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Islamic Revival in Turkey Author(s): Bernard Lewis Reviewed work(s): Source: International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan., 1952), pp. 38-48 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2604969 . Accessed: 10/12/2012 18:30 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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ISLAMIC

A

REVIVAL

IN TURKEY LEWIS

BERNARD

T the beginningof this centurya TartarexilecalledYusufAk?ura

publishedin Egypt a littlepamphlet called US Tarzi Siyaset (Three Kinds of Policy). In this pamphlet,which was later to have great influencein Turkey, he formulatedand examined three possible bases of unity in the Ottoman State. The firstwas Islam, the traditionalbasis of the Ottoman Empire and its Muslim predecessors,since refurbishedin the pan-Islamic policies of Sultan 'Abd-iil-Hamid. The second was Ottoliberal reformersfor a manism,the aspiration of the nineteenth-century commonOttomancitizenshipand loyaltyirrespectiveof religionor origin. YusufAk?ura discussedboth of these at some lengthand dismissedthemas failures. As a thirdpossibilityhe suggestedTurkism,a unitybased on the Turkishnation. His own Tartar originno doubt had somethingto do with this. The Tartar exiles in Turkey were among the firstpioneers of the Turkish national idea. It was in some measure a reaction of the Russian Turks to pan-Slavism, and it was certainlyinfluencedby the Turcological discoveries of the time in Russia and Western Europe, which made the Turkishpeoples conscious oftheirspecificallyTurkishpast as well as ofthe commonMuslim heritage. Afterthe Turkishrevolutionof I908, all these tendenciescame out into the open and found expression in a number of vigorous journals, newspapers, and books. Ottomanism was for a time the dominant creed, but both pan-Islamism and pan-Turkismcommanded an importantfollowing. A study of the Islamic journals that appeared duringthe years of Young Turk governmentreveals a livelymovementofideas. Alongsidethe simple clericalistreactionariestherewere importantgroups of religiousreformers, gropingtheir way towards a compromisebetween Islam and modernism, betweenIslam and the new and growingTurkishnationalism. Many of the writingsof these reformersshow the influenceof Muhammad 'Abduh and the Egyptian Mandirmovement,others that of Amir 'Ali and the Indian Muslim modernists. The TurkishRepublic, while rejectingthe widerclaims ofpan-Turkism, adopted the Turkish nation as the basis of identityof the Turkish State. Their choice was certainlyhelped by the loss of the non-Turkishprovinces and by the defectionofthe Sultan and the leaders ofthe religioushierarchy to the enemy,that is, to the Allied occupation forcesand the regimewhich theyprotectedin Constantinople. The resultwas the establishmentofa lay State, in whichreligion,thoughnot actually suppressed,was made a strictly private affair. If one may stretchwords a little,Islam was disestablished 38

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and the Sleri'at repealed. The secularist reformsof Kemal Atatuirkare well known-the abolition of the fez and disappearance of the veil, the change ofthe alphabet, the adoption of the Gregoriancalendar and of Sunday as the officialday of rest,the takingover ofthe evkaf(religiousendowments) by the State, the restrictionand then prohibitionof religiouseducation, the adoption of European civil and penal codes in place of the reformedIslamic law of the precedingperiod,the reduction and eventual eliminationof the power of the religioushierarchyof the ulema. Nor was this all. Turkish Islam had always functionedon two levels: the formal, dogmatic religion of the State, the schools, and the hierarchy; and the popular mysticalfaithofthe masses, whichfoundits chiefexpressionin the greatdervishbrotherhoods,or tarikas. These were dissolved and banned in I925, theirassets impounded,and the holdingoftheirprayer-meetings prohibited by law. The evidence is that the secularization of Turkey was never quite as completeas was sometimesbelieved, and as the TurkishGovernmentofthe time would have liked us to believe. In the firstplace, there were many indicationsofthe persistence,beneath the surface,ofpopular religionin the formofthe cult of dervishsheikhs,especially in Anatolia. As late as I930 a strikingincident occurred in Menemen, near Izmir. A young Kemalist officercalled Kubilay heard a local dervishleader addressingthe populace and attacking the regime. When he remonstrated,he was seized by the mob, held down and slowly beheaded, amid the acclamation of the sheikh and his supporters. The guiltywerepunished,and a monumentwas erected to the memoryof Kubilay, at which a ceremonyof commemorationwas held everyyear. Even on the officialside, in the structureand policies of the State, there weresignsthat, despite secularism,the older idea that Muslimequals Turk and non-Muslimequals non-Turkpersisted. In some respectsthe participation ofthe non-Muslimsin the public lifeofTurkey actually decreased after the establishmentof the Republic, althoughtheirlegal status on paper was higherthan ever before. Certain formsof discriminationcontinued-for example, non-Muslimswere called up formilitaryservice but did not bear arms and were not commissioned,while the numberof non-Muslimsin the civil service dwindled rapidly. All this can be largely but not wholly explained by theirignoranceofTurkishand theirself-isolationfromthe social and culturalworld of the Turks. While the cosmopolitan Islamic Empire had assigneda definiteplace and functionto the non-Muslimminorities,the nationalist Republic could offerlittle to those who either would not or could not join the dominantgroup. While on the one hand Turkish-speaking orthodox Christianpeasants in Anatolia were classed as Greeks and transferredto Greece, the childrenof Muslim Kurds or Arabs settled in Istanbul were classed as Turks. Significantly,religion still appeared on identitycards and other officialdocuments. Afterthe death ofAtatuirktherewererumoursofa religiousrestoration,

