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In establishing the Turkish state in 1923, Atatürk aimed at eliminating Islam from official public life. Yet, instead of relegating religion to the private sphere, the state assumed responsibility for supervising and controlling religious activity, thus maintaining organizational links between religious institutions and the state bureaucracy. The Turkish version of separation of church and state took a different form from what is generally understood by this term in the United States: religious institutions were not separated from the state, but rather became subservient to it. For example, when the caliphate and the Chief Religious Office of the State were abolished, the Grand National Assembly created a Directorate of Religious Affairs under the direct supervision of the prime minister. The agency manages Islam and controls mosques and mausoleums in the country. In order to understand the reason why the state has been controlling Islam in Turkey, one has to analyze the Ottoman Empire's state structure and the failure of the modernization attempts started in that era.
ISLAM IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Islam was the dominant force in all areas of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan (ruler of the empire) was at the same time the caliph (religious leader of the Muslim world). Thus, the sultan was not considered the representative of the people, but of God. Political obedience to the ruler on the part of the community was the duty of every Muslim, since the political order had divine sanction.
The question posed at the beginning of this study asked why Islamism, which has been present in Turkish politics since the 1970s, has achieved electoral success, and assumed the powers of government, only in the 1990s. This study demonstrates that the rise to power of the Islamist social movement in Turkey can be attributed to three factors: first, the emergence of a political opportunity structure (POS), created primarily by the adoption of the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis (TIS) by the military regime in the aftermath of the 1980 intervention; second, the presence of movement entrepreneurs with significant organizational and other resources; and, third, the successful framing of issues by entrepreneurs to expand the appeal of the Islamist social movement beyond the population of Islamists to secular but socioeconomically aggrieved voters.
The Islamist movement in Turkey is largely nonviolent. One of the major theoretical findings of this study is that political context constrains movement entrepreneurs' framing activities, even if the movement is antisystemic. In the Turkish case, the existence of a secular-democratic regime and its acceptance by the vast majority of citizens constrained Islamist entrepreneurs' strategies for mobilization. But it also created an opportunity to be exploited. Islamist entrepreneurs, while utilizing social networks to overthrow the secular order by Islamizing the society from below, also mobilized by forming a political party. The political process model (PPM) proposes that movement entrepreneurs do not determine their goals and strategies for mobilization in a vacuum.
The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey explains why political Islam, which has been part of Turkish politics since the 1970s but on the rise only since the 1990s, has now achieved governing power. Drawing on social movement theory, the book focuses on the dominant form of Islamist activism in Turkey by analyzing the increasing electoral strength of four successive Islamist political parties: the Welfare Party; its successor, the Virtue Party; and the successors of the Virtue Party: the Felicity Party and the Justice and Development Party. This book, which is based on extensive primary and secondary sources as well as in-depth interviews, provides the most comprehensive analysis currently available of the Islamist political mobilization in Turkey.
This chapter examines the second phase of the development of political Islam in Turkey, from 1991 to the present. According to the political process model (PPM), once a movement is underway, organizational dynamics come to occupy center stage, while framing processes continue to shape the development of the movement. As a result of the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis policy (TIS, the first political opportunity structure), the Welfare Party (WP) established a strong organizational network (formal and informal) in the 1980s that would enable the party and its successors to frame the malfunctioning state in a manner that mobilized the electorate against the secular-democratic state in the 1990s. By the 1990s, a parallel Islamic socioeconomic sector, comprising the Islamist business class and Islamist intellectuals, emerged next to the WP party apparatus.
In their study of the political framing process, Gamson and Meyer argue the media play a crucial role in “the construction of meaning and the reproduction of culture.” Thus, the media's “openness to social movements is itself an important element of political opportunity.” Yet, in the Turkish case, it was not the openness of the media that allowed Islamist entrepreneurs to carry out a successful “framing” effort; it was the media's neglect of the Islamist movement that created space for Islamist entrepreneurial activities. The media did not pay sufficient attention to the WP's political rhetoric and activities until the mid-1990s.
