historize: (Hetalia--turkey--like a boss)
[personal profile] historize
This is actually not a fanfic at all. I had to do a short paper for my Turkish class. I wanted to make sure I never lost it and I was like, "Oh yeah....I have a writing journal. Who says it only has to be for fanfic."







Turkish TU00111

Turkey and Islam: A Strike for Balance

Religion, society and history are inseparable elements. One cannot speak of a particular specimen without also referring to the other two in some manner or another. One cannot talk about the Founding of the United States without the Pilgrims and Christianity, one does not discuss indigenous Japan without mentioning Shinto and one does not examine Turkey without Islam.

Turkey stands in a very interesting position. Turkey is one of the few countries in the Muslim community that presents itself as a secular (and therefore “modern”) parliamentary republic. Islam is a huge chunk of the national consciousness in the arguably same manner that Christianity is for Western Europe and the Americas. (One might not associate him- or herself with a particular sect of Christianity but whether he or she wishes to or not, one is always aware of its presence. ) An overwhelming majority of Turkey’s seventy-nine million citizens are Muslim. The percentage varies by source but it is always claimed to be between 97-99% of the population, though the intensity and consistency of following the religious codes obviously varies. (For example, as in case of Christianity, is the difference between attending to church every Sunday, on special occasions, or only going on Christmas and Easter.) Regardless, Islam’s reach and effect on Turkey’s culture is immense and deeply ingrained into the society. This is natural; Islam has been a part of the Turkish identity for almost a thousand years.

Islam is a monotheistic religion, the believer of which is Muslim, literally, “one who submits to God.” Muslims believe that Allah gave revelations through the angel Gabriel (the same Gabriel present in the Christian and Jewish Old Testament) to the Prophet Muhammad (570—632 CE), a native of the Arabian Peninsula city of Mecca. Mecca in the early seventh century had shrines to several gods and goddesses and Muhammad’s preaching disturbed the merchant elite. Muhammad had little success with the pagans of Mecca and so he and his follows moved to Medina and organized a political-religious community—the umma—that marked Islam’s beginning as a political movement and religious faith. This date of migration to Medina in 622 CE was adopted by the Muslim community as the beginning of the Islamic Era.

By the end of the seventh century, Islam had spread quickly. Conversion had begun among Turkish-speaking tribes, referred to as Turcoman, migrating westward from Central Asia. The initial group of which converted to Sunni Islam. Others converted when they came into contact—as mercenaries—with the Muslim dynasties of the Arab heartlands. The most successful of those migrating tribes were the Seljuk Turks who were bold raiders on the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire). As the prolonged migration continued, they encountered a predominantly Christian Anatolia because, during this period, the Byzantine Empire controlled the region. But because the Byzantine Empire was weakened by internal disputes in the capital of Constantinople, the Seljuk Turks kept moving westward. In 1071, under their sultan, Alparslan, they defeated a Byzantine army commanded by Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes at the battle of Malazgirt, throwing the door wide open for continued Turcoman migration. The Seljuks established themselves at Iznik (Nicaea), until the First Crusade in 1097 forced them to withdraw to Konya (Iconium). At the same time, other tribes were building territories in the area but eventually they were absorbed by the Seljuks, who continued on, building a healthy empire until 1243, when the fearsome Mongols under Gengis Khan invaded and dealt a devastating defeat to the Seljuk army. The Seljuk sultan was then a tribute-paying vassal to the Mongol Khan, whose seat was far away in Karakorum, capital of the Mongol Empire. Over the next two centuries of in-fighting among the new waves of Turcoman tribes, one rose above all the rest, absorbing her neighbors in Anatolia, the Osmanlı, who would become the Ottoman Empire. How and why exactly this conquest came about seems to be unclear.

Caroline Finkel states:
“One reason is that the history of medieval Anatolia is still unknown. Another is that contemporary annalists of the settled states of the region…were preoccupied with their own fate…and details of those against whom they fought…enter their accounts only fortuitously. The traditions of the Anatolian Turcoman were oral and it was only when most of their rivals had been erased from the map that the Ottomans wrote down the story of their origins, emphasizing their own history at the expense of that of long-gone challengers and their doomed endeavors to found permanent states.”

There was also the question of whether or not this take over was the natural cause and effect of a turbulent time and inherent order of war and peace or whether there was ever a motivation to make the conquest a ‘holy war’ for the spread and commitment to and for Islam, not unlike the Christian call to the Crusades.