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but apart fromthe returnof Muslim chaplains to the army in May I940 nothingverymuch happened. The firstopen sign of religiousoppositionto the secularistpolicyofthe State appeared in I940. In the previousyear the TurkishMinistryof Education decided to publish a Turkish edition of the Encyclo.pwdiaof Islam, the great co-operative enterprise published in Leiden by an internationalteam of European Orientalistsand containing the best that European scholarship had to offerin Islamic studies. The Turkisheditionwas not to be a meretranslation. Many articleswhichwere out of date were to be revised or rewrittenby Turkishscholars,and many new articlesadded, but the whole was intendedto be in the same spiritof scientificscholarshipas had informedthe Leiden publication. A group of religious-mindedTurks, led by Esref Edib, who had been editor of the Muslim periodical Sebil-ibr-Resadin the Young Turk era, protested energeticallyagainst this project. They said that the so-called Enicyclofiodiaof Islam was not really an encyclopaediaof Islam but against Islam, and that it was the workof Christianmissionaries,aimed partlyat assistingmissionaries in theirendeavoursand partlyat underminingthe basis ofthe Muslim faith. They criticized the Ministry of Education for sponsoring this allegedly anti-Islamic project, firstin lettersand articles in the press and then in a periodical which they published themselves. In I94I they began the publication of a rival encyclopaediaof their own, entitled Tirk Islam Ansiklopedisi(TurkishEncyclopaediaof Islam), on the same patternas the officialone, but with all the contributionswrittenfroma strictlyMuslim point of view. Each fasciculeof theirencyclopaediawas accompanied by a magazine supplementcontainingviolent and oftenscurrilouscriticismsof the currentfascicules of the other encyclopaediawhich were meanwhile issuingfromthe Ministry. The new post-war democracy of Turkey gave a very much greater degreeof freedomof expressionto all trendsof opinion,includingof course the religious leaders, who now proclaimed more and more openly theii hostilityto secularismand theirdemands foran Islamic restoration The firstissue that was publiclydebated was that ofreligiouseducation. The debate began with private discussionsand moderatelyphrased articles in the press, and then, on 24 December I946, a full-dressdebate was held on the subject in the Meclis in Ankara. Several membersof the Government Party spoke in favourof restoringreligiouseducation, and although the Prime Ministerfirmlyrefusedto accede to theirrequest, the mere fact that the debate was held at all was widely regarded,in the rather more authoritarianTurkey of that time, as portending a coming change of policy. A long controversyfollowed in the press, parliament, and elsewhere. Should religiouseducation be tolerated? Should it be compulsory or optionalin schools? Should it be controlledby the MinistryofEducation or by the Department of Religious Affairs?This last, a shrunkenremnant of the officeof the Sheikh-uil-Islamand the Ministriesof Sheri'atand Evkaf, was now burgeoninginto new life. These questions were eventuallysettled