This book explains why political Islam, which has been part of Turkish politics since the 1970s but on the rise only since the 1990s, has now achieved governing power. The book focuses on the dominant form of Islamist activism in Turkey by analyzing the increasing electoral strength of four successive Islamist political parties: the Welfare Party; its successor, the Virtue Party; and the successors of the Virtue Party, the Felicity Party and the Justice and Development Party. The Justice and Development Party is now the party of government in Turkey. Drawing upon social movement theory, and the political process model variant of this theory, this book argues that the rise of political Islam in Turkey can be attributed to three factors: first, the emergence of a political opportunity structure, created primarily by the adoption of the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis by the military regime in the aftermath of the 1980 intervention; second, the presence of movement entrepreneurs with significant organizational, financial, and human resources; and, third, the successful framing of issues by entrepreneurs to expand the appeal of the Islamist social movement beyond the population of Islamists to secular but socioeconomically aggrieved voters.
While the successful mobilization of political Islam can be attributed in part to the malfunctioning state and the structural conditions that it created, particularly since the 1990s, these factors alone do not explain how the Islamist movement could establish the well-organized and resource-rich networks that enabled it to address the ills of the state since the 1990s.
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.
TURKEY ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR
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.
This chapter analyzes how the narrowing down of a political opportunity structure (POS) forces movement entrepreneurs to frame new strategies for the movement's mobilization. In the 1995 general elections, the Welfare Party (WP) became the party of government by receiving the highest vote share. This led movement entrepreneurs to overestimate the movement's power vis-à-vis the secular-democratic state structure. Statements and activities of Islamist activists and WP members of parliament that contradicted the secular principles of the state led to the soft military intervention (countermobilization) on February 28, 1997 and the closure of the party by the Constitutional Court in January 1998.
Despite the military intervention, the Islamist movement, which had firmly established itself in the country in the years following the 1980 coup, could not be eliminated. The strong organizational networks established by the Islamist movement ensured its survival. Islamist entrepreneurs having realized the narrowing down of the POS after the events of 1997, reframed the movement under the banner of a new political party, the Virtue Party (VP). The VP dropped the political rhetoric of the “Just Order” in order not to be considered by the secular state as a continuation of the WP. The Islamist entrepreneurs within the VP, unable to call for a Just Order as a result of the countermobilization of secular state institutions, now attempted to exploit the issue of Turkey's possible membership in the European Union (EU) as a new political opportunity.
Turkey is the only Muslim secular-democratic state: the Atatürk Revolution (1923–38) relegated Islam to the private sphere; yet Islam has remained an active force in Turkish society, manifest both in the articulated views of some intellectual elites and in the activities of secretive, grassroots Islamic religious brotherhoods or orders (tarikats). But repeated attempts to establish an Islamic political party in the period following World War II ended in failure until the foundation of the National Order Party (NOP) in 1970. An Islamist social movement has achieved unqualified success only since the 1990s. An Islamist successor to the NOP, the Welfare Party (WP) entered the government by securing the highest vote share (21.4%) in the 1995 general elections along with 158 seats in the 550-seat parliament. The most recent in a series of successive Islamist parties, the Justice and Development Party (JDP), is now the party of government as a result of its securing 34.3 percent of the popular vote in the 2002 general elections, entitling it to 363 seats in parliament. The party further increased its support in the 2007 general elections by securing 46.6 percent of the popular vote and 341 seats in parliament, and following the elections, placed its candidate into the presidency of Turkey.
The malfunctioning state – characterized by massive corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, unemployment, and decay in moral values as well as deterioration in law and order – became a political opportunity structure (POS) in the second phase after 1991 of the mobilization of political Islam in Turkey. In the 1990s, the Welfare Party (WP) framed its mobilizational appeal in terms of a “Just Order,” its slogan and critique of the Turkish political and social order, and thereby attracted the support of secular but disaffected voters. This chapter argues that the malfunctioning state, and the grievances it produced, did not by themselves create an Islamist social movement. In the pre-1980 coup period, one consequence of the malfunctioning state was de facto civil war. Yet there was no Islamist mobilization. The Islamist social movement did not arise until movement entrepreneurs seized upon the existing POS and framed a successful mobilizational appeal. It is this dynamic, the role of “agency” in the rise of the Islamist social movement in Turkey, that is the central focus of this chapter.
The Just Order fulfilled the three core framing tasks identified by Benford and Snow: it included diagnostic framing, which consists of identifying the problem and attributions; prognostic framing, which consists of the articulation of a solution to the problem; and motivational framing, or a call to collective action.