A Unique Democratic and Secular Islamic Country

The Turkish Republic: A Unique Democratic and Secular Islamic Country

Turkey is one of the few secular and democratic Muslim countries. Ninety-nine percent of the population is said to be Muslim – although the definition of “being Muslim” in Turkey makes it unlikely that all of these Muslims practice orthodox Islam. In most of the other Islamic countries, Sharia, Allah’s Law for Muslims, dominates the constitution and the legal system, so that the state and the religion are united. Separation of the state and religion remains alien and unrealistic to such countries. In contrast with the constitutions in many other Islamic states, the Turkish Constitution forbids the religious laws from dominating government and society and requires that the state and religion be separated (Article 2, Turkish Constitution [revised in 1982]).

The Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and a period of revolution and reformation led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who became Turkey’s first president. When the new republic was formed, the government took many precautions to prevent Islam from being as influential in governance as it was during Ottoman times. Among these reforms were replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Roman alphabet, which is more suited to expressing the Turkish language; granting equal rights to women; and reforming education, including the elimination of compulsory religion courses and the introduction of evolution theory as an important part of the biology curriculum. Prayers once recited only in Arabic were translated into Turkish, so that everyone could understand them; religious education based in extremist sectarian centers called Tekkes, Tariqas, and Zaviyes was banned; and a new legal system based on a European model was adopted. In 10 years (1923-1933), a new modern Western country, with a new identity and ideology, was quickly created from an oriental empire. There was a clear-cut shift in the whole state precept, including secularism.

When Atatürk died in 1938, there were still many other reforms of governmental and cultural affairs to be finished, for the improvement of the new country. After 1950, the Enlightenment-based ideals and reforms of the revolution started to decline. Right-wing and conservative cliques and political parties were ready to exploit the weaknesses of the inexperienced government. Some of the social changes and civil rights attained by the revolution in 1923 were lost. Some politicians appealed to the uneducated and illiterate majority of Turks, who were still very religious and strongly influenced by local religious authorities (Sheiks and Mullahs), who promised a return to the good old Ottoman days. This turmoil continued until the military coup in 1960. A new constitution based on a Western legal system was approved in 1961, which banned efforts to support the establishment of a non-secular religious state based on Sharia Law.

Despite this setback, fundamentalist self-assertion continued into the 1970s. Various fundamentalist parties founded and headed by Necmettin Erbakan were able to attract as much as 9% of the vote, while other right-wing parties also continued to appeal to religious sentiments in order to attain power. In 1980 a right-wing junta headed by Kenan Evren took power, warning of the threat of communism. This was a milestone for the fundamentalists and extreme religious groups, which started to gain even more power. Soon Evren was succeeded by Turgut Özal, an active member of a religious order.

Fundamentalist groups organized within the government, in the bureaucracy, in the armed forces, and among the public, while the secularist, leftist opposition was suppressed. During the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of writers, scientists, journalists, and ordinary people suffered years of imprisonment for criticizing Evren’s regime. During this period, no critique of or comment on the possible consequences of the deeds of the government was allowed, since this would be considered a thought crime – the equivalent of being involved in a conspiracy against the Republic, and being a separatist or even a communist. The fundamentalist vote increased to about 20% through the 1990s before declining to 16% in 1999. The main aim of one of these fundamentalist parties (known as the Welfare [Refah] Party), as stated many times by Erbakan and other party members in public talks, was to establish a theocratic and Sharia-based state (as in Iran or Afghanistan) through civil war and to promote Jihad (religious war).

By the late 1990s, things began to change. On February 28, 1997, the National Security Council responded to the fundamentalists and took steps to protect the constitution and the secular-democratic structure of the state by issuing a strong declaration that the Turkish military would protect the constitution and its secular and democratic system by any means necessary. The government toppled, and in 1998, the supreme court revoked Erbakan’s senatorship and disbanded the Welfare Party. A few months later, the fundamentalists re-organized under the name of the Virtue (Fazilet) Party.

The Islamic version of “scientific creationism”, as promoted by BAV, sprang up and gained power under these circumstances in the early 1990s, with the support of the Islamic fundamentalists and radical Islamic sects (tariqas).

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22 Responses to “A Unique Democratic and Secular Islamic Country”

  1. Umit Erdal Says:

    This is a one-sided, unobjective history of Turkish Republic. It shows the history of Turkey like a fairy tale where there is a totally good character and a totally bad character. Unfortunately the “good” guys believe that they are the objective, scientific and enlightened side of Turkey.

    I suggest you to read the history from other, opposing views as well.

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  3. Kavin Says:

    In my opinion, SearchingMuslim.com is a real Muslim community. I meet quit a few people here being devoted and serious Muslim .

  4. delly belly Says:

    what are other democratic islamic countries?

  5. Aisha Says:

    There is no democratic Islamic country in the world….
    Turkey was a candidate for it..
    But not anymore…

  6. faatih Says:

    Turkey was not a democratic country and still has not fully democratized, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan and other countries have parliamentary democracies. Turkey banned the Kurdish language and bans criticism of Ataturk or the state’s very wide definition of “Turkishness”.