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by a compromise.At the beginningof 1949 religiouseducationwas reon introducedto Turkishschools. It consistedof two hours'instruction and was onlyto be takenby childrenwhoseparents Saturdayafternoons, asked forit. The overwhelming majoritydid. The text-book specifically of the Ministry of was preparedby a joint committeeof representatives ofReligiousAffairs, andpresentsa modernEducationandtheDepartment in ized versionof Islam whichtheywouldprobablyhave some difficulty in Meccaor evenDamascus. recognizing The next step came in OctoberI950, whenit was decidedto make educationcompulsory-orrather,whenparentswererequiredto religious opt out insteadofin,as previously.This appliedonlyto the4thand 5th classesof the primaryschools. For the restof the schoolyearsreligious remainedoptional. instruction Thesechanges,togetherwiththe growinginterestin religiousmatters and the increasein publicworship,raisedthe questionofreligioushigher education.The medreses which,in Turkeyas in otherMuslimcountries, ofhigherreligious main centres the been had by studies,had beenreformed theYoungTurks,and werefinallyabolishedby Kemal in I924 alongwith Islam. In theirplace the Caliphateand the restofthepanoplyofofficial Kemal establisheda Facultyof Theologyin the Universityof Istanbul, and 'scientific' form intendedto serveas the centreofa new,modernized, to a secular,westward-orientated moreappropriate ofreligious instruction, was nota greatsuccess.The teachers, themselves republic.The experiment did nottake kindlyto thetaskassignedto them, ofthemedrese tradition, ofthe timewas not conduciveto its realization.The and theatmosphere abolitionofArabicand Persianteachingfromthesecondaryschoolsin I929 ofthestudents.Aftersome reducedboththenumbersand thecompetence was the Faculty abortiveattemptsat reform, finallysuppressedin 1933, and replacedin due courseby an InstituteofOrientalStudiesattachedto theFacultyofArts. Duringthe nineyearsof existenceoftheFacultyof Theology,thenumbersofitsstudentsdroppedfrom284 to twenty.In the same periodtherewas a paralleldeclinein the schoolsforImams and and thelasttwosuchschoolswereclosedin I932. Exceptforthe preachers, schoolsforKoran-readers, and a smallamount comparatively unimportant ofprivateinstruction, religiouseducationat higherlevelsdisappeared. revealedan acuteshortThe religiousrevivalofrecentyearstherefore in even to teach religion, schools,and to undertake age ofpeoplecompetent in mosques. Thislack ofmenwitha serious thevariousreligiousfunctions religiouseducationgave scope to fanaticsand illiteratesin the religious results.It was no doubtforthisreason,at revival,oftenwithunfortunate least in part, that the governmentdecided to restorethe Faculty of Theology,whichopenedits gates to studentsin OctoberI949. Several featuresof the new Facultystrikethe outsideobserver.Unlikeits predecessor,it is not in Istanbul,the old religiouscentre,with its great butinAnkara,thenewcity,theheartof and traditions, mosques,libraries,

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republican Turkey and the seat of the government. Unlike the old medreses,it is a part of the University,and thereforeultimatelyunder the control of the Ministryof Education. The firstChairs to be established include Islamic Art and History of Religions. In recentyears therehave been a numberof signsofincreasingreligious activity,and one of the most strikingis the growingself-assertivenessof religiousfunctionaries.For a long time they had been very quiet and did not dare to raise theirvoices, certainlynot in the towns,and hardlyeven in countryplaces. Nowadays they are much more in evidence. The wearing of religiousgarb outside mosques is still forbidden,but the beret, which presents obvious advantages for Muslim worship, has become the social equivalent ofthe formerturban of the religioushierarchy. For a time even the beret was banned in Turkey, precisely because it had assumed that character,but today old gentlemenwithbeards and beretsare to be seen in many places, voicing their views and demands with growingvigour. The survivors of the ulema have become more ambitious. They are openly demandingcontrolof religiouseducation, and theyhave begun, in a tentative way, to intervenein politics. Recently they started a demand forthe returnof the evkafto the Department of Religious Affairs,and if that is granted-it has not been yet-it willof coursegive thema greatincreasein power and influence. Mosque attendance has risen considerably. Many of the mosques are now equipped with amplifiers,and one can followthe service fromquite a distance around them. Inscribed Arabic texts hang on the walls in cafes, shops, taxis, and in the markets,and vast numbersof them are offeredfor sale in the streets. Religious books and pamphlets are being writtenand published on an ever-increasingscale. In I939, out of several thousand books printedin Turkey, there were only a dozen on religioussubjects. I do not know the currentstatistics,but judging by window and stall displays, it must be a very much larger percentage today. Besides a great number of pamphlets of popular piety, there are books on Islam, biographiesof the Prophet and other figures,works on Islamic history,theology and mysticism,translationsof and commentarieson the Koran. Quite a considerable numberof Turks have gone on the pilgrimageto Mecca duringthe last two or threeyears. Last year therewere nearlynine thousand, in spite of the fact that the governmentgave no allocation of foreigncurrencyforthe purpose. Three of the major Istanbul dailies sent special correspondentsto cover the pilgrimage,and the popular presshas in general given increased attentionto religiousmatters. Far moresignificantare the many signsof a revival ofthe tarikas,which continuedto exist secretlyrightthroughthe Republican era. It is natural enoughthat the dervishbrotherhoodsshould be encouragedby the growing officialtolerance of Islam to reassert themselves, but apparently the governmentare not prepared to extend the same indulgenceto popular, mysticalIslam as to orthodoxy. This governmentmistrustof the tarikas

