamist ideology or the scope of
political activities undertaken in the name of Islam” (Ayoob 2005: 952). Even limiting
the term’s meaning to political Islam, to instrumentalist use of Islam in politics
and to seeing it an ideology –as we will do in this study- is far from satisfactory
because it will still not give us an idea if it means democratically participating
at elections with a faith-based ideological mindset or if it also means ideology
of Islamizing the society with a top down systematic social engineering effort after
winning the elections. Furthermore, we also do not have a clue when the term is
used if it refers to a revolutionary ideology, for which there is not a distinctive
term. Unfortunately, although the term is widely used, it seems to be a blanket
or umbrella term without an agreed and precise meaning. This is not just an Orientalist
–with a capital “O” in Edward Saidian termsmanipulation of the term in employing
knowledge in hegemonic power games but Muslims who call themselves Islamist use
it very loosely as well and claim the particularism/peculiarity/essentialism of
Islam. This understanding of imagined immutable particularism/peculiarity/essentialism
of Islam shows how Islamists agree with the Eurocentric claim of an essential difference
between Western and non-Western cultures.
In this study we use the term to mean “a form of instrumentalization of Islam
by individuals, groups and organizations that pursue political objectives. It provides
political responses to today’s societal challenges by imagining a future, the foundations
for which rest on reappropriated, reinvented concepts borrowed from the Islamic
tradition.” (Denoeux 2002: 61). It should be underlined that these political objectives
and political responses are openly voiced by actors who are involved in daily politics
in the name of Islam. Claims of universalism and monopoly of religious truth, exclusivism,
obligation and responsibility are the main tenets of Islamism. Generally speaking,
inclusion, compromise and tolerance are anathema to Islamism. This study uses Islamism
and political Islam interchangeably.
The Islamists endeavor to articulate an Islamic ideology that could respond to
their societies’ current political, economic and cultural deficits. They imagine
Islam as a complete and ready-to-use, “divine system, with its superior political
model, cultural codes, legal structure and economic arrangement – a system that
responds to all human problems. More importantly, this Islam was to offer Muslims
a sense of selfrespect, self-confidence, and a discursive autonomy” (Bayat 2007a:
14). Islamists argue that contemporary Muslims must return to the roots of their
religion and be united politically. Islamism “entails a political ideology articulating
the idea of the necessity of establishing an Islamic government, understood as government
which implements the shari’a” (Ismail 2004: 616). Islamists aim to apply shari’a
in full and to eliminate western influences in the “Muslim World” especially in
the areas of politics, economy, society and culture, which they consider to be incompatible
with the “true & authentic” Islam.
Islamists’ discourse is based on the rejection of the West but it is not crystal
clear if they also completely oppose modernity project. Islamists –based on ontological
and epistemological incompatibilities- do not accept the rationalist and positivist
thought derived from the enlightenment. “It is certainly easy to see how… Islamism
explicitly renounces some of the core tenets of that inheritance – secularism, individualism,
tolerance, democracy, gender equality, among them” (Halliday 1995: 416). Yet, in
practice, Islamists accept, if de facto, the other derivative of modernity, a system
of social organization produced by the industrial revolution. They use many modern
sociopolitical instruments and do not have any feasible alternative to many of modern
phenomena such as capitalism and consumerism. Islamists have not also developed
any alternative to modern state system, political economy and technology; they have
also accepted to work within the boundaries of the nation-state despite their rhetoric
of cross-national/transnational claims. Islamists are not Luddites and happily make
use of western technological products. Even more, many of them prefer a western
dress code. The current leader of Turkish Islamism, former Turkish Prime Minister
Necmettin Erbakan always wears Versace ties. It is said that he prefers them because
their patterns are oriental in style. He has always sported them without problematizing
if it was all right to buy western products without any compelling reason, let alone
pondering on if there was a concept of wearing tie in the “true & authentic” Islam.
Almost all Islamists implicitly accepted western institutions.
As a matter of fact, even the enlightenment’s main aims –security, freedom and
wealth- are also major aims of the Islamists although it is obvious that these are
also aims of the Islamic inheritance, not exclusively derived from the enlightenment.
It will not be wrong to suggest that Islamism is a hybrid product of modernity,
anti-modernity and a literalist interpretation of Islam cut off from its tradition.
Modernity’s penetration of Islamism should not be puzzling, as even so-called dichotomy
of modernity and tradition is blurred and let alone being diametrically opposite,
they are not even mutually exclusive. One can only talk about differences. But then,
there are even differences between several modernity projects or modernities. The
main difference of Islamism from modernity is in methodology. Whilst, modernity
start from empirical evidence to reach general conclusions, Islamists try to come
from nass (dogma) and try to interpret the empirical accordingly, disregarding
the fact that even nass was intentionally contextualized by sebeb-i nuzul
(cause of revelation, context) to correspond with the empirical. A possible
reason for this disregard of verses’ contextualisation could be the Islamists’ lay
background. Islamism, like the other religio-political ideologies in other religious
communities, is generally championed by lay-people with an applied-science, secular
education or journalism background. Necmettin Erbakan, for example, is a professor
of mechanical engineering; many other Islamist leaders are also trained in engineering.
Rarely do Islamist leaders have a socialscience or humanities background and very
few indeed took a formal education in classical Islamic scholarship (Barton 2005:
8; Ayoob 2005: 952). Furthermore, the ulama (plural of alim, Muslim
scholar of the highest level in Islamic knowledge), the traditional interpreters
of Islamic scholars who studied and excelled in classical Islamic subjects such
as theology, exegesis and jurisprudence have been the Islamists’ favourite target
of attack as for the Islamists, the ulama are a part of the problem and most
Islamists hold the ulama responsible for Muslim decline alongside the rulers
who succumbed to superior western power and hegemony (Ayoob 2005: 952).
As an essentially modern movement Islamism developed very much in reaction to
Western hegemony. Young Ottomans were the first to respond to the western hegemony,
superiority and institutions by trying to formulate Islamic answers from the original
Islamic sources. Young Ottomans blamed their rulers for their corruption and for
not returning to authentic Islam. They argued that many western institutions such
as constitutionalism are already authentic Islamic institutions (Turkone 1994a,
see also Mardin 1962). Young Ottomans could be seen as predecessors of Jamaladdin
Afghani and Muhammed Abduh who are widely known as first Islamists. Islamism as
movement emerged as a reaction to the Western colonialism in the middle of the 20th
century. Islamism’s seminal thinkers and activists established their organizations
mainly in Egypt and Pakistan, while secularized Republican Turkey was under authoritarian
one-party regime and did not allow room for public, let alone political, manifestations
of Islam. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami’s foundations
were laid by the Hasan al-Banna who established the Brotherhood in 1928, and Sayyid
Abu l’Ala Maududi (1903-79) who founded Jamaat-i-Islami in 1941. Even though Hasan
al-Banna is known to be sensitive about Islam’s spiritual and ethical dimensions,
most prominent Sunni Islamists have been strict advocates of the Salafi epistemology,
a broad scripturalist epistemology whose proponents—regardless of their political
attitudes—disregard Sufism and theosophical ideas, focus on scriptural positivism,
and usually give lesser importance to the inner dimension of religious life.
Islamists’ reinvention of religion as a political ideology and not a theological
or socio-cultural construct provides the tools for dehistoricizing Islam and to
separate it from the various tempo-spatial contexts in which Islam has been practiced
over the fourteen hundred years. By this decontextualization of Islam, Islamists
conveniently ignore, if only in theory, the social, economic and political milieux
within which Muslim societies operate (Ayoob 2005: 952). In practice, nevertheless,
political manifestations of Islam are dependent on local cultures and contexts.
For instance, in contrast to the Middle Eastern experiences, many Turkish Islamists
are either close to or informal members of officially outlawed Sufi orders. Despite
the Islamists’ attempts to decontextualise Islam, there are as many different versions
of political Islams as there are different socio-political contexts (Ayoob 2005:
953). As a matter of fact, non-essentialist scholars who focus on culture, such
as towering Clifford Geertz (1968), argue that underneath the similarities of Islam
there were such profound socio-cultural in different contexts as to make one ask
the question whether this is one religion with different aspects or different religions
sharing some common features.
The term was first used by Asef Bayat (1996) referring to the Iranian context.
He stated that “(b)y "post-Islamism" I mean a condition where, following a phase
of experimentation, the appeal, energy, symbols and sources of legitimacy of Islamism
get exhausted, even among its once-ardent supporters. As such, post-Islamism is
not anti-Islamic, but rather reflects a tendency to resecularize religion. Predominantly,
it is marked by a call to limit the political role of religion” (Bayat 1996: 45).
In Iran, “post-Islamism is expressed in the idea of fusion between Islam (as a personalized
faith) and individual freedom and choice; and post-Islamism is associated with the
values of democracy and aspects of modernity” (Bayat 1996: 45).
Since then, a number of European, mainly French, writers have employed the term,
if often descriptively, to refer to what they consider a shift in attitudes and
strategies of Islamists after the socalled failure of Islamism (Schulze 1998, Roy
1999, 2005, Kepel 2002). Unfortunately, these writers presented post-Islamism “primarily
as an historical rather than an analytical category” (Bayat 2007a: 17). The term,
thus, was criticised on the basis of its premature generalisation of the end of
Islamism. The critics argued that political Islam, doing politics in an Islamic
frame, is not changing but its revolutionary, top-down, version has become defunct.
Thus, they argued that post-Islamism is only a variety of Islamism (Ismail 2001,
Burgat 2003 cited in Bayat 2007a: 18; see also Lauzière 2005 and Sinanovic 2005).
For more than a decade, post-Islamism has been at the center of a major debate
especially in French academia regarding the historical evolution of Islamism (Lauzière
2005: 241). These French scholars, mainly Olivier Roy, argued that Islamism —that
is, according to their definition, the holistic, populist, and often revolutionary
ideology whose goal is the establishment of an Islamic state and the governance
of all aspects of society according to Islamic principles— had reached a dead end
and Khomeini, Qutb, and al-Mawdudi were passé. An era of post-Islamism was dawning
(Lauzière 2005: 241). Roy (1998; 2004) claims that the reorientation of Islamists
toward religiosity and away from politics is a sign of the failure of political
Islam. As Lauzie`re (2005) argues, Roy’s conceptualization of post-Islamism does
not stand up to empirical scrutiny. Lauzie`re (2005: 257) shows that “(a)lthough
post-Islamist theory is an attempt to systematize empirical data from the past thirty-five
years into a coherent historical pattern, it relies on a narrow and selective definition
of Islamism that cannot account for the particularities of the Moroccan context…
It also seems better suited to cases in which the rise and failure of revolutionary
Islamism has been overt and pronounced”.
Same could be said for the Turkish context. In the case of Turkish Islamism, religiosity
has always been important. Besides, there were already many observant Muslim individuals
who did not see Islam in political terms. There is no reason to call these people
post-Islamist as Roy does, because these people were never Islamists in the first
place. Roy also argues that the Islamists’ abandonment of transnational solidarity
and their new centeredness on national politics is yet another indication of failure.
Again, as we discussed above, despite the rhetoric, this has more or less always
the case and as far as the rhetoric is concerned it is still espoused by Islamists,
of course at a rhetorical level.
In Bayat’s (2007) formulation, post-Islamism refers to both a condition
and a project, which may be embodied in a master (or multi-dimensional)
movement. In the first instance, post-Islamism refers to a political and social
condition, in which after a phase of experimentation, the appeal, energy, and sources
of legitimacy of Islamism get exhausted even among its once ardent supporters. Islamists
become aware of their paradigm’s anomalies and inadequacies as they try to rule.
The continuous trial and error make the system susceptible to questions and criticisms.
Eventually, pragmatic attempts to maintain the system reinforce abandoning certain
of its underlying principles. Islamism becomes compelled, both by its own internal
contradictions and by societal pressure, to reinvent itself, but does so at the
cost of a qualitative shift (Bayat 2007a: 18). It is obvious that post-Islamist
condition can only be relevant in the contexts where Islamists could come into power.
