Transformation of Islamist political thought in Turkey from the empire to the early republic (1980-1960) : Necip Fazıl Kısakürek's political ideas

Cizre, Ümit
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Bilkent University
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This thesis aims at situating the transformation of Turkish Islamist thought from the Ottoman empire to the early Republic as a case study within the contemporary analyses of Islamism. Islamist thought in Turkey contains new elements, but it also has deep roots in the tradition of Islamic political thought. As such by devotion to the traditional renewal (tajdid), it reflects a continuing dimension of Islamic political theory. It is also important to understand the specific intellectual settings within which Turkish Islamism has evolved. Islamist depictions of state and democracy whether in the Empire through Islamist identification of shura with constitutional regime or in the Republican period through Necip Fazıl Kısakürek’s totalitarian Başyücelik State, seem to be influenced by the political ideologies of their times such as liberal constitutionalism (in the Empire), and totalitarian aspects of communism, fascism, and Kemalism (in the Republic). Hence, Islamists of the second constitutional period perceived Islam a “soft ideology” whereas Islam became a kind of “hard ideology” in Kısakürek’s formulation, determining every aspect of political, societal and individual life. These analyses are also related to another argument that the tradition of Islamic political thought is open to different Islamist readings, both as authoritarian/totalitarian formulations and as democratic openings. This study also argues that Islamist intellectuals have a tendency of mixing modern notions such as progress and ideology with traditional material/grammar to face the challenge of western modernity. In order to reach an Islamic modernity, the concept of Islamic civilization constitutes a platform for the transformation and interaction of the elements of continuity (traditional grammar) and change (progress and ideology). This dissertation also suggests that Islamists are basically keen to see democracy as the limitation of an arbitrary/despotic rule and as the establishment of the rule of law, implying a rather Schumpeterian conceptualization of democracy: a type of government and procedure in electing those who rule people. The question of whether Islam is compatible with democratic values should be reworded in the way that whether Islamist interpretations/reconstructions of Islamic tradition were/are compatible with democratic values or not. This thesis also tries to give an insight about the Islamist stance towards Kemalist ideology and the impact of Kemalism on Islamism.

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