In the fifteenth century, the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople—which the Turks called Istanbul (from the Greek phrase eis tin polin, “to the city”) and in 1453 this allowed them to consolidate their empire in Anatolia and Thrace. The Ottomans revived the title of Caliph, a leader of an Islamic Umma, an Islamic community ruled by a Sharia. The Ottomans based their legitimacy in Islam and integrated religion into the government and administration. Though there was an absence of formal institutions, Sunni officials played the political as well as religious role. Justice was dispensed through the religious courts. During this time, extremely devoted believers organized themselves into brotherhoods (tarikat, tarikatlar), two of which are still functional; the Naksibendi and the Kadiri. Though there is a major Sunni majority in Turkey at that time and in the modern day, early brotherhoods were strongly influenced by Shia doctrines but the political conflictions caused Sunni brotherhoods to deemphasize this practice and many brotherhoods changed their Shia beliefs after receiving patronage from a sultan and such. Both branches of brotherhoods served as a social service provider in terms of social welfare service and social mobility.

A Shia population still lives in Turkey, though a census of this population has never been taken in the modern republic period, nor during the Ottoman period. There are four different sects of Shia Muslims in the country, though the largest group—some 70 percent of the country’s Shia population—are Alevi Muslim. Alevi used to reside primarily in southeastern Turkey but with many people moving from rural areas to urban ones, various pockets of Alevi communities in Turkey’s major cities cropped up by the 1990s.

During the Ottoman Empire, Islam was a source of social cohesion and an important organization tool for social norms of not only its Muslim citizens but also its minorities. Additionally, religious scholars of Islam served as an informal bridge between the state and the society because the Ottoman governance did not permit a landed aristocracy or a mediatory institution that could challenge its authority. The Islamic scholars also legitimized the status of the sultan and his state and ensured that Islamic justice and obligation towards the sultan’s subjects were upheld as much as possible. Though it’s definitely worth noting that the affairs of the Ottoman state were carried out according to the Sultan’s laws and these laws, which controlled the affairs of state and the public domain were seen as separate from Islamic law. Though, of course, the sultan’s law had to conform to Islamic law and had to deal with anything not covered by Islamic law. It is said that because of this, an independent and secular legal system developed, complementing Islamic law. Though it and other institutions the Ottomans had developed, broke down in the onslaught of constant warfare, European ideas of secularism, nationalism and the appearance of Western capitalism. By the nineteenth century, it could no longer be ignored and there were attempts at administrative reform.

The attempt was called the Tanzimat Edict (1839) and between this and the Russo-Ottoman war of 1877-1878, the Tanzimat reform attempted to expand the influence of the state by means of new tools: a parliament, new engineering schools and reorganizing administrative units into departments. It was meant to minimize cultural, ethnic and religious difference within a large, diverse empire by attempting to give protection to all groups, along with a feeling of Ottoman citizenship. It was quite successful at the time. Commerce flourished, a new merchant class emerged and trade expanded, fueling individualism but, unfortunately, it did not last because of the rise of nationalism in the Balkans and the state’s failure to respond to external challenges. Also, creating a nation through only legalistic means was extremely difficult; the bureaucrats needed a common cultural glue to stick them together. This was, of course, the Islamic identity. It was invoked after the war with Russia in 1878 to blend Muslim ethnic groups into a “Muslim nation”. As the Balkans continued to fragment and the Treaty of Berlin reduced the Ottoman territory, the multireligious empire became a Muslim country. Even refugees expelled from other countries, sometimes speaking different languages, found Islam as their source of a common bond with Muslim Turks. This idea of uniting the country under one religious roof was expanded by the last Sultan, Abdülhamid II. His idea of an Ottoman political community meant local identify and loyal came second to the Islamic identity. He also worked these ideas into the school system, opening ten thousand semi-religious elementary schools and increasing the numbers of middle schools, high schools and teaching colleges. He also had the German General Colmar von der Goltz comes and train new military cadets and over a twelve year period, brought up a new batch of officers based on the Prussian model. It would be the students from these military and civilian schools that would take a major role in the secular nation-state in 1923. World War One would, in fact, not be seen as just a Turkish war but as an Islamic war, as a defense of the faith, and Islamic identity was heightened and used by military leaders (including Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) to mobilize in defense of the nation.

