The Politics of Religion in Turkey


XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, 13 - 19 June 2014, pp.222-223

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Yokohama
  • Country: Japan
  • Page Numbers: pp.222-223
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


The Politics of Religion in Turkey. . The Politics of Religion in Turkey

According to the World Values Survey, the percentage of Turkish citizens who consider religion to be important in their lives increased from 61 percent in 1990 to 81 percent in 2001. This data indicates that Turkish people have become more religious than they were ten years ago. Although founders of sociology, including Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber, have argued that religious beliefs and practices would decline because of modernization, why was this not the case? What happened during this period of time? In the face of rapid modernization, why did Turkish people become more religious? 

The country of Turkey serves as a sociologically and culturally illuminating, theoretically inspiring, and historically timely case study for an analysis of the relationship between modernization and secularization. Turkey is a modern republic moving towards becoming member of the European Union. 

In addition to all these unique characteristics, Turkish history is a compelling test case for the relationship between the politics of religion and collective memories of religious and secular past as well. Late Ottoman Empire (1876-9123) tried to construct an Islamic identity. The Modern Turkish republic was immensely devoted to educational and social efforts to secularize Turkish society by creating a secular national identity from its foundation in 1923 until 1950. Although these efforts were reduced after 1950 because of democratic elections, they would keep continuing in a diminished capacity until 1980. After the political and social liberalization of the 1980’s, Turkish Republic tried to construct a Turkish-Islamic synthesis emphasizing collective religious memories of Late Ottoman Empire. After 1980’s, reactivating collective religious memories has provided an opportunity structure for religious movements to emerge in Turkey. My paper examines this emergence by analyzing the relationships between the politics of religion and collective religious memories.