The Transformation of a Turkish Islamic Movement From Identity Politics to Policy

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M. Hakan Yavuz



Some scholars, such as Graham Fuller, tend to read the current experiment
in Turkey as the successful political integration of an Islamic movement
into a democracy.1 Several facts support such an interpretation. Although
the JDP [Justice and Democracy Party] leadership denies its Islamic background
and claims to be a conservative democratic party, nonetheless, the
party did emerge out of the ashes of the Welfare [Refah] and the Virtue
[Fazilet] parties that were closed down by the constitutional court on
charges of being a forum for and proponent of anti-secular activities.2
Moreover, the majority of JDP’s deputies are observant Muslims in their
daily lives. For instance, their spouses continue to wear headscarves, which
are banned in public offices, state ceremonies, and universities because
they are regarded as a threat to Turkey’s secular character. The religious
observance of JDP’s members poses several questions. Is the JDP an Islamic
party? Is it possible for an ex-Islamic movement to become a-Islamic or un-
Islamic? Is the commitment of the JDP’s members to religious values in
their personal life sufficient to label the party Islamic? When does a movement
or a party become or cease to be Islamic? Even if the party’s administration
denies any connection with political Islam, can we still consider the
party to be Islamic?
Alternatively, one may argue that JDP’s denial of being an Islamic
party is simply a compromise between the state and the JDP. The party, as
the argument goes, is free to govern the country as long as it stays within
Turkey’s strictly proscribed constitutional framework and ignores many of
its conservative constituency’s religious demands. This alternative interpretation
further complicates the issue and raises following question: Is the
JDP, rather than being the success story of an Islamic movement that has
adapted to a democratic and secular environment, an example of the ...

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