Different faces of Turkish Islamic nationalism

By Senem Aslan, Bates College

*This memo was prepared for the “Rethinking Nation and Nationalism” workshop, February 6, 2015. 

On Dec. 17, 2013, Turkish prosecutors started a corruption investigation into the activities of the sons of three ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, businessmen close to the government, and bureaucrats. The corruption allegations later included then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after wiretapped telephone conversations between Erdogan and his son about hiding large sums of cash were leaked on the Internet. The prosecutors were believed to be followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

The scandal exposed a conflict between two longtime Islamist allies, the AKP and the Gulen movement, which has rapidly reshaped the Turkish political scene. Many analysts have argued that the rift emerged from a power struggle. Erdogan was threatened by the growing influence of Gulenists within the state while the Gulenists were concerned about Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and personalization of power. While there is certainly something to this, there are also deeper reasons for the schism. The AKP-Gulen conflict also resulted from an ideological clash about the nature of the relationship between Islam and Turkish nationalism. Continue reading on the Monkey Cage.

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