Bayat (2007a: 18) further puts that:
Not only a condition, post-Islamism is also a project, a conscious attempt
to conceptualize and strategize the rationale and modalities of transcending
Islamism in social, political, and intellectual domains. Yet, post-Islamism
is neither anti-Islamic nor un-Islamic or secular. Post-Islamism represents
an endeavour to fuse religiosity with rights, faith and freedoms, Islam and
civil liberties and focuses on rights instead of duties, plurality instead of
singular authority, historicity rather than fixed and rigid interpretation of
scriptures, and the future rather than the past. Post-Islamists eagerly join
a cosmopolitan humanity, link up with global civil activism and endeavour to
work for global co-operation and solidarity. It wants to marry Islam with individual
choice and freedom, with democracy and modernity, to achieve what some have
called an “alternative modernity”. Post-Islamism is expressed in acknowledging
secular exigencies, in freedom from rigidity, in breaking down the monopoly
of religious truth. In short, whereas Islamism is defined by the fusion of religion
and responsibility, post-Islamism emphasizes religiosity and rights.
As nothing intrinsic to Islam—or any other religion—makes it inherently democratic
or undemocratic, the question is no longer whether Islam is compatible with modernity
but rather how Muslims can make these concepts compatible (Bayat 2007a: 10).
Let us now elaborate on in detail the evolution of Turkish Islamism from Ottoman
times up to the present post-Islamist times.
3. Evolution of Turkish Islamism
Ever since its inception at the end of the thirteenth century, the Ottoman State
had been in constant contact with Europe. When its superiority began fading away
in the seventeenth century, its rulers became acutely aware that reform was vitally
needed. Initially, they searched for indigenous solutions but then decided to emulate
the West. After establishing permanent diplomatic posts in major European capitals,
Ottomans also start sending students to these cities. Young Ottomans are among these
first generation students that were sent to study in Europe with a hope that upon
their return they would help reforming the State. They were trained in modern secular
Ottoman bureaucratic schools, knew one or more European languages, and had lived
for years in major European capitals. Reading European political writings and associating
with the westerners made them a sui generis Ottoman elite class. Thus, they
developed a respect for western political institutions and affirmed that the state
would never be modernized unless adopting a democratic government and a constitution
(McCarthy 1997: 302). They envisaged synthesizing modern values with the traditional
local values. They demanded a constitutional government, a parliamentarian regime
and a political system based on human rights. They made reference to the Anglo-Saxon
system and tried to adapt it to the Ottoman state. They offered a constitutional
project with an Islamic foundation (Mardin 2005: 150). In their writings, they recruited
their base paradigm from the first century Islam. They tried to legitimize their
discourse with a constant endeavor to prove that essentials of the major Western
institutions were already in the authentic sources of Islam. This textual construction
is a prelude to modernist and fundamentalist readings of Islam in the face of the
challenges posed by modernity.
The changes they were asking for were not so easy to implement for the Ottoman
rulers for various reasons, thus, the Young Ottomans quickly found themselves in
opposition position. One important difference between the first generation Islamists
and contemporary Islamists is that the earlier generation is “an intellectual elite
operating as part of the establishment whereas the contemporary group is one of
persons of modest origins whose position in society is less assured” (Mardin 2005:
160). Young Ottomans were not coming from the periphery; they were also part of
the centre but made a conscious choice to oppose the establishment. As they were
also part of the Ottoman elite, “they were democrats in theory, but not necessarily
men who understood the people for whom they avowedly spoke” (McCarthy 1997: 303).
Another unique feature of these first generation Islamists is that in their private
lives they were not observant Muslims even though they were proud of their Islamic
culture. In that they differ from the later generation Islamists. Moreover, Ottoman
rulers tolerated them to a great extent and punishments they were meted out were
either light or they were pardoned afterwards. These peculiarities of the first
generation Islamists are important for Turkish Islamism has never had radical overtures.
Young Ottomans’ writings appealed to two groups: those who wanted faster liberalist
reforms and those who wanted a renewed Islam to take part in the system denied by
Tanzimat ruling elite (McCarthy 1997: 302).
Young Ottomans were also social engineers like the Tanzimat elite and
the twentieth century Islamists: They advocated imposing the reform from the top.
Young Ottomans are also the first Islamists who despite being lay challenged the
traditional authority of ulama in religious matters. To their date, discussion
of religious matters was only a legitimate field for the ulama (Mardin 2005:
151). This “new “private” voice of Islam, sometimes loud and sometimes more measured,
was from now on a theme equally shared by secular and religious intellectuals. Members
of a new intelligentsia—most of whom were no longer educated in religious seminars
(medrese), but in the schools established as part of the reforms of the
Tanzimat—began to discuss Islam as a fundamental social issue” (Mardin 2005:
151). This new utilitarian use of Islam first appeared in the 1870s, with an aim
to mobilize Muslims in order to construct a new Islamic unity and solidarity to
be used against imperialism (Mardin 2005: 151). “Later, in the 1890s, part of the
intelligentsia promoted arguments that would allow Islam to be seen as the locus
of progress and civilization” (Mardin 2005: 151). It must be noted that the rise
of Islamic consciousness in the form of Islamism in the late nineteenth century
and the emergence of Turkish nationalist consciousness were not entirely separate
processes and they were “manifestations of a reaction to Ottoman disempowerment
in the face of rising European imperialism” (Gulalp 1995: 178). Republican period’s
Islamists would always keep this nationalist consciousness part of their Islamist
Young Ottomans had a chance to put their ideas into practice in 1876 when a junta
composed of reformist statesmen, military officers and ulama took advantage
of the chaos in the country and pressed for a constitutional government. The first
Ottoman constitution (Kanun-i Esasi) was promulgated on 23 December 1876,
which also started the period known as the First Meshrutiyet, or First Constitutional
Period, a period of a liberal constitutional monarchy. The 1876 Constitution was
a document that resembled written western constitutions. It was modelled on the
Belgian Constitution of 1831 and the Prussian Constitution of 1851 (Bozkurt 1998:
285). It is the first constitution of an Islamic state in history. For the first
time in Islamic history, all subjects were declared to be Ottomans regardless of
their religion. All subjects were equal and all were to enjoy liberty. The basic
concept in the 1876 constitution is that, although somewhat restrictive in the exercise
of powers, it recognized a legislative assembly partially elected by the people.
However, Sultan Abdulhamid II. dissolved the parliament in 1878 and ended this period.
The Young Ottomans did not challenge the Sultan and eventually their group was dispersed
but the influence of their proto-liberalism and constitutionalism continued and
eventually the Sultan was forced to restore the Constitution in 1908 and the Second
Meshrutiyet period started (Ozbudun 1978: 24). In 1909, the 1876 Constitution
was substantially amended to the effect of increasing the power of the legislature
and restricting those of the Sultan. Secularist and more nationalist successors
of Young Ottomans, Young Turks’ party Ittihat ve Terakki (Union and Progress)
Party, came into power. As a result, a truly constitutional system was established.
But this system did not last long as the authoritarian positivist Young Turks transformed
the system into a dictatorship of the dominant party in a few years’ time. Young
Turks’ republican successors, Kemalists, did not also allow pluralism and democracy
to operate until 1950. During these four decades a positivist and staunchly secularist
elite ruled the country. Ottoman Islamists’ identity and discourse were to a great
extent de-legitimized and marginalized by the Republican Kemalist elite. The role
of Islam in the public sphere has been radically marginalized and the state attempted
to confiscate and monopolize even this marginal role, leaving no official room for
private interpretations of Islam.
Thus, the Islamists had to keep a very low profile.
Karpat (2001) argues that there is a “structural cultural and social continuity”
based on the goal of modernization in the Hamidian, Young Turk, and Republican eras.
Looking at the policies of the Young Turks, he documents the specific language employed
in debates about the concepts and boundaries of nation, race, ethnicity, and religion.
The emergence of the Turkish nation-state was a “complex process of acculturation
to modern nationhood, both through and despite Islam” (Karpat 2001: 329). He concludes
that, despite staunch anti-Ottomanist and anti-Islamic rhetoric, ultimately, the
state of modern Turkey emerged by “relying upon the solidarity and common identity
engendered by Ottomanism and Islamism” (Karpat 2001: 406). Serif Mardin draws our
attention to this Turkish exceptionalism and puts that “Mehmet Akif (1873–1936)
is the archetypal agent of the stage Turkish “exceptionalism” had reached at that
time: he projected the voice of an Islamic reformer, he was an Ottoman patriot,
he sat as a representative in the Republic’s Grand National Assembly, and he was
the author of the Republic’s anthem” (Mardin 2005: 152). It is this hybrid unofficial
Turkish-Ottomanist-Islamist identity of the Turkish nation-state that prevented
Turkish Islamism’s radicalization.
After all Sufi brotherhoods and lodges were closed down by the Turkish Republic,
they did not challenge the state, as a result of the Sunni understanding of preferring
a bad state to anarchy, chaos and revolution. Nevertheless, they did not sheepishly
obey the state’s unjust law either. They continued their existence unofficially
without making much noise and without claiming any public or official role. In return,
the officials turned a blind eye to their existence. Among them, Nakhsbandi Order
is very prominent as all of the successful elements of modern Turkish Islamic politics
have originated in later branchings of the extraordinarily resilient Nakhsbandi
brotherhood that was also the closest brotherhood to the Ottoman establishment compared
to the others (Mardin 2005: 152).
The Khalidi branch of the Nakhsbandi has been the most politically engaged of
the brotherhoods, whose debut in national politics was led by Sheikh Mehmed Zahid
Kotku (1897–1980) who preached that it was the duty of observant Muslims to take
an active interest in national affairs (Smith 2005: 316). He did not perceive the
secular state as an absolute enemy and, in that sense, did not hold much esteem
for radical Islamists in the Muslim world (Mardin 2005: 158). He created a new version
of the “operational code” of the brotherhood, synchronized with the political code
promoted by the secular state, that of constitutional legitimacy (Mardin 2005: 158).
By the 1970s, Kotku started promoting a second layer of legitimacy, working in tandem
with Islamic legitimacy, was that of political institution building (Mardin 2005:
158). It was an aspect of a positive view of the state as an institution, also part
of the Nakhsbandi tradition from Mevlanâ Halid to Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (Mardin
Kotku’s circle would include many prominent right-wing politicians. The first
prominent Islamist party in Republican Turkey, the National Order Party (Milli
Nizam Partisi, MNP) (1970–71), and the National Salvation Party (Millî Selamet
Partisi, MSP) (1972–81) were established through his promotion and support and
he had supervised their activities (Cakir 1994: 22 cited in Mardin 2004: 157).
The leader of these parties, Prof. Necmettin Erbakan, was a disciple of Kotku. Most
of the leaders of Erbakan’s the National Order Party, were also disciples of Kotku
and political parties founded by the leadership of Erbakan always carried a deep
communitarian identity (Yildirim et al 2007: 6). His parties were composed of strong
grassroots organizations reflecting communitarian, family, and religious order mentality
and “communitarian imaginations and aspirations dominated his parties” (Yildirim
et al 2007: 6).
Erbakan’s Islamist movement is known as Milli Görüş (National View or
Outlook) that embraced a set of aspiring yet ambiguous references to the Ottoman
past, and directed criticism against “cosmopolitanism” as opposed to the “national”
(Dagi 2005: 24). Here, nationalism, a primary mottoof the secular Turkish Republic,
promoted as religio-nationalism by Erbakan’s parties, was not an obstacle but a
shared feeling of pride—first “Ottoman” then “Turkish”—that had been building since
Abdülhamid II (Mardin 2005: 157-158). Erbakan’s intellectual sources and industrial
connections to the Anatolian middle-sized conservative capitalists brought about
“an interesting amalgam of traditional Sunni-based Islamic culture and Sufi worldview
embedded within a developmentalist discourse” (Yildiz 2003).
The first of several Islamic parties led by Necmettin Erbakan, National Order
Party (MNP), was established in January 1970. It espoused a discourse of new economic
and social order based on “national” as opposed to Western principles. In MNP’s
view, Turkey’s identity and future was with the Muslim world, rather than with the
West. The party was shut down after a military intervention in 1971 on the ground
that it was against the secularism.
The National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi (MSP)) was founded
in October 1972 after the generals called Erbakan back from voluntary exile in Switzerland
with a hope of dividing Suleyman Demirel’s center-right Justice Party’s (Adalet
Partisi (AP)) share of the votes. MSP’s ideology was almost the same as the
closed MNP. The MNP argued that the Westernization had fragmented Turkish society.
