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March 12 , 2010

Rise of Political Islam in Turkey, The

Urban Poverty, Grassroots Activism and Islamic Fundamentalism


Turkey, officially a secular state, voted in an Islamist party in 2002, 2007 and 2011. How far does this reflect the trend which has seen the rise of political Islam across the Middle East? Does this indicate a growing tendency in the direction of Islamisation amongst the Turkish population? If not, what are the underlying reasons behind the electoral triumphs of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (the AKP)? Kayhan Delibas seeks to answer these questions through an in-depth examination of the appeal of this political party, exploring its ideology, the routes and motives which produce party activists and local party organisations. Concluding that the AKP’s success has been built on its criticism of growing inequalities, widespread corruption, unemployment, poverty and lack of basic services, Delibas draws a nuanced portrait of modern Turkish society and the relationship between religion and politics. Delibas offers an explanation, based on research carried out amongst grassroots activists, for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey. Islamic movements are often described as anti-modernist, thought to be supported by fundamentalist groups living in a bygone age, isolated from the rest of the modern world. In recent years, particularly since the events of 9/11, such movements have also been seen as a threat to the Western way of life. But Delibas argues that these movements, and particularly those in Turkey, did not arise out of religious fervour or hatred of Western civilisation, as is often claimed. Rather, they were founded, and have thrived, as a response to socio-economic and political conditions that have been aggravated by neoliberal economic policies, rapid urbanisation and the globalization of culture. By exploring the structural conditions in which an Islamic movement emerged and become popular in a seemingly secular state, The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey offers vital analysis for all those researching modern Turkey and the growth of Islamist politics throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
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