Yasin Ceylan

Conflict Between State and Religion in Turkey

Secularization policies implemented by Muslim states such as Turkey, Egypt and Iran at the beginning of the twentieth century caused serious conflicts between state and religion. Attempts at the resolution of these conflicts by either party necessitated in turn, certain modifications both in the state mechanism and religious institutions. However, there are yet some major issues that have so far persisted, waiting for solution. I have attempted in this short article, to display the basic elements of the conflict, in the case of Republic of Turkey, adding a philosophical analysis to the sociological narrative of the events.

The need for a revision of the role of religion in state mechanism first appeared in the Gülhane Imperial Charter in 1839, which as a written document of modernization contained among other things, few articles concerning civic rights of non-Muslim subjects of the empire; which could be interpreted as departure from Islamic law Shari'a. Few other reforms were implemented in the fields of international commerce and navigation. In the following decades, a new educational reform program was enacted, with the aim of establishing new schools on European model, for military personnel and beauraucratic functionaries alongside with the madreses, the traditional Islamic schools (Mardin, 1989, 120). All these were indicating the fact that Islamic law and institutions were no longer good enough to handle the problems facing the Ottoman administration in the 19th century. It was due to this apparent inefficiency of Shari'a that a re-interpretation of the basics of Islamic law was thought to be necessary. A group of expert jurists were commissioned by the political authorities in 1868 under the supervision of Ahmet Cevdet Paşa, the renowned scholar of his time, to revise the existing codes and formulate a new legal source to be used in Shari'a courts. After years of coordinate study it emerged half-completed with the title Mecelle, which is regarded as the first example of reform or renovation in Islamic law.( Mardin, 1989, 115)

The modernization program which was also called westernization or Europeanisation, continued with a higher speed in the newly founded Turkish Republic (1923) after the Ottoman Empire was terminated in the First World War. The new state was a republic and a nation state. Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) was the first elected president who initiated a radical program of secularization. He first abolished monarchy(1922) and than caliphate (1924). Then came other reforms: Abolishment of Arabic script and adoption of Latin alphabet (1928), prohibition of traditional headgear and dress, closure of medreses and tekkes and sufi orders, closure of Sharia courts(1925) and implementation of Swiss Civil Code (1926). These and many other related reforms are shortly called Atatürk's Reforms. Islam was endorsed as the official religion of the republic in the first constitution of 1924. Four years later, this article was removed from the text, and replaced by the following sentence: Turkey is a secular country'. 1

The secularization policy initiated by Atatürk was wholeheartedly resumed by his successor İsmet İnönü after the former died in 1938. A tight control by the single- party regime of the Republican People Party on all types of religious activities except rituals in the mosques was maintained until 1950, when the newly established Democrat Party came to power. The new government whose success was brought about by the votes of the discontented masses, loosened grip on religious expression of intellectuals and even the members of outlawed religious groups. Call for prayer (ezan) was again recited in Arabic instead of Turkish, which was made compulsory by the previous governments as a part of secularization policy and a requirement of Turkish nationalism. One can speak of a discourse, though with certain limitations, between state and religion, only after this event. i.e. change of power in 1950. This date is still being celebrated as the beginning of religious freedom. However, despite the lifting of ban on religious publications and abandonment of strict regulations on the activities of religious groups, no settlement has been reached between the state and the Muslim masses that regard Islam as their integral identity.2

Has the secularization program as a part of modernization project that has been in force for eighty years reached its target? It would be unjust either to say yes' or no' to this question. There are many arguments for the thesis that modernization policies of Muslim countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and North African states as well as Turkey have failed. This conviction is further strengthened by the widespread resurgence of Islam as political parties or protest movements. Causes for failure of modernization projects have been displayed variously. Some explanations refer to Max Weber's doctrine that modernization is the result of a culmination of a range of conjunctures that took place in Western Europe, a phenomenon that does not necessarily repeat itself in other cultures. Another observation of Weber is cited by Bryan S. Turner:

The historical uniqueness of Europe is summarized by Weber under the concepts of rationality and rationalization. Rationality was manifested in growing calculability and systematic control over all aspects of human life on the basis of general rules and precepts which ruled out appeals to traditional norms or charismatic enthusiasm (Turner, 1998, 151).