  7. Faatih is an idiot Says:

    Faatih:

    What the hell are you talking about? Kurdish is not the national language of Turkey; it is Turkish because the name of the country is Turkey; not Kurdey! What makes you people so special that we will make your language national? I live in the states, and there are no schools that operate only in Spanish because it is simply unacceptable! Turkish government does not tell you you can’t speak Kurdish at home or among your friends! It says Turkish is the national language of Turkey! Your people are so funny that they feel like there is no democracy because your stupid alphabet has W, X…letters Turkish alpahabet does not have! My last name is Ozel…with 2 dots on the O but does English have that letter? NO! So when i am living in the states, I should say the US has no democracy because it refuses to put those 2 dots over the letter O? What the fuck? That’s what your stupid ass people claim as “no democracy”. Kiss my Turkish ass. Either learn what the word democracy is or get the fuck out of Turkey.
    Idiots!

    • Dahlia Says:

      did he say kurdish was the national language or did he say make it the national language? How ignorant are you? did you not read what he wrote? there is no human rights for the minorities in Turkey, you act like THEY are in YOUR country, turkish people don’t belong in middle east. turkey is not muslim how hard they try to be. they are fascist nationalistic hypocrites. “The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper wilt thou find for them; (The Noble Quran, 4:145)”

  8. Faatih is an idiot Says:

    And yes, you are not allowed to insut Turkishness because guess what, idiot? Kurds are Turkish citizens, too! Kurds do not have some other nation; Turkey is their nation so when Turkishness is banned from being insulted, it sees you as Turkish, too because YOU AREEEEE. Your ethnicity is Kurdish but you’re Turkish so you’re a Kurdish Turk. GET IT?! You don’t live in Turkey and then insult Turkishness. You can do that when you do not live in Turkey. Fuck. Why won’t all Kurds get the hell out of Turkey anyways?! They constantly create problems!

  9. Faatih is an idiot Says:

    Ataturk is the founder of Turkey! What business do you have talking shit about him while you’re stepping on the soil his soldiers and him died to gain? GET YOUR OWN NATION if you’re so butt-hurt over our laws! Turkey is more democratic than Russia and even England!

  10. Hamza Says:

    This article is just nonsense. Calling elimination of Islam a ‘reform’ is a sign that that country still has a good long time to recover from the comma it went into after the stroke caused by a virus called ATATURK!

    You Turks had better woken up to your responsibility instead of posting useless stories about reforms on the web.

    • Dark Monk Says:

      Hamza, Islam is the virus, ataturk was the immune system.

      • rehanumar@gmail.com Says:

        Dark Monk .. you said fantastic 🙂 by the way can u tell us why there are two (one old and one new) edition of BIBLE ? Please !!

  11. islamiyetgercekleri Says:

    Hamz we re Turc not Arabian arcaic people. Atatürk was not against Islam. He was against to become Arabians arcaic thoughts.

  12. islamiyetgercekleri Says:

    He was against to beleive Arabians arcaic thoughts. Like 1 man equal 2 women….

  13. hadif Says:

    ASSALAAM ALAIKUM VARAHMATHULLAH,
    Dear brothers and sisters……
    The author of this blog is a kaafir. He believes rashaad khaleefa is the rasul of allah and also the 2 ayaths of present quran is corrupted…..
    This idiot is just a person who promotes the deen of dajjaal …. He is posting in multiple IDs.. and allah knows the best

    • Iddio E Scompiglio Says:

      SALAMI ILIKEIT YOWAYO PONFAREY YOWAYRAH JERUN BRUNNENJEE!

      Dear sisters and lovers…………………….
      Sorry about that silence, it was for dramatic effect. The author of this blog has more sense than a whole bucketload of Adnan Harun Yahya Oktar’s moronically stupid cultists.
      Only idiots get involved with con men that end up raping them after fleecing away their cash. So don’t be an idiot like Hadif.
      The Flying Spaghetti Monster knows better than most. Allah is just the tired imaginings of a dead con man.
      There is only One True Religion and that is Pastafarianism.

  14. Ismail Ally O. Says:

    I love all your book sir and i want you to update me about your latest book on prove of each ayat according to the science discovering… Thanks

  15. Jason C. Says:

    @delly belly, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq .. just to name a few.

  16. Jason C. Says:

    Aisha, totally false. They are republics, so they are, for the most part, democratic.

  17. Muhammad Qasim Says:

    Salam, my name is Qasim, from last 26+ years Allah and Muhammad s.a.w keep coming into my dreams, over 460+ times Allah comes in my dreams and 250+ times Mohammad s.a.w comes in my dreams, Muhammad s.a.w.w is the last Messenger of Allah and i am the Ummati of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W, many dreams related to Muslim Ummah, World and the Judgment Day, I have shared few dreams on my fb page,.,

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allah-and-Muhammad-SAW-in-my-Dreams/324568321070386

  18. ADNAN TUNÇ Says:

    Turkey is first country in Europe to achieve woman rights even before countries like Switzerland.. It’s a secular democracy because country’s constution says that country has no official religion..

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