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Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey

The Paradox of Moderation

By Güneş Murat Tezcür

Publication Year: 2010

Moderation theory describes the process through which radical political actors develop commitments to electoral competition, political pluralism, human rights, and rule of law and come to prefer negotiation, reconciliation, and electoral politics over provocation, confrontation, and contentious action. Revisiting this theory through an examination of two of the most prominent moderate Islamic political forces in recent history, Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey analyzes the gains made and methods implemented by the Reform Front in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Justice and Development Party in Turkey. Both of these groups represent Muslim reformers who came into continual conflict with unelected adversaries who attempted to block their reformist agendas. Based on extensive field research in both locales, Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey argues that behavioral moderation as practiced by these groups may actually inhibit democratic progress. Political scientist Güne Murat Tezcür observes that the ability to implement conciliatory tactics, organize electoral parties, and make political compromises impeded democracy when pursued by the Reform Front and the Justice and Development Party. Challenging conventional wisdom, Tezcür’s findings have broad implications for the dynamics of democratic progress.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Series


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vi-vi


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xii

My interest in the subject of this book has its roots in my high school years in the mid-1990s, when the Welfare Party emerged as the most popular and dynamic force in Turkish politics. I became curious about this force, which remained very enigmatic for me. My college years in Istanbul introduced me to a relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere where I met people for...

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CHAPTER 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-26

In the summer of 2002, the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (JDP; Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) was hardly a well-known address. Visitors to the newly constructed building located in the Balgat district of Ankara were few in number and had easy access to leadership cadres. The relationships were personal within the party; all divisions worked closely...

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CHAPTER 2: From Islamists to Muslim Reformers: A Theory of Political Change

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pp. 27-47

An influential body of scholarship argues that radical parties become increasingly moderate if they are integrated into the legal and electoral system. The origins of this idea, which can be called moderation theory, are found in the work of Robert Michels, who is most well known for his “iron law of oligarchy.” He argues that Socialist parties, committed to bringing about workingclass democracy...

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CHAPTER 3: Muslim Reformismin Comparative Perspective

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pp. 48-63

The idea that Islam by its very nature is inhospitable to democracy and pluralism continues to have some broad appeal. It is based on the assumption that Islamic religion, with its distinctive historical self-consciousness and value patterns, is a world set apart from Western civilization, with which it often engages in violent confrontations. Islam is argued to be antisecular by definition, and this implies that Muslims cannot support political secularism because...

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CHAPTER 4: Muslim Reformism: Engagement with Secularism and Liberal Democracy

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pp. 64-89

Muslim reformism has its origins in the nineteenth century when superior Western firepower and technological advances began to achieve dominance over Muslim societies. The reformist response involved a comprehensive attempt to identify the causes of Western dominance and Muslim weakness. It sought to reestablish the relevance of Islamic identity in a rapidly...

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CHAPTER 5: The Guardians and Elections in Iran and Turkey

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pp. 90-111

This chapter describes the institutional and ideological basis of guardianship and the dynamics of electoral competition in Iran and Turkey. According to the conventional wisdom, the Iranian and Turkish regimes are located on opposite ends of the relationship between the state and religion. While the former embodies the complete fusion of religious and political authority, the...

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CHAPTER 6: A Moment of Enthusiasm in the Islamic Republic

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pp. 112-141

The evolution of Islamic political activism in Iran, since the mid-1970s, has demonstrated the elastic influence of Shiite Islam over political thought and behavior. Shiite beliefs, norms, and rituals supplied the vernacular means through which revolutionaries articulated desire for social justice and freedom and mobilized public support. With the consolidation of Islamist rule in the...

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CHAPTER 7: Elusive Democratization in the Secular Republic

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pp. 142-176

Islamic political movements in Turkey have been primarily organized as electoral parties. In contrast to Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) in Egypt or the Islamic Da'wa (Hezb-e al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya) in Iraq, they have not had cell-based, clandestine, and vanguard-type organizational structures. The recurrent theme in forty years...

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CHAPTER 8: A Tale of Two Elections

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pp. 177-209

The Reform Front in Iran and the Justice and Development Party in Turkey have been the most prominent post-Islamist movements in the Middle East. Neither the RF nor the JDP shared a holistic ideological vision that left little room for pluralism and democratic governance. In fact, the birth of the RF and the JDP followed internal debates and criticism regarding the promises...

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CHAPTER 9: Conclusion

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pp. 210-220

This study makes three contributions to the study of Muslim politics. First, it offers the first and only systematic analysis of Muslim reformers in two very important countries, Iran and Turkey. The comparative method adopted in this work clearly demonstrates that Muslim reformism embracing electoral democracy, political pluralism, and human rights can rise and mobilize...


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pp. 221-270


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pp. 271-300


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pp. 301-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780292792760
E-ISBN-10: 029279276X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292721975
Print-ISBN-10: 0292721978

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos, 8 charts/graphs, 4 tables
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: CMES Modern Middle East Series
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 649473789
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey

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Subject Headings

  • Islam and politics -- Iran.
  • Jabhah-ʼi Iṣlāḥāt (Iran).
  • AK Parti (Turkey).
  • Turkey -- Politics and government -- 1980-.
  • Islam and politics -- Turkey.
  • Liberalism -- Iran.
  • Liberalism -- Turkey
  • Iran -- Politics and government -- 1997-.
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