This Weberian stance together with his well-known theory that secularism is a social product of capitalism and Protestantism can, in a sense, be reconciled with Ernest Gellner's view that Islam, despite being a religion that has always preserved an element of protest and reform (Gellner, 1985, 22), has nonetheless, retained throughout history, an essence' that safeguarded it from substantial changes in the face of new circumstances (Zubaida.1993, XV).

The blame for the failure of modern Muslim states in their project of modernization and secularization has been put by some critics on certain features peculiar to Islamic governments, such as totalitarianism and patrimonial administration where there is no space for public discourse (Zubaida,1993,139). They also claim that secularization of traditional institutions was carried out through official decrees and strict regulations, without any preliminary enlightenment of the public on the issue. The imposed secularism, rather than being a principle of separation between religion and state, was an anti-religious secular ideology. (J. Esposito.2000, 7).

Another line of thought on the issue is that modernization does not necessitate secularization. ((Davutoğlu, 2000, 200). The exponents of this view claim that secularization is a product of the conflict between the Church and the state in Western Europe. This has not happened in the Muslim world. Islam is already allowing its followers to adopt a secular outlook on issues that have nothing to do with religion. Therefore, all secularization strategies applied in the Muslim nations were perceived by the Muslim societies as a pack of alien values imposed upon them without asking for the consent of people. That is why these strategies have not worked. As an evidence of a successful process of modernization without a secular policy, they point to the case of Iran after the revolution of 1978. (Esposito, 2000, 3., Zubaida, 1993, 181).

After a brief survey of various views presented by different parties on the question of secularization in the Muslim states, we are now better prepared to discuss the nature of the conflict between state and religion after the implementation of westernization program in 1923, of which the secularization of the old institutions bequeathed from the Ottoman period was an integral part. Thus, we shall be able to find out which explanation is applicable to the Turkish case, or whether it may require a special treatment leading to a report, different from those mentioned above.

First of all, unlike the situation in some Muslim states such as Egypt, Pakistan and Iran, secularization policies in Turkey have been successful to some extent. Beside the state institutions such as the military, bureaucracy and educational system, there is a considerable portion of educated people who have a secular mentality, though not exactly of the European type. They may still identify themselves as Muslims, but they are not the believers of the traditional type who are conscious of practicing Islamic norms in their daily lives. Instead, they regard religion as a choice of private sphere, just as a European citizen may do, or, avoid any intellectual endeavor to reach satisfactory answers on whether their acts are in harmony with Islamic rules or not. They are simply carried along by the attractions of a natural life where pleasures are sought, and any interference, be it by state or religion is disliked. Thus, Islamic movements in Turkey do not confront the secular state and its network only, but also a proportion of secular minded people who are against Islamic type of government, where Shari'a is applied and modern citizenship with its basic rights and freedoms is denied. It is unlikely to find a similar popular support for secular values in other Muslim countries. This is however, a victory on the part of the secularist state, despite the fact that what was envisioned as a target eighty years ago, has not been achieved yet.3

The conflict between the state policy of secularization and Islam, presents different aspects for treatment. However, two main perspectives can be given priority over others: First, problems arising from the nature of Islam itself, which resist secularization; second, problems arising from the strategies of secularization implemented by the Turkish governments for the last three quarters of a century.

That Islam maintains an essence' that prevents it from radical changes when constrained by alien circumstances is an acute observation by Gellner ( Zubaida. 1993, 130). But what that essence' is, requires a separate analysis. Islam, like other Abrahamic religions grants a full-scale way of life or a worldview to its followers. But unlike its sister religions it has not been exposed to internal dynamics for the last ten centuries. The first four centuries of interplay with alien cultures, especially the Greek, came to a standstill, after its expansion reached out its borders, when its lands with the capital Baghdad, were destroyed by the Mongols at the middle of the thirteenth century. After this catastrophic event, which caused unprecedented political repercussions, faith gained priority over discursive knowledge, and blind allegiance to the revealed message outweighed any doctrine that was obtained through a skeptical and selective method of human mind. Arts and literature, which are mostly the fruits of an affluent economy also stopped, because of the disintegration of the Islamic Empire that followed the occupation. From that time onward, almost all subsequent Muslim states, up to the twentieth century, adopted an orthodoxy that banned any new interpretation of the Qur'an and the Hadith, on the charge of heresy. This, as a matter of fact, was a political strategy supported by the official ulama aiming at the unity of the believers at the expense of renovation of religion. The expression the gate of ijtihad (interpretation of the Our'an) is closed' was the most frequently used motto by the state authorities and those clergymen who were appointed by the state to minister the religious affairs in accordance with the state politics ( Mardin, 1986, 143).

