Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2010

3 - The Turkish-Islamic Synthesis and the Islamist Social Movement


This chapter analyzes the first phase of the mobilization of political Islam in Turkey (1980–91). The political opportunity structure (POS) exploited by Islamist political forces in the 1990s had its origins in a crucial policy choice made by the military government that took power on September 12, 1980. The coup was aimed at putting an end to an extraordinary outbreak of extremist politics and to the attendant political violence between radical leftists and ultranationalists. The coup was initiated primarily against the leftists.

The military's strategy for legitimizing the Turkish state and securing popular support for it involved a radical departure from the Kemalist secularism that had defined Turkey until then. The Turkish-Islamic Synthesis (TIS, a mixture of Sunni Islam and Turkish nationalism), adopted and implemented by the military and maintained by the center-right Motherland Party (MP) rule (1983–91), opened the door to organizational and framing activities by Islamist forces – activities reinforced by such external factors as the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the financial support of Saudi capital, and supported by an emerging Islamist business class in Turkey. These activities laid the foundation for the entry of political Islam into electoral competition and its eventually successful bid for power in the 1990s.


In the late 1970s, the Turkish political scene was characterized by a thorough ideological polarization between right-wing ultranationalists (ülkücüs – idealists) and radical left-wing groups, along with a lack of decisive authority on the part of the government.