Erbakan envisaged that based on Anatolian heavy industry, a stronger Turkey would
loosen the ties with the West and would become the leader of the Muslim world under
the umbrella of a Muslim Common Market, with the Islamic dinar as its common
currency. Also, a Muslim Defense Alliance would be developed.
After the military coup in 1980, the MSP was also closed down together with all
other political parties. When the army returned back to its barracks in 1983, Erbakan
founded a new party under a new name— the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi (RP)).
The Welfare’s ideology was not different from that of the MSP. Welfare had steadily
increased its share of the votes and after the 1994 general local elections; mayors
of several major cities such as Ankara and Istanbul (current Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan became the mayor of Istanbul at that date) were Welfare members.
The trends in the political and economic aspects of the Turkish society from the
1980 military intervention through the 1990s were advantageous for the Islamists
and “(b)oth the military and the government were supportive of a nationalist view
of Islam. Islam gradually became politicized. For the new middle and bourgeoisie
classes, Islamic movements and networks provided social capital with which to establish
business links and NGOs” (Yildirim et al 2007: 7).
In 1996, as the bigger partner of a coalition government with the True Path Party
(Doğru Yol Partisi (DYP)), Necmettin Erbakan became Turkey’s first Islamist
prime minister. One of his first acts was to invite –officially non-existent–
Islamic brotherhoods’ leaders to an iftar dinner to the Prime Ministry. Not
surprisingly, secularists were all up in arms. He then went on to establish an economic
cooperation pact with 8 biggest Muslim nations under the name D-8. He had not had
any friends in the West and this attempt increased the number of his foes both at
home and abroad. A psychological warfare accompanied by a media campaign was launched
trying to prove that the country was under the occupation of radical and strange-looking
Islamists. On February 28, 1997, the military dominated National Security Council
presented Erbakan with a list of “recommendations” (read orders) to curb the alleged
anti-secular activities. Meanwhile, the generals invited the top echelons of bureaucracy
(governors, judges and all others) to a series of secularism-in-danger briefings
and mobilized the establishment against the Welfare Party, eventually forcing Erbakan
to resign in June 1997 in what has been called a “post-modern” coup. In January
1998, the Constitutional Court closed down Welfare Party and banned Erbakan from
politics for five years. Acutely being aware of history’s repetition, this time
Erbakan’s new party was already ready before the closure decision. The Virtue Party
(Fazilet Partisi (FP)) continued operating under Erbakan’s close friend Recai
Kutan’s leadership until it was also shut down by the Constitutional Court in June
The Virtue Party was a post-Islamist party and thus we will analyze it in a separate
section. For all the other parties Erbakan formed and led, serving the religion
was a crucial factor. These parties heavily used religion as the dominating parameter
of their “political discourse, among the characteristics of which were: confining
religious concepts and values to a certain group, nationalizing, modernizing, secularizing
and politicizing them, making use of political opinions held by Muslims in the generic
sense as the criterion for the religious brotherhood, the sectarian possession of
its contributions to religious life and hence causing people of different political
convictions and preferences to feel cold against the religion and making them hold
anti-religion attitudes, functioning as a non-systemic party while operating within
systemic boundaries, if necessary, by instrumentalizing the religion” (Yildiz 2003).
Erbakan had intolerant and exclusivist rhetoric. His discourse justified itself
by the alleged existence of a monolithic “other”. He constantly blamed all others
as blind imitators of the West. He was upset with many religious brotherhoods and
communities that never voted for his parties and he did not think they were good
Muslims as he believed politics was based on “the truth versus wrong”, him representing
the truth. His followers were quick to label people as the voice of America or even
worse as CIA agents. Erbakan himself “was accusing those who did not vote for RP
as belonging to “religion of potato,” instead of Islam” (Kuru 2007: 145). He was
of the opinion that “"the political party means the religion" and, accordingly,
those Muslims who have not belonged to the party or lent support to it have been
warned that they may be subject to spiritual sanctions/hazards” (Yildiz 2003). In
Erbakan’s view "elections are the counting of Muslims in Turkey" (Yildiz 2003).
Yildiz (2003: f.n. 19) notes that the "Muslim census" argument was publicly voiced
by Erbakan for the first time in his "Great Turkey Once Again" public meeting in
Konya held in October 7, 1973. The meeting was presented as "the greatest meeting
of human history," gave birth to the conception of "the Muslim census" by the party's
semi-official daily Milli Gazete. In October 4, 1973, Milli Gazete's
headline was "Not Parties but Beliefs are in Collision in the Election" (Yildiz
2003: f.n. 19). Erbakan was not always exclusivist: "The Prophet Adam was Welfarist.
Likewise, all the past prophets were partisans of WP, so was the Sultan Mehmet II
(The Conqueror)" (Quoted in Yildiz 2003).
In the beginning of the multiparty politics in 1950s, both nationalism and Islamism
were represented in the center-right parties. The coexistence of nationalism and
Islamism is one of the reasons “why Islamism emerged in the form of Islamic nationalism
even when it gained an independent existence. Thus, the conception of an anti-Western
Islamism structured by a national Islamism/Islamic nationalism, with a heavy emphasis
both in NSP and WP, became one of the main leitmotifs characterizing their politico-religious
discourse” (Yildiz 2003). Similar to the world wide Islamist discourse, the Turkish
Islamists have also envisaged capturing the state and using it to socially engineer
top down Islamist transformation in society by adopting the centralism of the state.
4. Gülen’s Discourse and His Movement
Now, we turn our attention to the most resonant voice of non-Islamist (apolitical)
tradition in Turkey roots of which are older than the Islamist tradition. Fethullah
Gülen’s apolitical Islamic understanding is not of course unique neither in Turkey
nor in the Muslim World but his both intellectual power & alim credentials
and wide influence over the Turkish society as a whole makes him and his influential
movement relevant for our discussion. To see if and to what extent, Gülen and his
movement have influenced the transformation of Turkish Islamism to non-Islamism,
from Milli Görüş to AK Party, we will now analyze the discourse of Gülen on secularism,
pluralism, democracy, rule of law, nationalism, state, Islamism, religiosity, the
other, borders and dialogue.
4.a. Gülen on Secularism, Democracy and the Rule
As John O. Voll (1999: 243) observed a while ago:
Humanity is now entering an era where the discussions must go beyond the
debates in the context of modernity where religious and secular are seen as
opposites. The desecularization of the world does not simplistically refute
the ideas of secularization theory; it transcends those ideas. Just as global
and local are becoming increasingly interdependent in the processes of glocalization,
the religious and secular dimensions of contemporary society are coming together
in ways that defy the logic of the old conflict between religion and secularism
within modernity. In the Muslim world, as in other major faith traditions, articulation
of this new relationship takes many different forms that clearly go beyond the
main lines of the old assumed polarity between religious and secular.
An analysis of the Gülen movement would suggest that the movement is a manifestation
of such a development. As Berna Turam (2003: 185) puts, the Gülen movement “aims
to revitalize faith in secular regimes and not against them”. In Gülen’s view, the
faithful can comfortably live in secular environments “(i)f secularity is understood
as the state not being founded on religion, hence it does not interfere with religion
or religious life; and as the faithful living his religion does not disturb others;
and furthermore if the state will accomplish this task in a serious neutrality,
then there is no problem” (Armagan & Unal: 108, quoted in Altunoglu 1999: 103).
He makes a reference to an Anglo-Saxon understanding of passive secularism and argues
that within the boundaries of this type of secularism, Islam and secularity of the
state could be compatible (Yilmaz 2000: 5). As for secular law-making, in his view,
Islam does not have a problem with it:
In Islam, the legislative and executive institutions have always been allowed
to make laws. These are based on the needs and betterment of society and within
the frame of general norms of law. On domestic issues in the Islamic community
and its relationship with other nations, including economic, political and cultural
relations, Muslims have always developed laws. The community members are required
to obey the laws that one can identify as “higher principles” as well as laws
made by humans. Islam has no objection to undertaking ijtihad (independent
reasoning), istinbat (deductive reasoning), and istikhraj (derivation)
in the interpretation of Shari’ah principles (Gülen 2005: 450).
Gülen movement-funded Abant Platform has been advocating views similar to Gülen’s
views on secularism, democracy and rule of law.
The Abant Platform is a result of the attempt at finding solutions to Turkey’s problems
by bringing together scholars and intellectuals of all colors. The Abant Conventions
are organized at least once a year and every convention ends with a declaration
(Yilmaz 2000: 7). The issues that the Platform has discussed and the places it has
discussed them gives a clear indication of the Gülenian worldview:
Islam and Secularism- Abant, Turkey (1998); Religion, State and Society- Abant,
Turkey (1999); Democratic State and the Rule of Law- Abant, Turkey (2000); Pluralism
and Social Reconciliation-Abant, Turkey (2001); Globalization- Abant, Turkey (2002);
War and Democracy- Abant, Turkey (2003); Islam, Secularism and Democracy: The Turkish
Experience- Washington DC, US (2004); Culture, Identity and Religion in the Process
of Turkey’s EU Membership-Brussels, Belgium (2004); New Pursuits in Education- Erzurum,
Turkey (2005); Republic, Multiculturalism, and Europe- Paris, France (2006); Global
Politics and the Future of the Middle East- Abant, Turkey (2006); Turkey-Egypt Colloquium:
Islam, West and Modernization – Cairo, Egypt (2007); Historic, Cultural, Folkloric
and Contemporary Dimensions of Alevism- Abant, Turkey (2007); Turkey-French Conversations
II- Istanbul, Turkey (2007); Kurdish Issue- Abant, Turkey (2008). “The public declarations
consist of three broad items: i. A belief in social harmony, ii. A
commitment to liberaldemocratic values, iii. A referral to Turkish and/or
Islamic perspective” (Ugur 2007: 159).
The concluding remarks of the third Abant Declaration (2000) were as follows:
Democratic state enjoying the rule of law stands in equal distance from all
non-violent systems of faith and ideology and ways of life based on these systems.
The state should be based on a social understanding, which ensures basic rights
and freedoms of all diverse groups equally. No individual or group should be
excluded from politics and public life.
Gülen’s views on democracy are well-known. He has been underlining for a long
time that “Islam does not propose a certain unchangeable form of government or attempt
to shape it. Instead, Islam establishes fundamental principles that orient a government’s
general character, leaving it to the people to choose the type and form of government
according to time and circumstances” (Gülen 2006: 14). Fundamental principles Islam
prescribes, accruing to Gülen, are social contact and election of a group of people
to debate common issues (Gülen 2006: 17). Gülen summarizes the theological reasons
why Islam considers that people are responsible for their own fate and thus governance:
Islam considers a society to be composed of conscious individuals equipped
with free will and having responsibility toward both themselves and others.
Islam goes a step further by adding a cosmic dimension. It sees humanity as
the “motor” of history, contrary to fatalistic approaches of some of the nineteenth
century Western philosophies of history such as dialectical materialism and
historicism. Just as every individual’s will and behavior determine the outcome
of his or her life in this world and in the hereafter, a society’s progress
or decline is determined by the will, worldview, and lifestyle of its inhabitants.
The Koran (13:11) says: “God will not change the state of a people unless they
change themselves [with respect to their beliefs, worldview, and lifestyle].”
In other words, each society holds the reins of its fate in its own hands. The
prophetic tradition emphasizes this idea: “You will be ruled according to how
you are.” This is the basic character and spirit of democracy, which does not
conflict with any Islamic principle. As Islam holds individuals and societies
responsible for their own fate, people must be responsible for governing themselves
(Gülen 2006: 16).
Gülen’s understanding of majority rule does not permit a tyranny of majority:
“members of minority communities should be allowed to live according to their beliefs.
If these sorts of legislations are made within the norms of international law and
international agreements, Islam will have no objection to any of these. No one can
ignore the universal values that the Qur’an and the Sunnah have presented
with regard to the rights mentioned above” (Gülen 2005: 451).
Whenever speaking on the issue of democracy, Gülen constantly reminds us that
Islam is a religion and thus is more than a political method, system or ideology:
On the issue of Islam and democracy, one should remember that the former
is a divine and heavenly religion, while the latter is a form of government
developed by humans. The main purposes of religion are faith (iman),
servanthood to God (“ubudiyyah), knowledge of God (ma“rifah),
and beautiful actions (ihsan). The Qur’an, in its hundreds of verses,
invites people to the faith and worship of the True (al-Haqq). It also
asks people to deepen their servanthood to God in a way that they may gain the
consciousness of ihsan. “To believe and do good deeds,” is among the
subjects that Qur’an emphatically stresses. It also frequently reminds people
that they must develop a conscious relationship with God and act as if they
see God, or as if they are seen by God (Gülen 2005: 451-452).