Islam as the only criterion of legitimacy in the Muslim world has been made use of, for any purpose whatsoever. Any endeavor whether scientific or social, has to have a religious approval. All individual and societal acts have been brought under religious surveillance. There is hardly an area where Islam has nothing to say about, operating on its own rules. While Islam was, and still is manipulated in some Muslim states as a vehicle of oppression by the ruling class, it has been used at the same time, by the underground organizations as the emancipator of the oppressed and discontented masses. Even in those Muslim states where Shari'a is applied there are outlawed Islamic factions that work against their governments on the ground that the true Islam is not being practiced, and what is in force is the distorted version. An ideal Islam has always remained in the minds of the faithful, causing resentment and disillusionment at any act of the Muslim governments that they find unsatisfactory. Thus, those idealist Muslims are not only the opponents of the so- called secular regimes in their countries, but they are also the enemies of the so-called Islamic regimes. Because, any achievement by such regimes would be considered imperfect, when compared with the ideal one. A well-organized virtuous society of any worldview, or even of an Islamic background will still be rated below that ideal, imaginary society, which they believe existed only in the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad. Of course, if they were informed properly by a newly written history of the events that took place during Muhammad's reign, of which evil was naturally a part, they would not be so enthusiastic about that golden era. The ideal Islam or ideal Islamic society, cherished by an ordinary believer, is the magical measurement whereby any grand achievement of human work fall short of approval, only because there can be a better one, just like the comparison of the concept of the perfect beauty with a beautiful object. This characteristic of Islam has made it a religion of protest throughout centuries.4 It has also to do with Muslim ethics, which can be defined as a transcendental pragmatism.5 In this type of morality the consequences of the acts of believers are postponed to the afterlife. Thus, this actual life and the life to come are considered on a linear plane. This way the factual and the ideal, the certain and the uncertain, the contingent and the transcendent are brought together as if they are discernable peers.

Undisturbed by internal radical dynamics for a long period, Islam has assumed a unique position in the Muslim culture. It comprises almost all elements that make a worldview, leaving no space for an alien item to creep into the mind of the believer. Islam is a self sufficient way of life in the sense it provides answers to all metaphysical questions that man may possibly ask, leading the believer to mental complacency. The believer's worldly engagements are also credited with religious blessings; a metaphysical framework that brings him under a total determination of dogmatic architectonic system. He is apparently free, since he will account for his deeds in the afterlife. But this freedom, according to the orthodoxy, does not go beyond the will to act; the act itself is performed by God.6 Any doubt about the veracity of a dogma, or search for truth without the guidance of the scripture is considered to be a satanic preoccupation, which is not, of course, unique to Islam, but as to the degree of tolerance granted to a believer, Islam is probably more authoritarian than the other monotheistic religions. This is not because other religions allow their adherents to be skeptical of their faith due to an essential peculiarity, but rather, they have been exposed more intensively to the critical thought of modernity and deconstructive process of the enlightenment. This is probably why it is easier for a Christian to leave his religion than a Muslim to leave Islam. This phenomenon is more obvious in the cases of intermarriage between a Christian and a Muslim. In most of such marriages it is the Christian part who converts to the religion of her/his spouse, but not vice versa. One may interpret it in favor Islam, but it is also indicative of the fact that Islam wields a huge psychological weight on the mind of the Muslim, and that when a Christian exits her/his religion there is an alternative worldview to adopt, which consists of a secular value-system, a provision that is not available for the Muslim. For a European citizen, religion has become an individual choice, which governs only a limited space of his life. Even if he converts to Islam, this new choice will not dominate all of his activities; it will only fill the space allocated to it.

