Secularism In Turkey – Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey

Although Atatürk, in complete break with the past, established a secular government, Islam continues to have a pivotal role in the life and character of the nation.Turkish society can be broadly divided into four subgroups: Atatürk supporters (secularists), Leftists, Islamic fundamentalists, and modern Islamists.

Atatürk supporters uphold links with the West and look for modernization at every opportunity. They are educated, middle-class, progressive citizens who are Muslim. They oppose Islamic law and believe it is backward and dangerous. They revere Atatürk, and often can be hard to mourn that there is no one like him today. They are fiercely loyal to the values of democracy, liberalization, and modernization stressed by him.

Atatürk supporters wear lapel pins bearing his image, visit the Anıtkabir (his mausoleum in Ankara), quote his speeches, and display his picture. His picture hangs in most buildings. Many important public places such as dams, airports, and roadways are named after him.

Evidence of Kemal Atatürk is everywhere, and first time visitors to Turkey may mistakenly equate this with the leadership cult of former communist countries. However, veneration of Atatürk, while encouraged by the school system, is not imposed by the government.

The second subgroup is known as Muslim Socialist. The followers are Turks of leftist persuasion who are anti-Western and not devout Muslims. The two leftist Muslim groups are the Revolutionary Muslims and Anti-Capitalist Muslim.

The third subgroup is the Islamic fundamentalists. They are fiercely opposed to the followers of Atatürk. They wish to see the nation return to Islamic values and believe the five pillars of Islam and Islamic law should be diligently practiced.

They reject the notion of a secular state and would support, to varying degrees, integration of state and religion, even to the extent of the imposition of Sharia law. They promote activities disliked by the secularists such as the wearing of headscarves and the teaching of Arabic and the Koran to children.

The fourth subgroup is modern Islamists. This recently formed grouping consists of well –educated, middle-class individuals who are Islamic rather than secular. The women wear headscarves. Modern Islamists oppose alcohol, clubs, and provocative dress such as miniskirts and low-cut party dresses.

In a social setting they tend to separate men and women. Their use of language is influenced by Islamic terminology and Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, and Persian loan words. They attempting to lessen the separation of state and religion, still seeks closer links with the West.

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