He is not statist but anxious about the rule of law. “In Islam, ruling means
a mutual contract between the ruler and the subject and it takes its legitimacy
from the rule of law, and from the principle of the superiority of the law. Accordingly,
the law is above the ruler and the subject” (Gülen 2005: 449). Even though his preference
of state over anarchy has been interpreted as sanctifying state, he strongly opposes
I have always stipulated that "even the worst State is better than no State"
whenever I voiced my opinion in words such as "the State is necessary, and should
not be worn down." I have never sanctified the State as some people have done.
This preference is a necessity for me, because if the State were not to occupy
a certain place, it is certain that anarchy, chaos, and disorder would dominate
there. Then, there would be no respect for ideas, freedom of religion, and our
consciences would be violated; justice would be out of question. In the past
there were times when our nation suffered from the absence of the State. Therefore,
I regard supporting the State also as a duty of citizenship… this is our preference
(to support the State); although we are aware of certain mistakes, we bury this
in our hearts. I never had such thoughts as, "the State is innocent, it is as
infallible as a Prophet; whatever it does is to the point, it is never mistaken."
They too can be mistaken (like anyone else) (Gundem 15 January 2005).
It is well known that even though the Turkish state has sometime felt uneasiness
about the Gülen’s activities; he has never stopped what he has been doing just because
the undemocratic and at times authoritarian state is not happy. It should be seen
that there is a hazy area between sanctifying a state and trying to disestablish
it. As a matter of fact “(t)he Gülen movement is a perfect example of “participant
resistance,” which is not stated but underlies the writings of Antonio Gramsci on
ideological struggle” (Bilici 2006: 17; see in detail Gurbuz 2007). Gülen also has
been defined as nationalist but when analyzed in detail it will be seen that he
cannot be a nationalist for various reasons. First of all, as an observant Muslim,
he can only be a patriot and love his people but this cannot be to the exclusion
of others. Secondly, he has followers and sympathizers all over the world, including
many Kurds in Turkey. A nationalist stance would deter all these people. Third,
one of his intellectual predecessors, Said Nursi, was a Kurd and Gülen has Kurdish
friends in his close circle. Overwhelming majority of Gülen’s close friends is from
Western Anatolia, a region that is not known for its strong nationalist sentiments
unlike several inner Anatolian cities. Last but not the least, whenever Gülen talks
positively about Turks, he makes clear that the main reason of his respect is Turks’
heroic service to the cause of Islam. Any nation that fares better will be appreciated
by Gülen as he appreciates and admires past successful eras of several non-Turkish
Muslim individuals and nations such as Abbasids and so on.
4.b. Politics & Islamic State versus Religiosity
& Piety & Spirituality in the Gülenian Discourse
Fethullah Gülen has stayed away from ideologisation and instrumentalisation of
religion in politics. While Islamists had conceived Islam as identity, ideology
and politics and focused on religion instead of religiosity, Gülen had been harshly
critical of Islamists. “The distinction between political ambition and religious
activism is crucial for a correct understanding of Gülen’s mission” (Ozdalga 2000).
Said Nursi, one of Gülen’s intellectual predecessors, was an Islamist in Ottoman
times but after having seen that doing politics in the name of religion harms only
religion itself he famously and repeatedly declared that “I take refuge in God from
Satan and politics”, speaking from the experience. In his magnum opus, Risale-i
Nur, he substantiates on several occasions his claim that engaging in daily
politic in the name of religion is a “satanic” act. Gülen, like Nursi, “can be said
to have reason enough to regard politics as a sometimes diabolical business. But
does he believe that Islam contains an alternative model of politics? The evidence
that he does not is plentiful and compelling and comes from several different angles”
(Barton 2005: 16).
The phrase, “Sovereignty belongs to the nation unconditionally,” does not mean
that sovereignty has been taken from God and given to humans. On the contrary, it
means that sovereignty is entrusted to humans by God, that is to say it has been
taken from individual oppressors and dictators and given to the community members.
To a certain extent, the era of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs of Islam illustrates
the application of this norm of democracy. Cosmologically speaking, there is no
doubt that God is the sovereign of everything in the universe. Our thoughts and
plans are always under the control of the power of such an Omnipotent. However,
this does not mean that we have no will, inclination or choice. Humans are free
to make choices in their personal lives. They are also free to make choices with
regard to their social and political actions (Gülen 2005: 453).
Gülen also flatly rejects the totalizing ideology of Islamism:
This vision of Islam as a totalising ideology is totally against the spirit
of Islam, which promotes the rule of law and openly rejects oppression against
any segment of society. This spirit also promotes actions for the betterment
of society in accordance with the view of the majority. Those who follow a more
moderate pattern also believe that it would be much better to introduce Islam
as a complement to democracy instead of presenting it as an ideology. Such an
introduction of Islam may play an important role in the Muslim world through
enriching local forms of democracy and extending it in such a way that helps
humans develop and understanding of the relationship between the spiritual and
material worlds. I believe that Islam also would enrich democracy in answering
the deep needs of humans, such as spiritual satisfaction, which cannot be fulfilled
except through the remembrance of the Eternal One (Gülen 2005: 452)
He is also well aware that generally speaking Islamism is a reactive and reactionary
ideology that is formed by contemporary human and social needs rather than what
actually religion dictates. Put differently, he strongly refutes the claim of the
Islamists that what they advocate is indeed the true, authentic, original and pure
When those who have adopted Islam as a political ideology rather than a religion
in its true sense and function, review their activities and attitudes they claim
to be based on Islam, especially political ones, will discover that they are
usually moved by personal or national anger, hostility, and other similar motives…
A Muslim’s beginning point must have an Islamic basis. In the present situation,
Muslims cannot act out of ideological or political partisanship and then dress
this partisanship in Islamic garb, or represent mere desires in the form of
ideas. If we can overcome this tendency, Islam’s true image will become known…
Those who study and put forward opinions concerning the Islamic perspective
of state and politics usually confuse Islam, established by the Qur’an and the
Sunnah of the Prophet, with the Islam as constructed through the historical
experiences of Muslims and of course based on Shari”ah (legal) principles,
and also the superficially observed Islam of the modern times. They come up
with various shapes and forms in the name of Islam; sometimes using Qur’anic
citations, a few selected sayings of the Prophet, or sometimes ideas and suggestions
of one of our contemporary thinkers and they vow to make their interpretation
reign if they have the opportunity (Gülen 2005: 449). It would not be a correct
understanding of Islam to claim that politics is a vital principle of religion
and among its well-established pillars. While some Qur’anic verses are related
to politics, the structure of the state, and the forms of ruling, people who
have connected the import of the Qur’anic message with such issues may have
caused a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding is the result of their Islamic
zeal, their limitations of their consideration solely of historical experiences,
and their thinking that the problems of Islamic communities can be solved more
easily through politics and ruling. All of these approaches within their own
contexts are meaningful. However, the truth does not lie in these approaches
alone (Gülen 2005: 455).
He repeatedly declared that “there is no particular model for either the method
of election or the system of administration” (Gundem). He explains that:
…in Islam it is not possible to limit the concept of governance and politics
into a single paradigm, unlike the principles of faith and the pillars of Islam.
History shows us that in the Islamic world, since the time of the Prophet, there
have been many types of states. This is so even if we exclude the elections
in the early period of Islam and the qualities that were exhibited in those
elections. Even if one cannot see some major methodological differences among
these types of governance, there are many differences in the details. Those
who are not aware of the principles of these different methods of governing
have understood each of them as a separate system. I have to note that these
differences were the result of the aspects of religion that are open to interpretation
and related to the field of independent reasoning (Ijtihad) (Gülen 2005:
Recently, Gülen has been arguing that in this age Islam does not need a state
support, which is a new ijtihad. He does not oppose to the idea of mutual autonomy
of state and Islam. He puts that “(i)f a state… gives the opportunity to its citizens
to practice their religion and supports them in their thinking, learning, and practice,
this system is not considered to be against the teaching of the Qur’an. In the presence
of such a state there is no need to seek an alternative state” (Gülen 2005: 451).
He also told Ali Bulac that establishing and Islamic state is not a religious duty
for Muslim individuals and that in this age civil society can independently maintain
Islam even where Muslims are not in majority.
Gülen is a modern version of alim (singular of ulama) and ulama
never engage in a selective reading of the sources as Islamists do. While Islamists
did not respect the authority of the ulama, Gülen, backed up by his intellectual
power too, helped ulama profile regain its prestige back among cosmopolitan
urban middle class white collars, a base Islamists were trying to address.
Gellner argues that development and education have been conducive, rather than detrimental,
to teaching the orthodox practices of Islam because, in the past, the knowledge-based
orthodox (ulama-formulated) observance was generally limited to more educated
and urbanite Muslims; while the practices of the rural periphery were intermingled
with superstition and, in some cases, remnants of pre-Islamic practices (Gellner
1992: 2-22). Today it is possible for many more Muslims to adhere to the orthodox
practices. This observance is not seen as a sign of backwardness (Gellner 1992:
2-22). This is definitely the case with white-collars and cosmopolitan middle classes
that compose majority of Gülen’s followers and sympathizers.
Ulama, unlike the Islamists, look at the issues from a holistic point
of view. For instance that is why Gülen could see many verses in Qur’an that strongly
encourage dialogue while many Islamists were busy portraying all non-Muslims in
the same manner. While Islamists focused on political acts, Gülen keeps reiterating
that hereafter is much more important and his life in the 5th floor revolves around
worship. Gülen transcends the strictly scripturalist and literalist Salafi epistemology
by attempting to rehabilitate Sufi concepts and by focusing on the renewal of inner
faith. This is reminiscent of the approach adopted by previous Islamic activists
and intellectuals who, like al-Banna (d. 1949) in Egypt, Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938)
in colonial India, and Said Nursi (d. 1960) in Turkey who were conscious of the
spiritual dimension of Islam.
Paul Tillich coined the term “the ultimate concern” that is, what a community
or individual considers to be of most importance: “Whatever concerns a man ultimately
becomes god for him… and conversely, it means that a man can be concerned ultimately
only about that which is good for him” (Tillich 1951: 211). Gülen’s ultimate concern
in this life differs from many Islamists at least in the sense that what they do
in practice. While Islamists focus on political acts, a socially active Gülen reiterates
that hereafter is much more important and worship is vitally important. He does
not see the Qur’an as a political book or project:
The Qur’an is a translation of the book of the universe, which comes from
the divine commands of creation, an interpretation of the world of the unseen,
of the visible and invisible. It is an explanation of the reflections of the
divine names on earth and in the heavens. It is a prescription for the various
problems of the Islamic world. It is a guide for bliss in this life and in the
life to come. It is a great guide for the travellers in this world moving towards
the hereafter. It is an inexhaustible source of wisdom. Such a book should not
be reduced to the level of political discourse, nor should it be considered
a book about political theories or forms of state. To consider the Qur’an as
an instrument of political discourse is a great disrespect for the Holy Book
and is an obstacle that prevents people from benefiting from this deep source
of divine grace (Gülen 2005: 456).
Thus, his conceptualization and understanding of Islam does not match with Islamist
Islam, as a religion is based upon the enlightenment of the mind and the
illumination of heart. It is based on the satisfaction of both mind and heart.
Because of this, faith and worship precede everything. And the fruit of faith
and worship is the good morality. The politicization of Islam, understanding
and representation of Islam as a political system, in my opinion, is a great
insulting to the spirit of Islam (Gulen 1997a, quoted in Altunoglu 1999: 107).
….those who are trying to live like a Muslim should exert a maximum effort
not to confuse certain issues. Secondary things in the religion are being made
to seem like primary essentials. For instance, daily prayers, and fasting during
Ramadan are two of the foundations of the religion which are observed individually.
Those who seem to be at extremes, who oppose secularism, need to look into their
sensitivity in observing the individual and familial commandments of the religion.