Another feature of Islam that challenges the modern worldview is its God-centered outlook at the universe. It may share this characteristic with other Semitic religions to some extent, but the emphasis it lays on the divine role in natural and historical events is unsurpassed. An ordinary Muslim begins any activity with the name of God, and ends up with Him. This may look quite a holy observance, but it has led in time, to a sort of fatalism whereby the believer relegates many aspects of an issue, which can be solved through hard work, to God. The raison d'étre of man on earth is to worship God. Thus, man's relationship to nature and his relationship to other human beings i.e. two basic areas that make the crux of any formulation for a worldview, are not treated at first degree by Islam. Probably, this situation partially explains a Muslim's lack of motivation and enthusiasm to discover nature and produce scientific values. On the social plane a similar case is prevalent. As the ultimate norms of social interaction are already given by God in the scripture, and through the exemplary acts of the Prophet, there is hardly need for creation of new social values to replace the old ones. This situation is further attested by the reserved attitude of the contemporary Muslim jurists toward ijtihad. The traditional Muslim's mental disposition presents a sharp contrast to that of a secular minded westerner, in that the letter starts with himself and launches his potential abilities to create a world of his own acumen, governed by values of human origin. To be truly a secular person, leaving aside all traditional concepts and removing God from both realms of necessity and freedom is a kind of conversion, more difficult for a Muslim to accept than converting to another religion. This difficulty is treated extensively by Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, a contemporary theologian, who has committed himself to the revival of Islamic heritage. He has presented a detailed critique of Western Civilization and secularism, appropriating science and technology of western origin to Islamic culture with new interpretations under the title: Islamization of Contemporary Knowledge'. He has also shown in his works how secularism leads to irreligion and godlessness, and why a Muslim cannot be secular.7

After this short presentation on the internal conditions of Islam that contributed to a historical continuity, which resisted the secularization strategies of Muslim governments for almost a century, let us now turn to the other part of the conflict, i. e. the state. It will not be a fair assessment to put all blame to the essential characteristic of Islam and its institutions for the failure of modernization and secularization programs. However, it will not be realistic too, to blame the secular regimes of the developing Muslim states especially that of Turkey, for implementing a secularization program as a prerequisite of modernization. There are few Muslim intellectuals who contend that secularization is not a necessary condition for modernizing basic institutions of a Muslim society, on the grounds that the historical circumstances that were characterized by the rift between the state and the Church, have not existed in the Muslim world (Davutoğlu, 2000, 179-200). Therefore, they assert that although modernization in the sense of industrialization and rationalization of the work force of a nation on liberal terms, independent of religious, ideological and cultural prejudices can be considered to be a 'universal value' applicable everywhere; whereas secularization, in the sense of accommodating religious convictions of believers, and the institutions representing the dogmatic outlook of a religion to the radical changes caused by modernization, is peculiar to a specific culture, i.e. western Europe; thus, it does not assume a universal status (Zubaida, 1993, 181, Javaid Saeed, 1994, 198). This judgment would have been justified if modernization and westernization efforts of secular governments in the Muslim world were not impeded by the Ulama and the institutions that represent Shari'a. Turkish history of the last three quarters of a century provides ample evidence for the claim that Islam with its ranks and files resisted modernization in the full sense of the word. Of course, those intellectuals who want to perpetuate Islamic worldview forever, believing that its divine nature can absorb any change, will not accept this argument, and will take governments and their corrupt regimes responsible for the dire conditions of the Muslim community today. This is partially true; how can the role of undemocratic, authoritarian and despotic regimes of the Muslim states be denied in the misery of the Muslims all over the world? But should this recognition blind us to the fact that Islam did resist and still resisting modernization policies?

