Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks

Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks

Jenny White
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1r2f65
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  • Book Info
    Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks
    Book Description:

    Turkey has leapt to international prominence as an economic and political powerhouse under its elected Muslim government, and is looked on by many as a model for other Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab Spring. This book reveals how Turkish national identity and the meanings of Islam and secularism have undergone radical changes in today's Turkey, and asks whether the Turkish model should be viewed as a success story or cautionary tale.

    Jenny White shows how Turkey's Muslim elites have mounted a powerful political and economic challenge to the country's secularists, developing an alternative definition of the nation based on a nostalgic revival of Turkey's Ottoman past. These Muslim nationalists have pushed aside the Republican ideal of a nation defined by purity of blood, language, and culture. They see no contradiction in pious Muslims running a secular state, and increasingly express their Muslim identity through participation in economic networks and a lifestyle of Islamic fashion and leisure. For many younger Turks, religious and national identities, like commodities, have become objects of choice and forms of personal expression.

    This provocative book traces how Muslim nationalists blur the line between the secular and the Islamic, supporting globalization and political liberalism, yet remaining mired in authoritarianism, intolerance, and cultural norms hostile to minorities and women.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4530-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Religion, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    Soon after my arrival in Turkey in January 2008 for a year’s research stay, the country was abuzz about a group of twenty high school students from the city of Kirşehir in central Anatolia that had painted a Turkish flag with their own blood—a broad red field about eighteen inches wide, with a white sickle moon and star at center. The students had presented it to Turkey’s top military chief, General Yaşar Büyükanýt, as a gift to commemorate the deaths of twelve soldiers killed in clashes with Kurdish separatist PKK¹ guerrillas two months earlier. The general displayed the flag...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Islam and the Nation
    (pp. 24-53)

    Turkey’s three Republican eras all were preceded by coups—political earthquakes that resulted in a substantial shifting of the political and eventually cultural ground. This upheaval included reinterpretations of national identity and what constitutes Turkishness as the state and various governments attempted to shape the subjectivities of their youth through education, rituals, military service, and other forms of socialization, and as new populations gained a voice in this process. These transformations often remained embedded within discourses and practices of the past, especially those related to group membership, whether family, lineage, tribe, or religion, thus providing familiar cultural knowledge that could...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Republic of Fear
    (pp. 54-79)

    In the spring of 2008 I was invited to an anthropology conference at Yeditepe University, a private university set up by former Istanbul mayor Bedrettin Dalan. In his mid-sixties with the demeanor of an aging boxer, Dalan is known for his strong opinions and has a reputation as an ultranationalist (ulusalcı)—Kemalist, Ataturkist, secularist, supporter of a strong state and military and a pan-Turkish national identity with a hefty dose of racialism. When Yeditepe University was built under Dalan’s direction, its otherwise modern architecture incorporated emblems of ancient Turkic Seljuk design. Special-event dinners are hosted in a large tentlike...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Missionary and the Headscarf
    (pp. 80-101)

    Two key metaphors that in popular discourse represent a perceived threat to Turkish society and nation are the missionary and the headscarf. There are other threats, such as armed attacks by the separatist Kurdish PKK, that elicit a fear of national disintegration and strong feelings of hostility toward the Kurdish minority. I focus here on the missionary and the headscarf because the threat they present is not as clear-cut as a PKK assault on an army camp but, rather, involve out-of-focus images of Turkey’s becoming a Christian nation and Turkey’s becoming Iran or Malaysia—each an extreme inversion of the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 No Mixing
    (pp. 102-135)

    At a political congress in 2009, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan described Turkey as a mosaic. To illustrate his point that there was no room in Turkey for divisiveness, the prime minister listed fifteen names of poets, musicians, writers, Sufi religious leaders, and other historic figures that, he said, represented the unity of the Turkish nation. To the surprise of some, he included artists associated with the left, such as the writer Nâzim Hikmet and the satirist Aziz Nesin, who had been persecuted in their lifetimes (Hikmet spent most of his adult life behind bars or in exile; he died in...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Sex and the Nation: Veiled Identity
    (pp. 136-162)

    Ayşenur Bilgi Solak’s cell phone pulsed on the desktop to a rumba beat with a sensual female voice singing “El Corazon” in Portuguese. Ayşenur is the thirty-three-year-old assistant to AKP’s Istanbul provincial party leader. She attended grade school in Austria, then earned a BA in sociology at Bosphorus University in Istanbul. I was waiting in her office at party headquarters early one evening for her to finish her duties so we could talk.¹ The high-ceilinged room was bare of ornament, dominated by an enormous desk on which were arranged neat stacks of papers and three phones that rang on and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Choice and Community: The Girl with Blue Hair
    (pp. 163-180)

    Havva is a fresh-faced young woman of twenty-two with a shy but self-confident manner. She works as an intern at a women’s rights association. When she was sixteen, Havva read four books that changed her life:Mavi Saçlı Kız(The Girl with Blue Hair) by Burçak Çerezcioğlu,Sophie’s Worldby the Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder, andThe Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Dieby the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, translated into Turkish. These books caused her to start reading the Quran. “It slowly moved to a place in my head,” she explained about the Quran. She also began to wear...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 181-196)

    In the previous chapters, I have explored the origins of polarization and social tension around certain key issues in contemporary Turkey, such as the headscarf and a fear of missionary conversion. These have become markers of belonging within the Turkish national community but also represent competing narratives about what it means to be Turkish and what it means to be Muslim. To all appearances, there appears to be a standoff between secularism and Islam, with one side accusing the other of heavy-handed imposition of its own values and practices on Turkish society as a whole.

    For secularists, the national tradition...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 197-216)
  15. References
    (pp. 217-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-242)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-244)