Can we really observe them at an ideal level? If we missed one of the daily
prayers, or did not fast one day, then we must think first before we come up
with other claims and we must be ashamed before God. These are things that cannot
be compromised. Those who neglect Islam's essentials, like the daily prayers,
giving to charity, fasting during Ramadan, are in a serious deficit. Those who
slander, or speak in the absence of others (giybat), even if they are
writing in representation of Muslims, are in a great error. The Messenger of
God says giybat is a greater sin than adultery; he says slander is unforgivable.
If we are occupied with such errors, it would be disrespectful to the religion
to argue about the wholeness of the religion. For the sake of God, let's complete
our religion first in our personal lives, in the morality of our children, in
our intellectual and spiritual life. Let's see what the outcome of our personal
experience of a complete religion is. We have to save ourselves from the contradiction
of being in conflict with others for an all-encompassing religion while we are
lacking in the personal dimension of our religion and are committing major sins.
This is our fault. After accomplishing this we can say, "Our conscience is not
confident since we cannot fully observe this or that commandment of our religion.
You must avoid basing your judgments on possibilities. Let's find a solution
by staying within the limits of mercy."… Democracy today has various manifestations:
Christian democrats, social democrats, liberal democrats … Why shouldn't there
be a democracy which includes Islamic sensibilities and thoughts, a democracy
that has its references from Islam? (Gundem).
Gülen’s discourse has been influential primarily in the movement named after
him. Atay (2007: 459, 467) observes how his discourse and praxis in relation to
piety, spirituality and worship influence also his movement:
… today Gülen is seeking to revive the Suffa tradition in two ways.
First, by resembling the first Suffa Companions himself. The four guiding
principles traced in the lives of the Suffa Companions (single, simple,
humble and pious) can be found in the daily life of Gülen ….Gülen is often
mistaken as a Sufi when in fact he can be considered a member of the Suffa.
Secondly, Gülen has been consistently providing personal tutelage over the last
two decades to hundreds of theology graduate students. Students gain admission
to Gülen’s informal school by passing a rigorous exam in Islamic sciences and
Arabic. Thereafter awaits them extensive study and an ascetic lifestyle. Students
can remain as long as they wish, some for even as long as ten years. Gülen has
been known to have had up to 40 students at times, although given his ill-health
this number has dropped to 15 in recent years. In their lifestyle, daily programme
and efforts post ‘graduation’ these students resemble the first Suffa
Companions…. Every year Gülen teaches different kalam, tafsir,
hadith and fiqh books. The students study next day’s lesson wherever
they reside either their homes, dormitories or in some cases, as guests where
Gülen resides. Needles to say, they all share his ascetic lifestyle as well.
Every day, after the morning prayer, they study together with Gülen. They read
and discuss a variety of texts from classical to modern. Gülen also interpret
these texts in tune with the Zeitgeist while they are studying. In some cases,
inspired by these texts he shares his ideas with his students. Students ask
him questions regulary too. After studying with Gülen for 3-4 years, these students
both emulate their teacher, become truly ascetic similar to him and also become
more knowledgeable having studying many major Islamic sciences texts. It is
obvious that Gülen also refreshes his knowledge while teaching and also re-reads
texts in the light of the current developments, his experiences and so on. After
their informal graduation, these students go on to become academics, writers,
journalists, editors, imams and preachers. In almost every sphere of life, they
continue teaching and more importantly presenting (tamsil instead of
tabligh) Gülenian understanding of Islam. Their teaching climate then
encircles in successive waves colleagues, friends, families, cities, countries
It is obvious that Gülen is not a socially inactive thinker and practitioner
who formulates a discourse and practices it and then only passively observes if
people discover and emulate them. As can be seen from Atay’s observations, Gülen
seeks to actively engage with this world by teaching and presenting his weltanschauung
and its praxis. Atay’s observations are also confirmed by Vicini (2007: 439) who
did a field research among the movement’s adherents and sympathizers: “I am not
arguing disciplinary aspects disappear from Gülen’s view on Islam. Firstly, because
Gülen is a strenuous defender of Islamic pillars and the need to accomplish them.
Adherents to the movement – overall people who aim at becoming educators – perform
namaz five times per day and often even perform the meritorious one during
the night. Secondly, …volunteers of the movement, by endlessly engaging in activism,
really follow a very disciplined life”.
4.c. The Other, East & West and Gülen as Border
Unlike Islamists, Gülen does not pursue an identity politics and does not define
himself by the Other. In other words, he does not have a constitutive other. In
his discourse, “(o)therization and adversary component is weak” (Komecoglu 1997:
86), which is not reactive but proactive, not having “us” versus “them” coarse schism.
To put it differently, “unlike the confrontational New Social Movements, the Gülen
movement has engaged in ‘moral opposition’, in which the movement’s actors seek
to empathize with the adversary by creating (what Bakhtin calls) ‘dialogic’ relationships”
(Gurbuz 2007: 104).
Gülen does not see the world in political terms and does not draw imaginary boundaries.
As skilfully expressed by Klas Grinell (2007), Gülen is a “border transgressor”.
Gülen’s frequently used term dar al-hizmet (country of service) reflects
his border transgressing vision (Yilmaz 2003: 234). By employing ijtihad,
he bases this border transgressing understanding on – and also extends to- the Islamic
jurisprudence (fiqh). He does not divide the world by employing mutually
exclusive concepts of dar al-harb (abode of war) and dar-al Islam
(abode of Islam, peace) but sees it as an almost coherent place, as it were, that
needs to be served continually by utilizing the concept dar al-hizmet (abode
of service to humans, thereby God) (Yilmaz 2007: 35). Gülen stresses that wherever
a Muslim is, even outside a Muslim polity; he or she has to obey the law of the
land, to respect others’ rights and to be just, and has to disregard discussions
of dar al-harb and dar al-Islam. In Gülen’s understanding, umma
is a transnational socio-cultural entity, not a utopian politico-legal one (Yilmaz
2003: 235). He makes clear that:
…there is no such world as the Islamic world. There are places where Muslims
live. They are many in some places and few in others. That is Islamic culture…
No such world exists. There is individual Islam. There are some Muslims in different
places around the world. Piece by piece, broken. I personally do not see the
prosperous existence of Muslims. If Muslims, who will be in contact with the
others and constitute a union, solve common problems, interpret the universe,
read it really well, consider the universe carefully with the Koran, read the
future very well, generate projects for the future, determine its place for
the future, do not exist, I do not call it Islamic World. Since there is no
such Islamic World, everyone does something according to him/her self. It could
even be said that there are Muslims with their own truth on behalf of Islam…
Perhaps, it has been always like that. And it will continue to be as such until
the end of the world (Gulen 2004).
This is also a reflection of him seeing the world not in terms of Muslims versus
others. Linked to his views on the disunity of the Muslim world, he also does not
think that trying to revive the Caliphate is feasible: “I would say that the revival
of the Caliphate would be very difficult and making Muslims accept such a revived
Khilafah would be impossible. The perception of the modern world regarding
the revival of Khilafah must be considered” (Gülen 2005: 457). It is only
realistic considerations make Gülen along these lines but he also looks at the issue
from Islamic jurisprudential perspective:
is there anything that suggests "that a state which is not represented by
the title of Caliphate is not legal"? To what degree was the matter of the caliphate
regarded, i.e. was it thought that "it is indispensable."?… What matters is
the meticulous practice of Islam. It would not be correct to emphasize historical
subjects that are of secondary importance in order to cause polemics; these
are always open to debate… If some fellow Muslims put an emphasis on this
issue, I don't know who they are incited by. Can you say that there was a Caliphate
in the real sense of the word during the Umayyads and Abbasids, did Yezid or
Walid represent the Caliphate properly, allowing us to argue over it now? Deliberately
or not, the creation of such debates can be something done by those who don't
practice Islam in order to cover up their own flaws (Gundem).
Gülen “subscribes to a remarkably different interpretation of the Muslim world
and realistically draws the boundaries where Turkey can play a leadership role.
He did not regard D-8 optimistically and considered it Erbakan’s cheap message to
his constituency. Such initiatives are, for Gülen, quite adventurous and risky,
and therefore a waste of time” (Kosebalaban 1999: 175).
He rejects that a clash between the "East" and "West" is necessary, desirable
or unavoidable. In Gülen’s worldview an abstract West is not the enemy of Muslims
but ignorance, poverty and disunity are: “unlike many Islamic revivalist movements,
the Gülen movement shaped its identity against the perceived threat of a trio of
enemies, as Nursi named them a century ago – ignorance, disunity, and poverty. This
perception of the opposition is crucial to understanding the apolitical mind-set
of the Gülen movement’s followers” (Gurbuz 2007: 104). In line with the Nursian
thought, he looks at the West more analytically, following Nursi’s declaration that
“Europe is two”, one is positive and the other negative:
It should not be misunderstood; Europe is two. One follows the sciences which
serve justice and right and the industries beneficial for the life of society
through the inspiration it has received from true Christianity; this first Europe
I am not addressing. I am rather addressing the second corrupt Europe which,
through the darkness of the philosophy of Naturalism, supposing the evils of
civilization to be its virtues, has driven mankind to vice and misguidance (Nursi,
Lem: 115; Flash 160).
Nursi advocated interfaith dialogue and defended the rights of Armenians and
Greeks in Turkey and contacted the Christian leaders. In 1950, he sent some of his
works to Pope Pius XII and received a personal letter of thanks. In 1953, he visited
the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Istanbul to seek cooperation between Muslims
and Christians against common problems. He was aware of the process of globalization
as early as the 1910s: “The world became a single city with the improvement of the
transportation facilities. Communication facilities, such as print and the telegraph,
also made the world population into a population of a single place” (Nursi 1912,
quoted in Kuru 2005: 262). Having been influenced by Nursi, Gülen states that “I
don’t see any harm in joining the West and Western thought on points where it’s
necessary and where there’s no danger. I don’t see any harm in taking things the
West developed” (Ünal and Williams 2000, 191). He has been supportive of Turkey’s
accession to the European Union (Ünal and Williams 2000, 189). “Gülen’s pro-Western
attitude has played a key role in the domestication and softening of other Islamist
groups’ anti-Europe and anti-U.S. positions. Although many Islamists eventually
came closer to embracing this idea, a majority of them initially criticized Gülen
for his pro-Europe views. He was one of the first Islamic leaders to embrace the
idea of EU membership and at a time when Islamists in general regarded it as a threat
to Turkish security and Islamic culture” (Kosebalaban 1999: 176).
Unlike many Islamists, Gülen is not an essentialist:
Throughout time, civilizations have passed through a vaccination, that the
elderly call 'telakkuh '… This vaccination was occurred in the Ottoman period,
too. So, today we have a great cultural accumulation varying from cultures of
Byzantine, Helen, Hun, and Hittite civilizations, to the faith, moral and the
living styles of Seljuks, Ottomans … From this point of view, although the
architects of thought, the intellectual workers, who want to build a new world
in the future, may make use of our proper dynamics as their own sources, they
will come across many residuals both from the ancient civilizations and of the
actual events. In fact, Islam is not against such an interaction. Since, due
to the fact that Islam is a universal religion that embraces everybody, wherever
it reaches, it either leaves the principles that are not totally in contradiction
with Islam as they have been, or it absorbs them (Camcı & Ünal: 143, quoted
in Altunoglu 1999: 77).
Gülen’s critique is directed to both sides of the civilizational border. In his
view “(t)he East’s and West’s civilizations existed separated from each other. This
separation, which should not have occurred, was based on the former’s retiring from
intellect and science, while the latter retired from spirituality, metaphysics,
and eternal and invariable values. As a result, the last centuries of this millennium
have witnessed disasters that are hard to believe. The border set up between East
and West is a false one, he says. To say that science is Western and spirituality
Eastern is just a symptom of the bordering mentality. The separation should not
have occurred, Gülen says. It was an invention. As all inventions it had a purpose
connected to its time and place of invention” (Grinell 2007: 205). Gülen’s self-confidence
and positive view of the world are “in contrast to Wahhabism, Tablighism, and Jihadism,
Sufism as advanced by the Gülen movement has a positive view of the world entire.
The internal workings of the universe—science, history, politics, art and culture,
philosophy—are not something Muslims should fear or stuff into an Islamized box
but rather engage positively in view of the spiritual insight of Islam” (Heck 2007:
Gülen’s “acceptance of the two Turkish identities—European and Islamic—as complementary
rather than contradictory was innovative at a time when both secular and Islamist
identities totally rejected this duality. Gülen’s national-security identity encourages
Turkish foreign-policy decision makers to remain fully on track with EU membership.
