New Turkey: Towards a “progressive Islam” | Foreign Affairs - Hellenic Edition
Secure Connection

New Turkey: Towards a “progressive Islam”

a. The transformation of the central state or “divine” state.
In Turkey, all the sociopolitical and socioeconomical institutions power resulted from the actions of the state. The superiority of the state has also a “divine” character approved by the people. Because people in Turkey believed that the state's mission is to take care of their needs; they say that “the state is our father and it ought to protect us”, this is why the notion of individuality was not developed enough or if it was, it only existed in a social group which was the minority of the Turkish population. The transformation of the structure of the police forces is very characteristic in the sense that it helps understands the change. The police as an institution had a central character and the distance between the police and the people was very big. Besides that, the police considered anyone coming to them as a potential criminal. After 2002, and especially in 2006, the Turkish police changed its structure adopting the American federal model of community policing. According to the new police model, in order to prevent crime, police forces should be supported by the people, because the society is the one that knows better the social problems, so we have to care about the people, their needs, we have to pay attention to their local values. With the community policing model, the Turkish state started to loose its central character and adopt gradually the local government mentality, closing the gap between the police and the people, gradually loosing its “divine” character because the people also started to criticize the state.

b. The transformation of the political system.
During the last years Turkey started to abandon the parliamentary democracy to adopt the presidential system, a system very close to the American model. The main step was achieved with the referendum in October 21st 2007, when 68,95% of the Turkish people decided that the president should be elected by the people. And with the last referendum in April 16th 2017, 51% of the Turkish voters said yes to the new system, the presidential system. This political transformation changed also the party system, switching from a multi-party system to a two party system, just like the American model with Republicans vs Democrats. This party transformation process accelerated because of the upcomıng electıons on June 24th, 2018 (for the first time the presidential and parliamentary elections will happen the same day). The JDP united with the Natıonalist Movement Party and formed the “Republicans” bloc. The opposition parties made of the Republicans People party (CHP), the GOOD party (IYI Parti) and the Felicity party (Saadet Partisi) united, but only in the context of the parliamentary elections, this opposition formed the “Democrats” bloc, but as far as the presidential election is concerned, each party will run with its own candidate. In my opinion, after the elections, the union of the opposition representing the “Democrats” bloc will continue by electing their leader whose mentality will be in line with the red lines formed by the JDP; for instance the candidate of the CHP, the opposition party, has stated that they do not stand against the women wearing headscarfs in public institutions and that they do not want to go back to a parlamentary system.

But which will be the social basis the two party system will be founded on? In order to answer this rhetorical question we should refer to the notion of secularism.

c. The notion of secularism.
Enlightment is the process of the liberation of human mind; during this process the religion has a vital role. In Europe they considered the religion as an obstacle for this process and according to Jean Jack Rousseau the people is uneducated they don’t know how to liberate their mind so an institution should take over this mission and educate them. This European French secular (Laicite) mentality was the secular mentality that shaped Turkey from 1923 to 2002. The Republican Peoples party believed that they knew how to educate the people and the institution that should undertake this mission should be the Turkish army which imposed the European secularism in a military way to the society transforming it into a big barrack pointing out that the religion, Islam should stay in the private sphere.

Once out of the private sphere, one was expected to behave like a westerner. This is why in Turkey public servants should wear a tie to behave as a modern citizen, and if you wore a headscarf you had to take it off otherwise you could not find a job. And also in the universities, women wearing headscarf were forbidden to enter universities. It was a top-down modernization process. After the 2002, this top-down modernization started to change and the JDP party started to adopt the American secular way whose main characteristic supported the idea that the tool for the secularization should not be the privilege of one institution but the society itself should be the locomotive of it. When JDP and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came to power, they put on the political agenda the process of “Democratisation”. Also, the other meaning of democratization is demilitarization which means that the role of army in the society as a “modernization tool” gradually ended, being withdrawn from within the society, the public sphere and put back into the barracks, thus limiting the army to its role of protector from outside enemies, enemies of the country. While the Turkish army withdrew from the society, in other words the public sphere, on the other hand Islam confined until then to the private sphere started to come out and appear in the public sphere, thus interacting with the values of capitalism which actually represent the protestant way of thinking; and this transformed the traditional context of islam. At this point I would like to give some examples.