As to the share of the blame for the delayed and mishandled project of modernization that fall on the governments of the Muslim states, it is commonplace that the kind administration that is being applied in most Muslim countries is undemocratic. Various labels have been used to define the regimes in power in Muslim nations. They have been defined by the terms such as authoritarian state', undemocratic state', patrimonial state', pillage state', neo-patrimonial state', peripheral state', petrolic state' etc (Zubaida, 1993, 162). Whatever term is used to describe the use of administrative power in the Muslim world, one can hardly deny the worldwide allegations against Muslim regimes that they violate basic human rights, the deny freedom of expression to their people, they do not apply a fair distribution of wealth among their citizens, supporting a corrupt minority as guarantors of their decadent statecraft. However, Turkish regime, despite many shortcomings, can be exempted from those general allegations, for the following reasons: Free elections have been held for half a century, freedom of expression is not as bad as it is in other Muslim states, Turkey is presently undergoing radical changes mainly for accession to membership to the European Union. Turkey can be regarded as a law state' in spite of certain criticism that can be made in this respect.

Progress in secularizing many institutions of the state since the declaration of the new republic in 1923 can hardly be underestimated. However, the distrust that the religious masses feel toward the state policies, caused by the Atatürk's reforms has not yet faded away. The state in turn, does not feel safe enough to leave religious affairs to independent bodies. All mosques and the personnel functioning in religious duties are attached to the Directorate of Religious Affairs, a state department ministered by a state secretary. It is apparent that this is a different application of secularism, where state and religion are not separated. The state still preserves fears that if religious affairs are disconnected from state supervision, and handed to an independent body, religion will turn to a political instrument against the secular state. As a matter of fact, the government headed by Ismet Inönü, a close colleague of Atatürk and the second president succeeding him, opened new schools (imam-hatip okulları) in 1949 to recruit modern clergymen who are secular minded and loyal to the state. The number of these schools increased after 1950 when the conservative Democrat Party came to power. The number was further increased as a consequence of populist policies of right-wing parties such as Justice Party (Adalet Partisi) and the parties founded by Necmettin Erbakan under different names between 1970 – 1977. The number of these schools reached 450, and the students graduating from them were allowed to enter any department of state universities, a right that had been denied to them until 1975.8 Parallel to this development, the number of the faculties of theology amounted to 22 after the military coup in 1980, when a new university law was enacted by the generals in power. It was only in 28th February 1997 when the military forced the government headed by Necmettin Erbakan of Welfare Party ( Rafah Partisi) to resign after a decision taken by the National Security Council which contained measures to curb the intrusion of religious personnel in state mechanism and elsewhere. The first part of these schools was closed and the right of the graduates to enter universities was repealed. They are now permitted to enter the faculties of theology only. This was in fact a delayed decision, since it became obvious that a dual education of this model was against secularist strategies of the state9, and moreover, these religious schools were recruiting students who were paying allegiance to traditional Islam rather than a westernized worldview where religion is robbed of political aspirations. Graduates of these religious schools have also been exploited by the Islamic political parties. The problem of headscarf used by female students as a sign of their commitment to Islamic dress, is partially engendered by the girls graduated from these schools who were allowed to wear the veil in the classrooms as secondary school students. But when they attended university classes with same dress, they were, and still are not allowed to do that, due to a statute regulating the type of outfit for the students in university campuses. Thus, it is apparent that some of the issues erupting between the secular state and the religious community is created unwisely by the state itself, simply through a system of dual education which ultimately produce two types of graduates with two opposite mentalities.10

The Turkish secular state has committed other fatal errors in its strategies of secularization. First of all, it has adopted from very beginning an authoritarian policy of modernization, allowing no space for a discourse where arguments of different parties are met in an atmosphere of mutual respect that may lead to a prospect of a consensus. The state maintained the traditional despotic rule of the Ottoman administration, wherein all good things can be conceived only by the state, and imposed on the masses through any means, regardless of any consideration for the public opinion. Internal dynamics are disliked by the ruling class, on the ground that public debate on grand issues is detrimental to the unity of nation. Obsession with the concept of unity and the security of territorial borders has cost the Turkish people serious consequences. They have been denied the freedom of expression to preserve a homogenous nation state, despite the fact that this nation consists of many ethnic and religious elements. They have been spared of public spending of a modern state, and a just distribution of national wealth, a policy that forced millions of citizens to content with a life of misery and poverty, a compromise that made them secure from possible enemies but with empty stomachs.

