[Marxism] Turkey's Calvinist Muslims

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Wed Aug 23 15:16:17 MDT 2006

On 8/23/06, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> Turkey's Calvinist Muslims
> "Turkey's Tigers" focuses on Mustafa Karaduman, CEO of Turkey's largest
> Islamic-style clothing chain, Tekbir Giyim. (Tekbir Giyim means "Allah is
> Great Clothing"). Karaduman decided to fill a market niche in the 1992 by
> creating stylish clothing for conservative Muslim women. He now has over
> 600 stores throughout Turkey and across Europe.
> full: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2006/08/23/turkeys-calvinist-muslims/

I don't have any strong opinion about the AKP, but the party's base is
more complex than you suggest at the end of your blog entry.  Modern
Muslim businessmen like Mustafa Kraduman are no doubt one constituency
of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey.  Another constituency
of the party are the working class, some of whom used to vote for
traditional leftist parties:

<blockquote>The AKP is more moderate and less religiously oriented
than were its Islamist predecessors. Led by the charismatic former
Istanbul mayor Tayyip Erdogan and pro-European economist Abdullah Gul,
the new government has set its sights on joining the European Union.
It has taken steps toward ending torture in Turkish prisons. It has
softened Turkey's stance on the reunification of Cyprus, and toes a
careful rhetorical line between criticizing and cooperating with US
war plans in Iraq. What's more, its leaders come from humble
backgrounds, eschew the corruption endemic in Turkish politics, and
have pledged to repair Turkey's battered economy.

Can the AKP successfully combine this forward-looking political
program with its appeal to the traditional values of the Anatolian
heartland? At a time of economic malaise and decreasing confidence in
the existing political parties, the AKP has attracted voters with a
wide range of expectations. According to Cenap Nuhrat of Istanbul's
Social Research Center, the election data show that AKP picked up a
significant number of votes from secular parties of the left and
center-left. Notes Nuhrat by e-mail, "The fact is that there are
millions of people who voted for AKP not because it is a religious
party, but because they wanted to make a new beginning with a new

When the government of Turkey banned first the Welfare Party and then
the Virtue Party in the 1990s, Boston University anthropologist Jenny
B. White, who has studied Turkish Islamism for 28 years, was surprised
by the Islamists' resilience. The actual parties were dispensible,
insisted her research subjects. They were merely vehicles for a larger
and more deeply rooted movement. In her new book, "Islamist
Mobilization in Turkey," White set out to uncover those roots in
Umraniye, a working-class neighborhood of rural migrants to Istanbul.

What White found was that in a country where politics has always been
a top-down affair, the Islamists built their networks on the
traditional Turkish ethic of mutual obligation among neighbors. The
movement's parties set up headquarters within impoverished communities
and offered aid-from home construction and after-school tutoring to
job training-according to the needs of individual families. Its ranks
swelled with local residents. And rather than talk down to
working-class people or demand that they suppress their faith, the
party spoke to the people in their own vernacular, holding meetings
where speakers explained the party's social justice agenda in terms of
Koranic injunctions to neighborly kindness. In this way, the Islamists
made common cause with a populace that saw Turkey's political class as
detached, corrupt, and hostile to their way of life.

But AKP, like Welfare and Virtue before it, is not just a
working-class party. It is also the party of a new Muslim elite. As
White recounts, the liberalization of the Turkish economy after 1980
propelled some working class Turks swiftly upward, creating a new
business elite that is openly pious. Islamist politicians did not
quote the Koran to this crowd. Instead, they spoke of privatization,
entrepreneurship, and universal human rights, particularly the right
of veiled women to attend universities and participate in the public
sphere.  (Laura Secor, "What Went Right: Turkey's Promising Experiment
with Muslim Democracy," Boston Globe Staff, 2/9/2003,

The institutional presence of the pro-Washington military in Turkish
political life limits what the AKP can do, and the AKP may have
already worn out working-class welcome, but secular left-wing parties
have a long way to go to overtake it, judged by the 2002 election
results: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Turkey>.

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