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is not new. Even the sultans,in earliertimes,looked askance at some ofthe ordersbecause of the suspicion of heterodoxyand dissidence attached to them. During the war years there were occasional arrests of dervish sheikhs. A major episode began in April I950 when a sheikh of the Tijani order,called Kemal Pilavoglu, was arrestedand broughtto trialin Ankara. The trial awoke very great interest; thousands of the sheikh's followers throngedthe streetsoutside the court-house,came into the court-roomand interruptedthe trial by shoutingand demonstrating.Eventually, forthe remainderof the proceedings,the court-househad to be guarded by a cordon of two hundred policemen. The sheikh claimed to have 40,000 followers. Since then there have been a number of similar proceedings against otherorders-Nakshbendis in May I950, Mevlevis in June,Kadiris in March I95I. During the past year it is the Tijanis that have been most active, and it is theythat have become associated, in the public mind,with the most extremeand thoroughgoingformof religiousreaction. Unlike the Mevlevis, Kadiris, and others, the Tijani order is not old-established in Anatolia but is a comparativelyrecentimportation. It was foundedat the end ofthe eighteenthcenturyin NorthAfrica,and became prominentwith a fanatical campaign of proselytizationin Tropical Africa. In Turkey it seemsto have spread at the expense ofthe relatedbut morepacificKhalveti and Kadiri orders. Its present role invites comparisonwith those of the Ikhwan al-Muslimuinin Egypt and of the Fida'iyan-i Islam in Persia. In FebruaryI95I an outbreakofvandalism,ofundoubted dervishinspiration, against statues of Atatuirkaroused widespread indignation,and provoked counter-measuresin the form of a new law to protect the memory of Atattirkfrominsult. There was some criticismof this law. Some Democrat deputies protested against 'the cult of the leader'-the opposition argued that it was the achievements,ratherthan the memory,of Atatuirk that needed protection. The accession to power of the Democrats in the elections of May I950 broughta few immediate changes. Many of the religious elements supportedthe unsuccessfulNational Party,whichwas moreopenlyfavourable to theiraspirations,but the majority seem to have voted for the Democrats, who had a greater chance of success and who, in this as in other things,provided the occasion fora plebiscite against Republican policies. In the eventthe Democrats appeared to favourthe religiousrevival. Their policy at firstwas to continueand perhaps accelerate the process of piecemeal concessions begun by their predecessors. In the early months of Democrat rulethreesuch concessionsweremade. One ofthem,compulsory religiouseducationin primaryschools,has already been discussed. In June I950 the recitationof the call to prayerin Arabic was permitted. The call to prayerin Turkish,which had previouslyalone been tolerated,was not abolished, but the use of Arabic was made optional. As far as I could ascertain,the call is now read almost exclusivelyin Arabic. In July I950 Koran-readingswere introducedinto the programmeof the Turkish State D

