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Reviewed by:
  • Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey
  • Michael M. Gunter (bio)
Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey, by M. Hakan Yavuz. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xvi + 281 pages. Bibl. to p. 294. Index to p. 301. $90 cloth; $32.99 paper.

In November 2002 Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP, or Justice and Development Party), a party with roots in Islamic politics, swept to power in Turkey, a state renowned as secular by virtue of its founder, Kemal Ataturk, and his institutionalized Kemalist ideology. This great AKP victory was then solidified over determined military and Kemalist opposition in an even greater electoral victory in July 2007. How did all this happen and what are its implications for secularism, modernity, democracy, and Islam in Turkey and the larger Islamic world?

Having studied this subject both broadly and deeply, Professor Yavuz offers us an original analysis along theoretical and empirical lines that demands close scholarly as well as policy attention. He notes, for example, that "a slow institutional and behavioral Islamization process has been going on in Turkey since the mid-1980s" (p. 262), but that "it would be a mistake to read this Islamization as purely negative. It has played an important role in the ongoing economic development of the country and, as a result, many Muslims have become more moderate" (p. 263). "The AKP is an outcome of the transformation of liberal Islam, directed by four socio-political factors: the new Anatolian bourgeoisie, the expansion of the public sphere and the new Muslim intellectuals, the [EU's] Copenhagen criteria, and the February 28 soft coup" (p. 78). Throughout his study, the author incisively illustrates how these four factors have led to the point where what originated as a Turkish Islamic political movement has evolved into an a- or non-Islamic, conservative democratic party based on neo-liberal economic beliefs.

Yavuz's analysis consists of three sections, the first of which raises various theoretical questions about the definition and evolution of Islamic parties. He argues that "the AKP evolved in reaction to the authoritarian, and somewhat messianic, leadership of Necmettin Erbakan: against his anti-systemic and confrontational National Outlook philosophy" (p. 3). The old Kemalist Turkey "is in fact senile" (p. 43), while the new Turkey does "not seek an Islamic polity but rather the freeing of religion from state control and the removal of obstacles to living a religious life" (p. 4).

The second section analyzes the socio-political origins of the AKP, giving great emphasis to the policies of Turgut Ozal, which led to "the emergence of new economic opportunity spaces and the evolution of a new set of actors" (p. 45). The rise of an Anatolian bourgeoisie "has been at the center of the 'silent revolution', and the democratization and liberalization of Islamic actors have been very much achieved by this bourgeoisie" (p. 11). As opposed to the older Istanbul-based business class largely represented by TUSIAD (The Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association), the new Anatolian bourgeoisie, as largely represented by MUSIAD (The Independent Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association), "are first-generation college graduates and often part of the Anatolian-based petty bourgeoisie who benefited from Ozal's neo-liberal economic policies, which increased social mobility and allowed them to establish their own middle-and small-size businesses" (p. 52). In addition, "this new bourgeoisie . . . challenges old Orientalist assumptions about Islam and its incompatibility with capitalism" (p. 54). "Not unlike the Christian Protestant Calvinists of the sixteenth century, happiness is defined in terms of profit and the struggle to get ahead" (p. 77).

Yavuz also imputes major importance to the unintended results of the military's silent coup of February 28, 1997 against Erbakan's Islamic-led coalition. The February 28 process fragmented Erbakan's Islamic movement into two competing groups, one of which emerged as today's moderate AKP. The coup "taught Erdogan to realize the parameters of democracy and the power of the secularist establishment, and forced him to become a moderate and a democrat" (p. 68). Another chapter focuses on the lives and roles of Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, the [End Page 511] AKP's...


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