in Turkey is moderate and adapted
to modern life. Many
Turks value the moral and spiritual
bases of Islam, and revere it as
a guide to right living and ethical
mosques are open to all. Here are guidelines
for visiting Turkish mosques. Here
written books on a half-dozen Muslim
countries, and I've found Turkish
Muslims to be the most moderate and tolerant of
all. Non-Muslims are welcome as visitors
in all Turkish mosques.
Islam in Turkey
Most Turks are Sunni Muslims;
that is, they are among the majority
of Islamic believers. There are Shiite (Shi'a) and Alaouite (Alevi) minorities
as well. About 20% of Turkish Muslims
look upon themselves as Muslims first
and citizens of the Turkish Republic
second; the other 80% see themselves
as citizens first, and count religion
as second, third or fourth; some are
secular, and pay little attention to
religion at all.
During the Ottoman centuries, Istanbul was
the center of the Islamic world,
and its ruler, the Ottoman sultan,
was also widely acknowledged as the Caliph,
or spiritual leader of Islam.
and their precursors, the
Turks, made significant contributions
to Islamic life and theology. Many sufi (mystical)
orders were born in Turkish lands,
including the Mevlevi ("whirling
dervish") order inspired by
Jelaleddin Rumi and
founded in Konya during
the 1200s. (Visit
Konya with me and see the dervishes
Rule of Religious Law
The Ottoman Empire was a theocracy. The law of the
land for Muslims was shari'a, the holy
law of the Kur'an-i Kerim (Holy
Koran). Christian and Jewish minorities were governed
by their own laws, based on their own Scriptures,
subject to the ultimate rule of the sultan.
law had governed, or at least significantly
influenced government, in most countries
until the 18th century. (When the
Pilgrims landed at Plymouth
Rock in 1620, for example, their governing
law was based on their religious
By the early 20th century, it was clear to Kemal
Atatürk, father of the Turkish
Republic, that religious government was hampering
Turkey's social, commercial and diplomatic progress.
The republic he founded was staunchly secular,
with the separation of government and religion as
one of its fundamental tenets. According to the constitution,
the Turkish armed forces are charged with preserving
democracy and secularism.
Islamist Political Parties
In elections held in December,
1995, the Islamist Welfare Party won
21% of the vote, a larger proportion
than any other party, and earned the
right to form a coalition government.
(Many people believe that the Welfare
Party's success was the result of many "protest
votes" being cast not so much
for Welfare's Islamist platform but against other
political parties, which were seen
as corrupt and ineffective.)
1997, Welfare politicians had stepped
over the line in mixing religion
and politics. The armed forces told
Welfare to step down, and the courts
later disbanded the party. The secular
parties took over, with disappointing
November 2002 a new,
neo-Islamist party was given a majority
of seats in Turkey's Grand
National Assembly, and formed
the first one-party, non-coalition
government in decades. Again, a large
proportion of the vote for the new Justice
and Development Party (known by its Turkish acronym AKP) was
seen as a protest against the old,
ineffective, corrupt political parties
and the substantial influence of
the military establishment rather
than as a vote for Islamism.
new Justice and Development Party
government vowed to govern in a secular manner (though guided
by the moral and ethical precepts
of Islam), and to maintain Turkey's
its neighbors as well as with Europe
and the USA. However, the
Turkish government has also been
working hard to strengthen relations
with its Islamic neighbors, including
the Arab states and Iran.
With a strong, active, expert-driven, non-coalition government in power, the Turkish economy boomed, Gross National Product soared, Turks' standard of living increased dramatically, society and infrastructure were rapidly modernized, and Turkey took on a new prominence and importance in the world.
Military Influence Wanes
In 2010, the
government brought charges of plotting
a coup against more than 100
middle-and high-ranking military officers,
shattering the tradition, in place
since the founding of the Turkish Republic,
that the military establishment was
beyond the reach of civil law.
officers were arrested, tried, and condemned to prison, but discovery later (2015) that evidence against them had been fabricated—in short, that they had been "framed"—resulted in all charges against them being dropped and all sentences vacated. However, the initial effect of the legal prosecutions—reducing the influence of the military in politics—remained.
Islamic Influence Increases
Along with rapid economic development, the Justice and Development Party nurtured a more public and quasi-official support for Islamic culture and influence. Official and semi-official policies and events no longer studiously avoided reference to religious themes. The official drift away from strict secularism, and the benevolent and tolerant attitude toward religious expression in government, was approved by religious Turks, but Turks who believe in the virtue of strictly secular government were distressed by this trend.
See also History of the Turkish Republic.