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Radio three times weekly. More recently the government have been showinga growingtendencyto placate and even encouragereligioussentiments. Membersof Parliamentand moreespecially candidates forelection bid openly for religioussupport, secularist attempts to halt the tide are frownedupon, and some membersof the Democrat Party, though not the Party itself,have lent theirsupportto far-reachingdemands fora complete reversalof the Kemalist reforms. A word or two may be said about the religiouspress that has grownup in Turkey in recent years. There is now quite a number of periodicals devoted wholly or mainly to religiousmatters and to the propagation of religiousideas. These may be divided into threemain categories. The most widelyread are the popular journals, mainly weeklymagazines, addressed primarilyto artisansand peasants, to be read aloud wherenecessary. They presenta formofsimplepietywhichprobablyverywell reflectsthe mind of the people to whom they are addressed. A second group has been well describedas 'Boulevard Fascism withreligiouscolouringmatter'. The outstandingexample is BiiyiikDogu (Great Orient),a ratherscurrilousperiodical, appearing at irregularintervals and edited by the poet Necib Fazil Kisakiirek. BiiyiikDogu is clericalist,nationalist,and royalist,and appears to be a Turkish calk on the ActionFranpaise, with the House of Osman in place of the 'fortykings who in a thousand years made France'. Like his French prototypeNecib Fazil has had brusheswiththe law. The thirdand most interestinggroup consists of those journals with some intellectual pretensions.The mostimportantare the TurkIslam A nsiklopedisi,Selamet, and Sebil-iir-Resad.The last purportsto be a revival of the journal of the same name publishedunderthe Young Turks. Most ofthe contributorsare survivorsfromthat period, and are incidentallyalso responsibleformany of the religiousbooks which are appearing. These journals appear to enjoy the support of the Department of Religious Affairs. The contentof these journals is somewhat disappointing. The religious journals of the Young Turk period maintained a very high standard, and were writtenby men thoroughlyconversantwith Islam, its literature,its doctrines,its traditions. But most of these men are dead, and the few survivorsshow all too plainly the scars of thirtyyears of frustrationand isolation. In the absence of any religioushighereducation, no successors could appear to replace them. The journals are forthe most part clericalist ratherthan religiousin any real sense. They are xenophobe, usually antiWestern,oftenanti-Christian,treatingmost of what they discuss froma rathercrude political point of view. Articleson India, forexample, which occasionally appear, consist of communal pamphleteering,and show no awareness of the very interestingreligiousproblemsand trendsin modern Indian and Pakistani Islam. Much of theircontentconsistsof apologetics, with the familiardistortionof true Islamic values by restatingthem in termsofthe dominantWesternconcepts; the historicalromanticismin the presentationof the recent and remoterIslamic past; the inferioritycom-

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plex that induces learned Muslims to seize on chance remarksby one or otherWesternerin praise of Islam and inflatetheirimportancebeyond all reason. This romantic approach to history is found in other Muslim countries,whereMuslimthinkersstriveunnecessarilyto justifytheirown civilizationin Westernterms. It has some novel variantsin Turkey,as, for example, in the parallel attempts to show that the Ottoman ulema were reallygood Kemalists and Republicans and that Kemal himselfwas a good and faithfulMuslim. Only occasionally does one finda serious attempt to face the problems of Islam in the modernworldand the role of Islam in a modernState. Here the ideas derive mainly fromtwo sources-the Indian and Egyptian reformersofthe nineteenthcentury. Ahmed Hamdi Akseki,the late chiefof the Department of Religious Affairs,and Omer Riza Dogrul, one of the most active religious journalists, were both good Arabic and English scholars,and have translatedbooks fromboth sources. It is still not easy to assess the political role of this religiousrevival in modern Turkey. With the restoration of freedom of opinion Islam necessarilybecame a political issue again, and the fearof givingthe advantage of religioussupport to the other side led both of the major parties to give at least toleration,oftenencouragement,to this movement. At the same timeboth the Republican and Democrat Parties seem anxious to keep it within bounds. No interferencehas as yet been tolerated in matters which the governmentregard as vital. The tarikas are still held in check, the evkafhave not been restored,and so farthereis no sign that they will be. Despite the demands of some extremists,such changes as the returnto the Arabic alphabet or the repeal of the social legislationof the Republic are not yet under serious consideration. At the same time it is clear that the strengthofthe movementis such that in a democraticTurkey no party could dare to ignoreit, perhaps even to oppose it. If the revival continues to growin strengthand momentumat the presentrate, it is not impossible that even these reformsmay be endangered. In one field that of foreignpolicy the religiousrevival seems to have had no effectworthspeakingof. Turkeystillfollowsa Westernorientation, and has shown a remarkablelack of interestin-variousmovementsto the south and to the east fora greaterIslamic solidarity. A case in point is the clear preferenceof the Turkish Governmentfora European ratherthan a MiddleEastern alignment a preferencethat is only partlydue to political and strategicconsiderations. Another is the Turkish attitude to Israel. The religiouspress and leaders are of course pro-Arab,but officialpolicy towardsIsrael has been friendly.Turkey gave de jure recognitionto Israel beforeGreat Britain,opposed the internationalizationof Jerusalemat the United Nations, and concluded a trade pact with Israel in July I950. The ratherenergeticpan-Islamic activities of the Pakistan Legation in Turkey seem to have little effect,and have even aroused criticismin the Turkish press.