As a leader of a significant Islamic movement, he gave his approval to this policy
goal. Many Turkish Islamists joined him later, unloading the Islamic element in
the anti-EU camp. Yet Gülen also defends the argument that the success of Turkish
diplomacy in the West lies with its success in the East” (Kosebalaban 1999: 182).
“Since the movement was not a political movement, it has been “inclusive” in
its organizational infrastructure; in other words, the movement’s access to the
polity has been very broad due to its practical aims” (Gurbuz 2007: 111). The movement
is as inclusive as possible: “The most distinguishing feature of the Gülen movement
is its ability to define the Kemalist opposition as nonunified entity. Therefore,
the Gülen movement has been eager to ally with the passive secularists (Kemalist
doves); whereas opposing assertive secularists (Kemalist hawks)” (Gurbuz 2007: 111).
"If the religious people are thinking of living peacefully in this country, they
should not contribute to the expansion of the conflict by challenging the fragile
issues. Peace in a society can be achieved by mutual self-sacrifice. It seems better
to leave some issues to the interpretation of time” (Camcı & Ünal: 107, quoted in
Altunoglu 1999: 69). "If you seek to explain something to the world, you have to
be in harmony with the world. In this respect, first of all, we have to get along
well with our people; we have to be in dialogue with our own people" (Gulen 1997b:
202, quoted in Altunoglu 1999: 68).
Habermas’ theory of communicative reason (or rationality) includes an argument
called universal pragmatics that human beings posses the communicative competence
to bring about “mutual” understanding. Habermas, as a believer in dialogue, is an
optimist who criticizes the Frankfurt School and postmodernist thought for excessive
pessimism. In the Gülenian thought and praxis, we also find a similar belief in
mutual understanding, dialogue and optimism in contrast to Islamists’ pessimism.
Gülen’s optimism and belief in dialogue, coupled with his ulama self-confidence,
make it easier for him to be a border transgressor.
In comparison to Islamism’s simple but abstract assertion to surrendering to
the ancestors, i.e. returning to the golden age of pristine Islam will solve all
problems of Muslims; Gülen endeavors a concrete socio-economic and cultural analysis
of the current spatio-temporal context and based on this analysis offers concrete
solutions to tackle Muslims’ enemies rather than insisting on abstract rhetoric.
If ignorance is one of three major enemies, then the Gülen project’s offer would
be education at different levels, not only at schools or not only religious education.
Gülen’s educational project covers life. It is not only confined to mosque nor is
it only confined to secular schools. It also includes family education, child upbringing
(see his book Cekirdekten Cinara), educating religious scholars (Atay 2007),
educating by example (tamsil) not only in classrooms etc. If poverty is Muslims’
second enemy, then Gülen’s offer would be establishing charity organizations (Kimse
Yok Mu?) in addition to education’s indirect help to lift people’s socio-economic
status. If dissention or internal conflict is the third major enemy, then, dialogue,
tolerance and mutual understanding are the remedies to tackle this conflict. As
can be seen, Gülen movement’s major projects all focus on either of these three
areas and the movement’s media organizations play also supporting roles in this
global civil activism.
5. Turkish Post-Islamist Party: Virtue Party
After the Welfare Party was ousted from power, many younger members of the Islamists
began thinking that the only way they could succeed was to avoid confrontation with
the Kemalist establishment and to stay away from the instrumentalist use of religious
rhetoric in politics. This started an internal debate among the Islamists. Thus,
a cleavage emerged within the movement between two different groups. The “traditionalists”
(Gelenekçiler), centered on Erbakan and the party leader Recai Kutan, opposed
any serious change in approach or policy, while the younger group of “renewalists”
(Yenilikçiler), led by Tayyip Erdoğan, the mayor of Istanbul, Abdullah Gul
and Bulent Arinc argued that the party needed to revise and renew its approach to
a number of fundamental issues, especially democracy, human rights, and relations
with the West.
The influence of this internal debate was reflected in the platform of the Virtue
Party (Fazilet Partisi (FP)). The Virtue represented a rupture from the
Milli Görüş‘s Islamism. The Virtue’s discourse fundamentally differed from
Islamism. It embraced Western political values and anti-Westernism was not on the
agenda of the Virtue. The Virtue Party “was essentially not a party of political
Islam but a liberal-conservative party with a powerful "social state" inclination
and a strong interest in nationalism” (Yildiz 2003). According to the Virtue Party,
“the raison d'être of a state that was based on human rights was to protect liberties.
Therefore, the misuse of the state as an instrument for discriminating against a
certain religion, sect, ideology or belief could not be justified on any grounds.
Rejecting the use of both religion and laicism as instrumental in politics, VP disapproved
of political understandings based on the exploitation of religion or religious symbols”
Yenilikciler (renewers) began constantly airing their renewed views on
several fundamental issues and also declared the failure of Islamism. They confessed
that they were under the influence of the Middle Eastern Islamists and they confused
the conditions of Turkey with the Middles Eastern experiences. In spite of the movement’s
tradition, they openly criticized the Welfare Party on the ground that it made a
mistake by using religion. Tayyip Erdogan underlined that state could not and should
not have a religion; it is individuals that have religious affiliation. He also
emphasized the importance of democracy, free market economy and human rights. Another
yenilikci Bulent Arinc stated that respect for other people’s views and beliefs
is at the core of democracy. Abdullah Gül, who contested against –first ever in
the history of the movement- Erbakan-supported Recai Kutan for the Virtue Party
chairmanship, concurred with these new ideas and underscored that their demand was
religious freedom not an Islamic state and declared that the best way of government
is democracy as it is a system that does not stop its search for good. The discourse
of the young generation showed all signs of a more sophisticated approach and they
have learned to avoid the confrontational rhetoric, opting instead for a message
of democracy and human rights (Yilmaz 2000: 12). They have also developed a new
and “tolerant normative framework” (Kuru 2005: 273).
Independence war victory also gave Turks a sense of pride and as the country
was not colonized it has prevented Turkish Islamists being radicalized. Even their
anti-western rhetoric towards the west was superficial to a great extent and they
easily gave it up. Their lifestyles, dress codes and so on had always been in tune
with the western ones anyway. Furthermore, unlike the Islamist in many other countries,
the movement never severed its ties with the tradition and did not succumb to the
literalist rhetoric of the Salafis. On the contrary, as we discussed above, Republican
era’s Islamist parties originated from a Sufi brotherhood. Democratic experience
in Turkey dating back to 1876 and the Turkish state’s hybrid identity have also
helped Turkish Islamists to stay away from radicalization of religion.
6. Reversing back from Post-Islamism: Felicity Party
After the Virtue Party was shut down by the Constitutional Court in June 2001,
the movement formally split. The traditionalists established the Felicity Party
(Saadet Partisi (SP)), under the formal leadership of Recai Kutan, with Erbakan
exerting the real leadership behind the scenes. The modernists founded a new party,
the AK Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, Justice and Development Party,
JDP) that we will analyze in a separate section below. After the young generation
has left the party, the old guard under the leadership of Erbakan reversed back
from the post-Islamist discourse. The Felicity Party revived the Milli Görüş
discourse “by returning to a soft version of the classical categorization of
"the truth" and "the wrong” (Yildiz 2003). They were again anti-Western and regarded
Islam as incompatible with Western values. Anti-Westernism became a key feature
of Felicity’s discourse and agenda. The party opposes Turkish membership to the
EU, arguing that Turkey should intensify its relations with the Muslim world. The
West is portrayed as an enemy of Islam whose aim is to divide Turkey.
The FP received only 2.5 percent of the votes in the elections of November 2002,
failing to pass the ten percent national threshold required to gain a seat in parliament.
This was the worst elections results the Milli Görüş had ever had since 1970,
indicating that the period in which the religious periphery was represented by an
Islamist party has come to an end (Dagi 2005: 30). In the 2007 elections, while
the AK Party increased its votes from 34% to 47%, the FP could not improve its performance
despite Erbakan’s returning back to his “religion of potato” rhetoric by calling
tens of thousands of people –who preferred attending a nearby AK Party meeting
instead of Erbakan’s– “children of Byzantine (Empire)”, obviously an insult in
his worldview and an implication of non-Muslimness.
7. Non-Islamism: AK Party
The renewalists of the Virtue party continued to adhere to their renewalist discourse
and as AK Party leaders have frequently asserted universal values and value-based
discourses such as human rights, democracy, and free market principles (Yildirim
et al 2007: 17). As they departed their ways with the Islamist wing of the Virtue
Party, their new discourse is no longer a hybrid (post-Islamism of the Virtue Party)
form of Islamism and universal liberal democratic conservative values. While acknowledging
the importance of religion as personal belief, they accommodated themselves within
the secular constitutional framework (Mecham 2004: 350). They completely jettisoned
the Islamist elements in their previous post-Islamist rhetoric and underscored a
non-Islamist, as it were, universal liberal democratic conservative discourse. Yet,
they are in no way non-Muslims despite Erbakan’s implications even though, ironically,
from an Islamist point of view, there is no difference between non-Islamist and
non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, “the most radical and harsh criticisms of the AKP
came from the Happiness Party, which is now the single representative of the National
Outlook Movement” (Yildirim et al 2007: 17).
Erdoğan frequently states that his party is a conservative democrat party, implying
a Muslim democrat party similar to Christian Democrats in Western Europe in which
an Anglo-Saxon type passive secularism is espoused where public visibility of religion
is tolerated but religion is only a cultural backdrop rather than an active part
of the Islamist discourse. In direct contrast to Islamists’ formulation of political
identity based on opposition to the West, the AK Party has steadily emphasized Western
political values. At the same time, the party has viewed the West, especially the
EU, as an important ally in democratization of Turkey. The party “successfully linked
traditional identity and issues of social and distributive justice to a global ‘Third
Way’ between a statist economy and unfettered capitalism” (Smith 2005: 322).
The AK Party has attracted the votes of a broad constituency, cutting across
class, gender, and ethnic (and religious) lines, and who previously had voted for
mainstream right and Islamist parties. In the 3 November 2002 election, it won 34
per cent of the votes and increased its share of the votes to 47 per cent in 22
July 2007 elections, the main opposition party receiving only 21 per cent. In the
2007 elections, many Turkish-Armenians reportedly voted for the AK Party as well.
8. Factors that Influenced the Transformation from
Milli Görüş to AK Party
Globalization, international opportunity structures
and failure of Islamist government experiences in countries such as Sudan, Pakistan
and Iran coupled with the awareness of the fact that some Islamists who severed
their ties with the tradition and bypassed several centuries’ experiences have gone
out of their way and become extremely radicalized are some of the external or non-domestic
factors that influenced Turkish Islamists to change their discourse. In the domestic
context, there are two major factors that contributed to the change. First is the
desire to avoid from confrontation with the aggressively laicist establishment as
this would prevent Islamists to stay in power even if they rise to it as the Welfare
Government experience showed. Constraints imposed by the laicist establishment and
state “structure have limited Islamist actions and provided distinct opportunities
for the emergence of a brand of reformist new thinking” (Cavdar 2006: 480). Second
major factor is a tolerant normative framework that has brought about Turkish Islamists’
transformation. As I have tried to analyze in the preceding sections, there are
several factors that influenced the emergence of this tolerant framework. Turkish
exceptionalism, to use Serif Mardin’s terminology, has always been a factor in the
Turkish Islamism’s moderation. For instance, its close ties with the Nakhsbandi
tradition differentiate Turkish Islamism from the majority of Islamist ideologies
and movements worldwide. Turkish constitutional and democratic history starting
from the Ottoman times and the fact that the country has never been colonized by
the European imperialist powers have also contributed to the moderate and less than
reactionary nature of the Turkish Islamism. Moreover, “(t)he state policies of creating
the parameters for Islamist parties further moderated the already mild nature of
political Islam in Turkey” (Cavdar 2006: 486).