After the war and during the beginning of the Kemalist Republican era, secularism was used in a manner to mean ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ and Islam was ‘backwards’ and ‘barbaric’. There was a great deal of hostility towards any public manifestation of Islam. But Islam could not simply be wiped out of the public consciousness so the religion was used to help create a modern and secular Turkey. Those in charge wished to create an ‘enlightened’ Islam, a secular-friendly Islam. Identity was redefined in terms of ethnicity and language and, as before, the military, schools, media and arts were used to help create a degree of separation from Islam. Though, even after these strenuous efforts, two versions of nationalism still developed. One being the secular linguistic nationalism (You learned the standardized Turkish, therein, you can become a Turk.) and religious-communal nationalism (You are Muslim first, and then you can become a Turk). Turkey would not be able to break away completely from its Islamic roots. Over the next years, the radical reforms— the closing of the religious seminaries, banning of the brotherhoods, prohibiting the fez and veil, adopting European civil, criminal and commercial codes, replacing Arabic script with Latin, removing Islam as the state religion, recognizing full political rights of women, introducing secularism as a constitutional principle and prohibition of the creation of a society or party based on religion were carried out by the military without much opposition from the people. Though to the people, the military is almost a sacred institution, protecting the state and its religion, seeing the survival of the state as paramount to the survival of Islam. There is still much religious language embedded in the military. Seeing the difficulty the attempts to create a national Turkish and enlightened Islam were abandoned and it adopted a militant secularist policy instead. Though because the state focused on the public sphere and couldn’t touch the grassroots level informal networks, it would never be able to stamp out Turkish Islam.

Several times since then, the state has curtailed Islamic political parties in an attempt to protect the secularism of the state. The military has the power to stage a coup whenever they feel it is necessary to insulate the state from nationalistic-Islamic groups. The 1980 military coup was different in that it attempted to go back and use the nationalized Islam as a unifier for the society. But by this point, Turkey was deeply polarized and it failed.

After the coup of 1980, the first elections that took place afterwards saw the ascension of Turgut Özal and his ANAP (Anavtan Partisi: the Motherland Party) party. Despite military criticism, the party won. Özal was different in that he was openly religious and he expended a great deal of effort legitimizing new perspectives of the role of Islam and the Ottoman heritage in the modern Turkish society. He built bridges with the brotherhoods and the mosques, bringing these traditional networks to a modern urban environment. The inner core of Özal’s administration included leading members of a defunct pro-Islamic party and prominent disciples of Nakşibendi. He was pro-Islamic but also pro-progress, economically liberal, fully supporting Turkey’s full integration into the European Union and offering fresh initiatives for the Kurdish population, allowing them greater cultural freedom and recognizing them as a distinct ethnic group—though it failed to create political space for Kurds in Turkey.

The 1990s saw the rise of a trend common in industrialized countries, religion was brought inward, filling spiritual voids of the educated, urban and well-to-do Turks. Religion gained new respectability and was immediately put to work in the political sphere to appear as “Allah’s Bloc” in Parliament. Political groups allied themselves with popular religious groups, doing very public, special favors for them to attempt to appeal to the Islamic vote. For example, a week before the 1995 election the DYP-controlled Ministry of Education gave full status to seventy new religious high schools and opened six thousand new positions for religious officials.

Islamic politics and societal influences are widespread and not limited to any one economic or social class. Despite efforts of secularism, Islam is so deeply-ingrained that it simply cannot be dislodged by a mere legal ruling—or even several legal rulings. Modern Turkey still struggles with the balance between religious roots and secular ‘modernism’. It tested out having one or having the other and now it continues to attempt to combine them, searching for balance without fragmenting the life of the individual. Before, Turkey made an attempt to forget the Islamic-Ottoman past. Now, Turkey is holding that up and building on it. Turkey is evolving from a state-centric society to one where diversity is accepted, a part of everyday life. And always at its side is its twin brother and inseparable companion, Islam.




Works Cited
Finkel, Caroline. Osman's Dream: the History of the Ottoman Empire. New York City: Basic Books, 2005. Print.

Metz, Helen Chapin. Turkey, a Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1996. Print.

Yavuz, M. Hakan. Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.



All my citations were taken out, of course, because I did the HTML settings. Also, this paper was so short...I only had three sources. We only have one weekend to do it. And granted, my teachers just wanted us to learn something. It only had to be three pages---but I could have gone on for quite a few more. There are only a few books in the library here.

I miss the research library at my college. Going there definitely made me write longer papers, hahaha.
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