Though it can be conceded that modernization cannot be complete without secularization, despite counterarguments, it will be an unsubstantiated assertion however, that modernization can be achieved only through secularization. Modernization, as matter of fact, is a revolutionary mentality that comprises not only the reshuffle of religion institutions, but also an overhaul of state mechanism. Appropriation of democratic rules, respect for basic human rights, creation of a public sphere that can work as a mediating plane between the people's demands and the ruling class, and to consider the happiness of nation as the highest aim for the state, are among the prerequisites of any program of modernization. The Turks ignored all these requirements, cherishing the illusion that they can be a modern nation without touching the old network of Asiatic authoritarian, repressive state that looks down on its people as herds to be guided by a shepherd. Any thing can be the top target of such a state but not the well-being of the people. In this model of statecraft there is no respect for humanity, the basic relation between the ruler and the ruled being the use of power. This phenomenon partially explains the widespread anti-etatism of the Middle-Eastern people. Lack of solidarity between the state and the masses is one of the reasons why economic, social and educational projects do not materialize in Muslim countries including Turkey. The rulers demand from their people to change their minds, but they themselves have not changed theirs. Unfortunately enough, they have always put the blame for the failure of the state projects on the people, exempting themselves from the guilt of which they are responsible.

Another serious mistake committed by the secular governments of Turkey is their application of a distorted version of the Modernity. Instead of conceiving this revolutionary worldview of European origin as a cluster of principles of universal validity, they identified it with the reforms of Atatürk. Although the latter was a true and fearless believer of western way of life, a fact that he proved by the so-called Kemalist reforms, it is against the spirit of the Modernity to link it with the charisma or heroism of any leader. The main claim of this secular worldview was to detach the mind of the individual from religious, ideological and traditional loyalties, so that he becomes a free autonomous person. The Turkish strategists of modernization movement however, attempted to replace Islam with an ideology, i.e. another religion that exerted new constraints on the minds of the people (Esposito, 2000, 7). They were not allowed to choose new values by their free discretion. The old patrimonial Islamic state was reemerging in a neo-patrimonial communalist fashion, with a new grand mission: To impose a new system of values, under the name of modernization on the Turkish people, to save the nation from backwardness and bring it on an equal footing with the civilized western states. There was no adequate rhetoric to explain the merits of the new system, nor was there a substantial critique of Islam and its obsolete institutions.

Thus, it never occurred to their mind that modernization was first all, a mental issue that demands from its lovers to terminate their allegiance to old values and adopt new values that create a completely new worldview. As the Modernity is a human-centered project of life on earth, man assumes the first priority as an object of respect and inquiry, at expense of the mythological entities of the medieval imagination. However, it can easily be noticed that those secularist reformers in the Muslim world, including Turkey, who identify themselves as the followers of the western civilization, and are self-appointed missionaries to civilize their people, have no respect for their people. This can be attested by the treatment they adopted toward the people they rule.

The concept of nation-state that was incorporated for the new republic also caused unexpected consequences. The model defined in the constitution for the new citizenship did not materialize in practice. Turkish nationalism as a new creed alongside with Kemalism has not attracted the consent of the Kurdish minority. They feel they have been alienated, as there is no mention of Kurdish existence on the Turkish soil in any official document. The Kurdish conflict in the South-Eastern Turkey that culminated in the death of thousands of people for fifteen years has not yet yielded a political or social solution. Right to speak ethnic languages and live minority cultures are on the agenda of the new government of Justice and Development Party as preconditions to be met before Turkey is allowed to be a member of European Union. Again, internal demands coming from various factions of the nation for new rights and regulations are not heeded by the ruling class, which is another indication of the fact that Turkey is not yet a modern state, still displaying the characteristics of Asiatic authoritarian rule. Changes take place despite the unwillingness by the ruling clique, only through external enforcement. Internal debates on serious issues as the material of a public sphere are not encouraged; nor are the conclusions of such debates if there is any, endorsed by the lawmakers.