Islamic groups’ both physical and discursive interaction is also a major factor
in the Turkish Islamism’s transformation. Whilst it is difficult to establish casual
relationship between different social phenomena, it is still possible to underscore
correlations. A number of academics including myself (Yilmaz 2000, 2003, 2005; Kuru
2007; Maigre 2007) have argued that the Islamists’ “transformation was not an isolated
event, but part of a larger experience that several other Islamic groups took part
in” (Kuru 2007: 141). In the words of Elisabeth Maigre (2007: 42) “(w)hile it is
quite difficult to tell which group has had the foremost influence, researchers
and academics have outlined the inter-connexion between the Islamic bourgeoisie,
the moderate Islamists, and the Gülen movement. It is noteworthy that many of these
business people as well as some Virtue and later AK Party politicians sent their
children to Gülen’s schools. Furthermore, Zaman is the second largest daily newspaper,
the largest in Anatolian towns, and the majority of Virtue & AK party’s supporters,
including the businessmen, are regular readers” (Maigre 2007: 42). Kuru (2007: 141)
also argues “that the AKP leaders’ interaction with the Gülen movement, in this
regard, played an important role in the formation of the party’s new perspective
toward secularism”. With regards to politicization of Islam, it is –at least- fair
to suggest that “(t)he emergence of the Justice and Development Party has shown
that Muslim politics in Turkey is evolving from an instrumentalist usage of Islam
to a new understanding of practicing Muslims who have to deal with daily politics.
This evolution is obviously what Gülen has been advocating over the past three decades”
(Yilmaz 2003: 227). Maigre (2007: 45) concurs: “By anticipating the need to adapt
Islam to the present times, confident that the Turkish republic would have to adapt
too and open itself to more diversity, Gülen has been a visionary. He has unlocked
the way to a new global culture that places Muslim Democrats ahead of any radical
thinking and he has sent a strong message to the Muslim world showing a successful
way towards democratic transition and gradual adaptation to Globalization without
losing landmarks and religious background” (Maigre 2007: 45). Maigre (2007: 34)
further argues “that Gülen’s cultural and religious influence on both the business
and political classes within the Islamic movement has driven the moderation of political
Islam and open the way toward the integration into the new reality of globalization
where the frontier between religion and business are blurred and those notions are
brought together within a new conception of Culture” (Maigre 2007:34). Gülen’s competitive
Islamic discourse which is not anti-western, tolerant, pluralistic, politically
and economically more liberal etc. has weakened the influence of Erbakan’s Islamism
on the wider socially conservative masses of Anatolia including the nascent Anatolian
elite. This social base was much larger than the base of Milli Görüş and has become
more open to Gülen’s discourse.
Export-oriented and liberalizing reforms of Turgut Ozal that integrated the country
to the global structures and trends also made it possible for Anatolia’s culturally
conservative, religiously observant but economically liberal bourgeoning bourgeoisie
to be major players in the Turkish domestic scene. These new classes are more liberal
than the Istanbul bourgeoisie as they were export-oriented unlike Istanbul businesses.
As observed by Barkey and Congar (2008: 66):
Following Ozal’s reforms in the 1980s, this new business elite took advantage
of the economic liberalization to internationalize itself. In the process, Anatolian-based
businesses gained self-confidence, lessening fear of the outside world. As more
flexible and adaptive newcomers, this new class tacitly endorsed the EU process
and demonstrated very little, if any, opposition to privatization efforts. It
is this socially conservative but economically liberal business elite that forms
the backbone of the AKP’s support. While they may not evidence the sophistication
of Istanbul-based capital, the Anatolian tigers, as they are also known, have
extensive networks and can help finance political parties and related activities.
While piety is an important element of their identity, this does not interfere
with their ability to participate in that most secular of institutions, the
market (Barkey and Congar 2008: 66).
These people have sent their children to secular educational establishments where
they could learn a European language, instead of sending them to madrassah
or state’s Imam Hatip Schools. In most cases, as there were only Gülen movement’s
schools that could provide this opportunity, most of the new elite’s children and
thus indirectly themselves have become acquainted with the movement and its worldview.
As a matter of fact, in most cases the boundaries between these new elites and the
Gülen movement supporters are blurred and it is the members of this Anatolian bourgeoisie
who actually fund and establish the Gülen schools, after seeing their success in
other Anatolian towns and cities. These new middle classes have always been in close
contact with both center-right and Islamist parties, influencing center rights parties
to be more Islamic and Islamist parties to be more centerright. Many provincial
Islamist politicians have also sent their own children to Gülen schools. We must
also note that the Gülen media is the largest in almost all Anatolian cities. The
Zaman daily is currently the country’s most circulated newspaper with an oscillating
circulation between 600.000 and 800.000. Samanyolu TV is one of the major TV channels
in the country and it is widely watched in Anatolia especially by right-wing and
conservative & religious people.
As Kuru (2007: 145) underlines, Abant Platform and the Gülen Media are the two
major public mediums that the younger generation Milli Görüş politicians and the
Gülen movement were able to discursively interact:
For example, in February 2000, Erdoğan and Arınç first publicized their new
discourse in Zaman. In two separate interviews, these two leaders emphasized
democracy as their priority and embraced (passive) secularism while criticizing
the idea of an Islamic state. These two interviews received the attention of
other newspapers. Assertive secularist Hürriyet positively announced them in
its headline “Political Islam at the Crossroads,” while Islamist Vakit criticized
them arguing that Zaman corrupted Erdoğan and Arınç’s mind (Kuru 2007: 145).
Among the attendants of the Abant platform meetings were several leaders, founding
members and ministers of the AK Party such as Abdullah Gül, Bulent Arınç, Cemil
Çiçek, Ali Coşkun, and Nevzat Yalçıntaş. Moreover the chairperson of the meetings,
theology professor Mehmet Aydın, and some frequent participants, such as associate
professor of political science Hüseyin Çelik and constitutional law professor Burhan
Kuzu, joined them the new generation former –Islamists when they founded the AK
Party (Kuru 2007: 145-146).
Islamic and Islamist intellectuals’ transformation is another important factor
that influenced the paradigmatic shift in the minds of Turkish Islamists. After
the 28 February 1997 post-modern coup that directly aimed at terminating all Islamic
activities, groups, social projects and bourgeoisie, these intellectuals also have
come to the views of Gülen that he has been advocating since 1960s. They stated
that under the new post-28 February domestic and post-9/11 global “conditions, the
old discourse and actions of the previous parties had become "useless," and they
called for an accommodationist rather than a confrontational approach” (Cavdar 2006:
482). In fact, these Muslim intellectuals were never “unwilling urban residents
yearning to return to the security of the rural town or village where there was
no need to think through who one was and what one was to do. They are very much
creatures of the contemporary Turkish city, like their secular counterparts” (Meeker
1991: 217). Dagi (2004: 135-136) observes that these Muslim intellectuals “appear
to have abandoned their ideas for the construction of an alternative social and
political order that in effect enabled them to seek a rapprochement with the West,
Western ideas and institutions. The alternative to the established political regime
is no longer searched for in Islam but rather in modernity and its political architecture”.
As the most prominent of these Muslim intellectuals, Ali Bulac, affirmed long ago,
these intellectuals now accept that “if the meaning of political Islam is to establish
a theocratic state, it is finished”, pointing out that being, once, a cause for
conflict and polarization, Islam is now a base for conciliation (Bulac 2000). Bulac
also writes that:
There is no contradiction between Islam and secularism if the latter is defined
as “the protection of religious freedom and freedom of consciousness; prevention
of domination by a certain religious group over the others; ensuring that people
from every religion and faith freely express themselves; absence of domination
by a religious elite in the governance; recognition of the right to be present
in the public domain to the individuals; and ensuring that state is equally
distant to all religious, philosophical and ideological groups.” This sort of
definition provided for the concept of secularism is consistent with Islamic
precepts and the historical experience by the Muslims (Bulac 2007).
These “intellectual leaders of post-Islamism have been searching for a rapprochement
with the West, but not out of necessity to form a temporary alliance to confront
the Kemalist state apparatus. Rather, this rapprochement is part of an effort to
rethink modern political notions like democracy, human rights, and integration into
the globalization process, including Turkey’s membership in the European Union”
(Dagi 2004: 136). It is also interesting to see that now the continued opposition
of these post-Islamists to the Kemalist regime “is no longer expressed in the name
of Islam per se but in the name of pluralism, democracy, human rights, and the rule
of law. While traditionally these notions were seen as alien to Islam and denounced
as such, one now can even see advocacy of secularism in the Anglo-Saxon tradition,
which is claimed to leave space for the freedom of religious groups in matters of
organization, activities, fundraising, and social engagement” (Dagi 2004: 139).
Other than being directly and normatively influenced by the new Anatolian elite,
the Gülen movement, its schools and media, and the post-Islamist intellectuals,
the younger generation Islamists were also aware of the fact that the new middle
classes would no longer vote for an Islamist party after the failure of the Welfare
in power. As Ihsan Dagi (2004: 140) observes:
Since 1997, the Islamists have seen Islam’s social bases with its educational,
commercial, and solidarity networks disrupted by the politicization of Islam,
which exposed Islamic networks to the assault of the Kemalists. Because the
visibility and power of Islam in the political realm justified only the counter-attack
of the Kemalists, the threatened Islamists have become more interested in keeping
Islam’s social and economic structures intact as the bases for social ‘conservatism.’
Therefore, ideas for a ‘social’ rather than a ‘political’ Islam have gained
ground, perfectly displayed by the acknowledgement of the ruling Justice and
Development Party (JDP), despite its Islamic roots, that all ideologies including
Islamism have died in the age of globalization.
Younger generation Islamists politicians have always been in contact with the
man in the street, grassroots and periphery. Moreover, the current Interior Minister
professor Besir Atalay, who is known to be close to the current president Abdullah
Gul, established and directed a social research institution, ANAR, several years
before the establishment of the AK Party and this research institution regularly
surveyed socio-political trends in society. Abdullah Gul is also known to be frequenting
the offices of this institution before establishing the AK Party. They must have
been well aware of the fact that the society would never vote an Islamist party
to the power.
Indeed, Turkish exceptionalism is highly visible in surveys. Despite the widespread
impression that Turks are becoming more religious, the surveys show that the vast
majority of Turks oppose a state based on religion: 76 percent of the respondents
opposed the implementation of shari’a, while only 9 percent favored it. In
1995, 27 percent favored it. Among AKP voters, 70 percent opposed shari’a
and 14 percent favored it. This was a higher proportion than among the population
at large, but still a small minority. Turks do not see a contradiction between being
a good Muslim and being secular.
This is consistent with Turks’ conception of who is a Muslim, which involves
high tolerance. Of the survey respondents, 66 percent agreed that those who drank
alcohol were Muslims (although 71 percent agreed that alcohol should be banned during
Ramadan); 85 percent considered an uncovered woman a Muslim; 29 percent said they
would be disturbed if miniskirted women were in the majority in the neighborhood,
while 66 percent were undecided; 13 percent said they would be disturbed if covered
women were in the majority in the neighborhood, with a large majority (84 percent)
undecided; 89 percent thought that there can be “good” people among believers of
other religions, but only 42 percent believed that non-Muslims could go to heaven
(provided they have not sinned) (TESEV 2006, cited in Rabasa and Larrabee 2008:
Lastly, Aktay (2003: 139) looks at the transformation of Turkish Islamists from
Until the Refah Party came to power in 1996, it had relied on a complex conception
of the body politic. For a significant number of people, however, Refah’s governmental
experience brought about a decrease in the diasporic discourse. They saw that
the existing system—that is, the current tacit or implicit social contract—indeed
did include sufficient possibilities for others than the political elite to
represent the national body politic of Turkey. From the Islamists’ point of
view, this realization presented some peace with the existing political apparatus
that had been injurious to them since the 1920s.
The acknowledgment that the current democratic system could indeed be sufficient
for Muslim individuals to live and observe their religion reminds us the views of
Gülen on Islam, state and politics. We must note that Islamists came to this understanding
after their experience and failure in power.
Similar to multiple modernities, we can also talk of multiple Islamisms for several
reasons. Firstly, in practice Islamists confine themselves to their nation-state
boundaries. Although the Islamists all over the world use same vocabulary –as the
original sources are the same- when we begin “to scrutinize the political objectives
and actions of the various Islamist formations it becomes clear that they are engaged
primarily in promoting multiple national agendas and not a single universal project.
