Report: Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” Session 7

8 July, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

On June 30th, the seventh session of the Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” was held.

In this session, we read Humiko SAWAE, Democracy and Islam in modern Turkey (Japan: Nakanishiya-shuppann, 2007).

 On discussing relationship between secularism in Turkey (laikliki) and Islamic revival movement together with influence of Islamic parties upon democratization of Turkey, SAWAE insists that it is irrelevant to apply western modern concepts to issues of non-western world such as Middle East.

 In part one, conditions which define Islamic revival movement and Islamic parties in modern Turkey are discussed. In Turkey, social order based on secularism was established on the philosophy of the Enlightenment which considers non-religious, western style politics and society as modern civilization. While this social order was maintained by the military authorities, Islamic revival movement developed as political power under the ideology that Turkey should be developed based on Islamic idea, even if within the framework of nation state. In this political wind, Milli Nizam Partisi, later succeeded by Milli Selamet Partisi, was organized as a first Islamic party. It developed under the support of medium-sized and small companies and local religious conservatives. Its pragmatic aims were correction of a gap among regions and classes, expansion of the religious education and cooperation with other Muslim countries.

 In part two and three, ideological changes of secularism and Islamic parties are discussed. Military regime of Turkey modified the idea of secularism, and positioned Islam as the new national identity besides Turkish nationalism in order to stabilize politics and society. As a result, coexistence of secularism and Islam became possible, and this situation enabled Refah Partisi to get the position of the leading party in the national election of 1995. Refah Partisi also formed the coalition government in 1996. Since Fazilet Partisi, the succeeding party of Refah Partisi, made ideas of democracy, freedom and human right as ideologies of the party to cope with the campaign which occurred in February, 28th in 1997, Islamic parties have made these ideologies as platform of them besides traditional development policy and assertion of the Islamic sense of value.

 From these discussions, SAWAE points out that Turkish Islamic parties have changed their ideology from emphasis on anti-westerns, anti-modernism, to assertion of democracy and social diversity. She also mentions that they have practiced pragmatic policies which secular parties have shared in common, instead of aiming at realization of the Islamic political order.

 SAWAE tries to analyze the development of the political situation in Turkey through the examination of the Islamic parties’ changes, not based on western modern concepts, but on Turkish political, economic and social situation. To her discussion, attendants of the seminar raised a question regarding the inherence of Turkish political situation compared to that of other Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. A question regarding the definition of “Islamic party” was also raised, as it has practiced the pragmatic policies which secular parties have shared in common.

Reported by Keiko OTA

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