The relationship between the secularist hardliners who are mainly army generals or state functionaries of high positions, especially judges in the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, and the political parties of Islamic background, has always been troublesome, ending in the closure of these parties. But after such closures of the parties, new ones under new names but with the same mission appear on the scene. Justice and Development Party, founded two years ago by a fraction of the outlawed Virtue Party is currently in power, winning 363 seats in the parliament, in the election of November, 3rd 2002. Is this victory by an Islamist political party an indication of resurgence of Islam in Turkey? The founders of the party renounced any link to political Islam, but the suffrage knew very well that they were previously the members of the Virtue Party, which was closed by the Constitutional Court on the charges of anti-secularist actions. Or, is it the end of secularization strategies that have been in force since the establishment of the republic? The answer is neither yes', nor no' to both questions. The Islamist party is well aware of the fact that it cannot change many state institutions that have long acquired a secular character. The army considers itself not only as the guardian of territorial borders, but also the custodian of the reforms of Atatürk, of which secularism has the top priority. So far they have not dared to lift the ban on the use of headscarf in universities. They can do very little to change the state into an Islamic one. Moreover, their desirous efforts on international level, to make Turkey a member of the European Union gives the impression that their conception of Islam is different from that of mullahs in Iran: i.e. they have been secularized to some extent.

The victory of Justice and Development Party is rather suggestive of the defeat for the secular minded Kemalists. It shows that a huge part of Turkish population is still adhering to traditional values as the only available ones to be trusted. This also means that the masses have not been sufficiently exposed to secular values, or, rather, secularism in its European model has never been represented genuinely, in modern Turkey.


Islam, in its is resurgent character, as the culture of Muslim communities, determining a way of life, and as a political movement responding to various inroads from alien cultures, especially the western, is, no doubt, a historical continuity. But whether this continuity is an essence' that resists all challenges without itself changing, is controversial. This continuity is partly due to the fact that no other essence' has yet been introduced into Islamic world. It has survived so far, as the only criterion of legitimacy in the lives of the Muslims. Modernization policies introduced at the turn of the twentieth century, by some Muslim states with Turkey among them, have been incomplete and piecemeal. Such policies have not established a new tradition of secular values as an alternative for the Islamic ones. Muslim people have not experienced the blessings of a modern state where man occupies the central place and is entrusted with basic rights. It is natural that they are hostile to what they do not know, unless they are properly enlightened. To depart from accustomed values and adopt new ones can be viewed as a change of identity, which is true, but it is again, that adored concept of fixed identity that prevents man from acquisition of novel forms of life that originate from the healthy nature of some members of human species; this is how he is delayed in his vocation of furthering his humanity.

Islam, as a system of values of medieval origin, cannot equip its adherents with guidelines that are necessary for a modern person to maintain an unperturbed life. Justified knowledge has left little place for unquestioned faith in the mind of modern man. Attraction of unrestrained worldly pleasures of our time has rendered the maintenance of a moral life based on belief unrealistic. The type of ideal man configured by the new understanding of Modernity and the Enlightenment is contrary to the ideal man in Semitic religions. The former is free, mobile, self –reliant, rational, pragmatic, his own master, curious, skeptical and this worldly; whereas the latter is a selfless servant of God, fatalist, ashamed of his instinctive desires, otherworldly and pacifist.

Modernization of Muslim societies can only be achieved through an application of a revolutionary program whereby state and religious institutions are reestablished, parallel to those in the modern states. Secularization as a part of such a comprehensive program will not succeed unless Islam comes under a decisive criticism by the fundamentals of the Modernity, as a result of which it can be reduced to the observance of certain rituals in the private sphere of a modern Muslim; robbed of its traditional political claims. This anticipation will still be abortive if the infrastructure of the state mechanism of the present Muslim nations does not come under a deconstructive process by the modern concepts of statecraft.


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Tamimi, Azzam., Esposito, L. John., (eds.) Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, 2000, London.

Turner, S. Bryan., Weber and Islam, Max Weber Classic Monographs, Vol. VII., 1998, London, New York ( Routledge).

Watt, W. Montgomery., Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam, London: Luzac, 1948. ( I used this work while writing my Ph D dissertation. I could not find the book in my library. This all I know about the book. However, the author's name is written as shown.)

Zubaida, Sami., Islam the People and the State, Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East, 1993, London, New York (I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. Publishers).

© Prof. Dr. Yasin Ceylan, Professor of Philosophy, Middle East Technical University.