Even the shared preoccupation of various Islamist groups with creating the ‘Islamic
state’ is very clearly envisaged within the territorial confines of existing states:
their objective is to Islamize existing states, not to join them in a single political
entity” (Ayoob 2005: 954). Secondly, as we have seen above, there is no clash between
Sufism and Turkish Islamism unlike the overwhelming majority of the other Islamist
experiences. Thirdly, majority of Turkish Islamists have never been influenced by
the Salafi scriptualism and literalism. Erbakan himself was disciple of a respected
Sufi sheikh who encouraged him to establish a party. Fourth, even though the literature
on Islamism and post-Islamism has argued that the focus on religiosity has been
notably weak among Islamists, the Turkish case is also different. Fifth, anti-westernism
has always been weak in Turkish Islamism and it was always in rhetoric. Last but
not the least, Turkish Islamists focused on bottom-up transformation of society.
They were never revolutionary, domination-oriented and supremacist. They have always
been content with democratic methods –maybe just because they were available- despite
their parties were shut down by the Kemalist establishment several times. Democracy,
loyalty to the state and the nationalism are not anathema to the Turkish Islamists
similar to the first Islamists in history, the Young Ottomans. These reasons have
also facilitated the Turkish Islamists’ evolution towards post-Islamism and also
non- Islamism as advocated by the Gülen movement.
In this study, we defined post-Islamism differently than Roy and his colleague’s
historical understanding and evaluated it as an analytical concept rather than a
historical one. If the definition of post-Islamism of Roy and his colleagues was
right, then, we could have argued that the Turkish Islamists have always been post-Islamist!
In our conceptualization, post-Islamism denotes a departure, albeit in diverse degrees,
from an Islamist ideological package that is characterized by universalist claims,
monopoly of truth, exclusivism, intolerance, and obligation, towards acknowledging
ambiguity, multiplicity, inclusion and compromise. The terms Islamism and post-Islamism
are “primarily as conceptual categories to signify change, difference, and the root
of change. In the real world, however, many Muslims may adhere eclectically and
simultaneously to aspects of both discourses. On the other hand, the advent of post-Islamism
as a real trend, should not be seen necessarily as the historical end of Islamism.
What it should be seen as is the birth, out of Islamist experience, of a qualitatively
different discourse and politics. In reality we may witness simultaneous processes
of both Islamization and post-Islamization” (Bayat 2007a: 20). As a matter of fact,
similar to multiple-Islamisms, we can also talk of multiple post-Islamisms. Moreover,
as this paper has shown, a group of people who are post-Islamist may reverse back
to Islamism again. As we have seen above, the Turkish Islamists under the leadership
of Necmettin Erbakan, established a new party after their party –Welfare Party-
was shut down by the Constitutional Court. This new party –Virtue Partyhad a post-Islamist
discourse. But that did not stop the Constitutional Court to close this party down
as well. After this closure, the group split into two, young generations under the
leadership of Tayyip Erdogan formed “non-Islamist” AK Party whilst elders leaded
by Necmettin Erbakan established the Felicity Party and returned back to the Welfare
Party’s Islamist rhetoric.
Islamic groups’ both physical and discursive interaction is a major factor in
the Turkish Islamism’s normative transformation. The former Islamists have directly
and normatively been influenced by the new Anatolian elite, the Gülen movement,
its schools and media, and the post-Islamist intellectuals. As we noted above, the
Islamic and Islamist intellectuals’ transformation is an influential factor in the
paradigmatic shift in the normative frameworks of the Turkish Islamists. After the
28 February 1997 post-modern coup that directly aimed at terminating all Islamic
activities, groups, social projects and bourgeoisie, these intellectuals also have
come to the views of Gülen that he has been advocating since 1960s.
We should note that Gülen’s stateless cosmopolitan Islam is still different than
post-Islamism — as he puts that Islam does not a state to survive; in this age
civil society can independently maintain Islam even where Muslims are not majority.
As far as the Anatolian elite’s influence is concerned, it should be underlined
that the Gülen movement has been an influential factor in shaping the normative
frameworks of this new class as well as Ozal’s reforms, export-oriented economy
and global opportunities.
As Bayat (2007a: 12) argued, “efforts to make a religion democratic undoubtedly
start at an intellectual level. The challenge, however, is to fuse democratic interpretations
into popular consciousness”. Power does not simply lie in discourse and rhetoric
but, but primarily in those who formulate and advocate them. Discourse is not power,
unless it is given material force. For instance, the idea that “Islam being compatible
with democracy”, has a different weight depending on who expresses it. There is
a need to give ideas and discourses material force and to mobilize consensus around
them (Bayat 2007a: 13). As I argued elsewhere, this is indeed what makes the Gulen
movement unique (Yilmaz 2000; 2003; 2005). He successfully mobilized many people
around his discourse “to establish institutions and to put into practice his discourse
and realize his ideals” (Yilmaz 2003: 237).
While I am unable to confirm the validity of this hypothesis, I argue that as
a highly respected and knowledgeable alim and religious leader, Gülen and
his discourse must have helped younger generation Islamists to be comfortable as
far as Islam and their minds & hearts are concerned. To understand Gülen’s influence
we also need to be aware that Erbakan was not only a political leader but a religious
one who presided over a religious community (cemaat) called Milli Görüş.
Although White (2002: 122) notes that “vernacular politics was a political process
that linked the Islamist social movement with the Welfare Party in such a way that
activists ultimately were independent of the party, although party and movement
reinforced and strengthened one another” (White 2002: 122), there has always been
a core religious community who saw Erbakan as their religious leader. This community
still owns 514 mosques in Europe according to the German sources (Rabasa and Larrabee
2008: 28). They also operate a competitive pilgrimage service operation in Saudi
Arabia and compete with the Diyanet. While the Diyanet does not own a hotel in Saudi
Arabia, Milli Görüş owns and operates one. Erbakan was a typical Islamist, an engineer
without any ulama background, but confident enough to develop a self-styled
independent Islamist discourse. As he was also a religious leader, his political
leadership had never been challenged in his parties and movement. His followers,
as it were, did not object to his Islamic weltanschauung neither did they see themselves
as qualified of doing so. Objecting to him would be equal to disobeying their religious
leader which would not result in positive feedback from the movement. To be able
to mentally and consciencely from the religious community and its leader, the observant
leaders of the AK Party must have spent tremendous amount of mental energy.
At that point, Gülen’s alim influence might have helped them.
In addition to having been influential in Turkey, Gülen’s understanding of Islam, one can expect, will also be influential in the wider Muslim world in parallel to the increasing influence of both Turkey and the movement on a global scale. As Voll (1999: 247) noted a while ago, “(i)n the clashing visions of globalizations, Fethullah Gülen is a force in the development of the Islamic discourse of globalized multicultural pluralism. As the impact of the educational activities of those influenced by him attests, his vision bridges modern and postmodern, global and local, and has a significant influence in the contemporary debates that shape the visions of the future of Muslims and non-Muslims alike” (Voll 1999: 247). Major developments in Turkey have already been followed with considerable interest by the Muslim media, thinkers and activists. The movement also increased its activities in the non-Turkish Muslim world. In addition to operating several schools in major Muslims countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, it has recently been opening schools, hospitals and also universities in Africa and wherever permitted in the Middle East.
Moreover, the movement, being aware of the need to situate itself and publish its ideas within the wider ummah, has started publishing the Hira magazine in 2005 (Heck 2007: 643). The magazine “is chiefly intra-Muslim in its aims and aspirations. The magazine is published in Arabic and features articles written by both Turkish and Arabic writers; a lead article by Fethullah Gülen opens and sets the tone of each issue. The magazine acts to bring the intellectual outlook of the Gülen movement to the Arab world, serving as a cultural bridge between Turks and Arabs, as a forum in which pressing issues in contemporary Islam can be aired and treated by leading Muslim thinkers, and as a tool for the global Muslim community to consolidate a renewed vision of its relation to the intellectual and socio-political realities of the modern world” (Heck 2007: 643). Furthermore, in 2006, the “movement, which has been criticized not paying enough attention to the Muslim World as much as they emphasize dialogue with non-Muslims, invited intellectuals from the Middle East including Arab, Jewish and Turkish to discuss the future of the Middle East. And most recently in February 2007, the [Abant] platform co-organized a meeting in Egypt with the prominent Al-Ahram Institute to discuss Turkish and Egyptian experience with democracy, modernization and secularism” (Ugur 2007: 158).
In concluding, I do not claim that the Turkish experience is totally unique; neither do I suggest that this experience could be directly copied and pasted to the other contexts. Moreover, Islamisms in other countries are also in transition. Yet, what I do envisage is that the Turkish experience and the Gülen movement’s influence will interact with these experiences, paving the way for new hybrid Islamisms, post-Islamisms and even non-Islamisms.
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 See for a recent exception, Rabasa and Larrabee 2008.
 In the Turkish context Ahmet Yildiz (2003) confirms this analysis: “Relying on a Muslim version of the Weberian analysis of Protestantism, WP cadres held the idea that religion is the leitmotif of "development and progress." One of the mottos of the party was "spiritual development." The fact that religious and spiritual issues have been voiced as the "spiritual development" slogan highlights the deep impact of Enlightenment rationalist philosophy and its teleological ideas of progress and development. The post-World War II developmentalist paradigm has arguably had a significant influence on the formation of the political discourse of WP and other parties of the National Outlook. The party's name "Welfare" draws, in a similar vein, on a developmentalist repertoire. "The crescent" and "the ear" in the party emblem represents (sic) the spiritual and material aspects of economic growth and spiritual development”.
 The same could be said of the Bayat’s 1996 version of the post-Islamism definition.
 Following their Young Turk predecessors, the Kemalists, with a Durkheimian mentality, thought of religion as a helping hand and thus did not aim to terminate it altogether but endeavored to monopolize its interpretation and use, see in detail Yilmaz 2005a. Despite their staunchly laicist rhetoric, Kemalists’ understanding of nationalism is also an imagination of a coherent society, members of which are — preferably non-practising and non-observant— Muslims. Not officially but in practice, non-Muslim Turkish citizens are not considered as real Turks by the Kemalist state, despite for instance some of them can only speak Turkish. Unfortunately, similar practices are also common in Western European countries.
 In the first Islamist party, other than Kotku’s disciples, some of Nursi’s followers also took part. Although, they departed their ways shortly afterwards, it will be interesting to study how they legitimised to enter into daily politics in the name of Islam, despite Nursi’s unequivocal denunciation of Islamism and declaration that “I take refuge in God from Satan and politics”. We must note that after this experience with politics, schisms emerged in their Nur community. We shortly discuss Nursi viz. Islamism in section 4b below.
 For an analysis of the Abant Platform, see Ugur 2007.
 http://www.dislam.org/content/view/314/1/ visited on 19 October 2008.
 Ulama were not always conservative in Islamic tradition and history. For instance, unlike the image portrayed by several modern scholars on Turkey, the bureaucratic ulama were progressive and were not staunchly opposing the Ottomans modernization project. Their class struggle with the other sections of the state are mistakenly interpreted as their opposition to modernization. The only opposed the change in the sense that they did not want to see their power diminishing in the state structure.
 Post-Islamism should be viewed in the light of the contradictions and failures, which some religious leaders see as undermining Islam per se. In a sense, post-Islamism seeks to save Islam as faith by undoing Islamism as politics, Bayat 1996: 51-52.
 For a discussion on Nursi’s conception of ‘two Europes”, see also Haddad 1999.
 See for an overview and how institutional constraints and democratic rewards helped the transformation, Mecham 2004
 For a useful analysis on how global opportunity structures influenced AK Party leaders’ transformation, see Kuru 2005.
 It must be underlined that whilst these Muslim intellectuals still base their arguments on Islamic sources and make frequent references to Islam, AK Party leaders severed their discursive ties with these sources as far as politics is concerned. That is why we can call these Muslim intellectuals post-Islamist but not the AK Party leaders.
 At least for some segments of its partisans in the countryside, the National Outlook movement has functioned as the political messiah and, accordingly, its leader, Erbakan, has been considered to be the undisputed leader of the political jihad: “the political party means the religion" and, accordingly, those Muslims who have not belonged to the party or lent support to it have been warned that they may be subject to spiritual sanctions/hazards” , Yildiz 2003.
 Erbakan had been influential in the lives of the younger generation Islamists all along. Tayyip Erdogan even named one of his sons after his leader’s name: Necmettin Bilal Erdogan.