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Chapter six explores the religious roots of the “secular” state and the emergence of a sacred-synthesis between the religious and the national in late Ottoman and early republican Turkey. It argues that by widening the timeframe to include these precursors to Kemalist politics, it becomes clear that the ostensible “success” of the Kemalist reforms in the Turkish case represents only one “moment” in a more gradual process of state formation that produced a sacred-synthesis between the religious and the national that would be instrumentalized for decades to come. The chapter focuses specifically Institutional changes in education and law that were set into motion during the reign of Sultan cAbdulḥamīd II (1876-1909) and were continued subsequently under the rule of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP), arguing that they are essential to understanding contemporary religion-state power arrangements in Turkey. The chapter argues that Late Ottoman reform strategies ultimately caused the religious establishment to cultivate the seeds of its own demise. These changes progressed incrementally but were, cumulatively speaking, transformative forces of state building.
This chapter introduces a theoretical framework for understanding the book’s central argument and offers a typology of the various expansion strategies that states used to gain traction in education and law. The chapter argues that by either layering state institutions onto the religious edifice and/or initiating the piecemeal co-optation of religious elites into new state institutions, reformers slowly amassed state-centric authority, built a robust cultural machinery for the eventual dissemination of state ideology, and gradually silenced religious competitors. In countries where there was a dominant majority religion, and where this layering and/or piecemeal cooptation process was successful, early state makers could fuse the religious and the national, creating a synthesis that blended modern institutions and concepts of citizenship with religious identity markers. Under these conditions, the state could construct relatively legitimate, domesticated religious bureaucracies that promoted an official religion. Simultaneously the religious establishment gradually adopted a state-centric world view, as the state targeted its leaders and the general citizenry alike for conversion into “disciples of the state.”
This chapter examines the history of the next emerging post-Ottoman state, Greece, showing that institutional overlap between religion and the state together with the cooptation of religious elites served as a vehicle for state expansion and the emergence of powerful religion-state synergies. Despite the presence of a foreign-imposed Bavarian monarchy in Greece at a critical point in the state-formation process, strategies of piecemeal cooptation, institutional layering and eventually usurpation created first a symbiotic and then a largely subservient relationship between state and religion. Reform processes fused not only religious and national institutions, but also religious and national identities into an instrumental sacred-synthesis, with formidable implications for political and societal development trajectories
This chapter returns to Egypt to examine an instance in which the religious and the national fail to converge into a sacred synthesis. Gamal Nasser deliberately attempted “secularize” in a mode similar to Kemalist Turkey via strategies of usurpation. This chapter shows, however, that Egypt differed significantly from Turkey in that it inherited the legacy of a British colonial occupation—marked by decades of state expansion into education and law—that ostracized religious elites, institutions and attachments. This legacy made it virtually impossible to replicate the Turkish outcome, meaning that religion retained a larger amount of sovereign space in Egypt, the subsequent politicization of religion did not result in groups with statist tendencies, and this ultimately challenged the state and impeded is hegemonic.
This chapter provides historical background information on the Ottoman imperial footprint in the region. It provides descriptive information on the types of differences that set the Ottoman world apart from Western European state building processes as well as the similarities within the Ottoman world that render the country cases in this study comparable. The chapter emphasizes how common experiences of past Ottoman rule created conditions where religious elites, institutions and attachments played a dominant role in both governance and the structure of everyday life prior to emergence of the nation state, making the state building based on European models of secularism and sovereignty a particularly challenging endeavor.
This short chapter details how programs to expand state control over education and law began in the region in Egypt at the turn of the nineteenth century under Muḥammad cAlī Pasha. This chapter takes us up to onset European influence in Egypt to suggest that state formation could have proceeded very differently in Egypt had it not been unobstructed by a colonial intervention that prevented religious elites and institutions from playing a central role in modernization.
The postscript briefly examines whether or not Turkey’s sacred-synthesis will be undone by recent domestic divisions, which are not between Islamists and secularists as Turkish politics is often cast, but amongst Islamists with pro-regime and anti-regime politics. Specifically, it explores the issue of the Gülenist-AKP split, suggesting that it has the potential to “politicize” official Islam in new ways.
The chapter introduces the goal of the book, which is to examine the strategies that state-builders use in their approach toward religion. It also introduces the book’s central research question: How can we explain the power arrangements between state and religion that emerge during the state building process? The chapter argues that in the 19th and early 20th century, states made some of their most durable advances in sovereignty and hegemony in countries not where they excluded religious elites, but where they instead embedded them in nascent, state-centric structures of education and law. Conceding a role for religious actors in education and law during this period—in exchange for their tacit compliance with centralization—set in motion a dynamic that weakened religious institutions. The gradual erosion of traditional religious institutions in turn meant that, during the period of national independence, reformers had little to no need to wage massive force against a collective religious resistance. In fact, joining forces with the religious establishment actually facilitated certain aspects of state centralization, providing otherwise scarce symbolic and institutional resources.