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There have been signs of resentmentin some quarters at the growthof the religiousrevival. One sees occasional articlesin the press on the danger of 'clerical reaction', on 'the threat to the Kemalist heritage'. This is a matter which cuts across party affiliations. There are supporters and opponentsof Islamic revival in both the major parties,but my impression is that the strongestanti-clericalelement is in what one might call the Kemalist wing of the Republican Party that section which seeks, above all else, to preserveand pursue the basic policies of Kemal Atatiirk. The chief group that has taken an active role so far in opposing the revival is the students. The National Union of Students and other student bodies have repeatedly protested against 'the twin dangers of clericalismand Communism', and in March I95I several students were arrestedafter a demonstrationagainst the religious periodicals Sebil-4irResad and BiiyiikDogu. Governmentpolicy seems to be to discouragesuch activitiesby the students. At the beginningof I95I the National Union of Studentsdecided to use the annual ceremonyat the Kubilay monumentin Menemen as the occasion for an anti-clericalist demonstration. The governmentreacted by cancelling the proceedingsentirely,and, for the firsttime,the anniversaryof the murderof Kubilay passed in silence. This may simplyhave been a matter of public security the governmentmay have feltthat therewas a danger of disordersif provocative speeches were made there. But even so the cancellation of the memorialceremonyis an interestingtestimonyto the strengthof religioussentimentand the wariness of the governmentof permittingan open challenge to it. What elementssupport the religiousrevival? From I924 religionwas not an open political factorin Turkey, and its real strengthand basis of support are not very well known. As far as I could judge frompersonal contacts,the youngerintellectuals those educated in the schools and universitiesof the Republic are, with some exceptions, very little affected and regardit with feelingsrangingfromirritationto contempt. The main oppositionto it is in the universities. But theirdislikeof the presentform and leadershipof clerical reactionshould not mislead us into thinkingthat theyhave done with Islam itself. Islam is too deeply rooted an elementin the Turkish national identityto be lightlycast aside, and a formof faith more suited to nationalist intellectualsmay yet awake a wide response. Officials,as a class, are extremelysensitiveto changes in the direction ofthe wind. In the civil service,in the army,and even in parliamentpiety is fashionable,and while by no means all favourthe fullprogrammeof the reactionaries,many feelthat both formoral and forpolitical reasons some restorationof Islamic beliefand practice is necessaryforthe health of the Turkish people. The peasantry are still as religiousas they have always been. For them there is no question of a revival the only differenceis that theycan now expresstheirreligioussentimentsmoreopenly. Perhaps one of the strongestelementssupportingthe revival is the class known in Turkey as the esnaf-the artisans and small shopkeepers in the towns.

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These are generallyveryfanatical,and, likethe peasants,manyofthem are connectedwithone or anotherof the larikas. Finally,the merchant in anyadditionalformofinsuranceagainstCommunism, classis interested at leastin theprovinces. and has a traditionofpiousobservance, How farthereligious revivalis infactan insuranceagainstCommunism is a subjectofsomediscussion.The accusationis oftenmade,in secularist quarters, thattherevival,at leaston thelevelofpopular,dervishreligion, have in agitators.The Anatolianbrotherhoods is inspiredby Communist the past been no strangersto a formof primitivereligiouscommunism mightexploitforpoliticalends. Developments whichcleverpropagandists is not averseto colin otherMuslimcountriesshow that Communism wheretheseappearto offer ofmassfanaticism laborating withmovements theexistingorder.How farthisis happenthebestchanceofundermining ing in Turkeyis anyone'sguess-thoughon the wholethe ancientand Turkishmistrustof Russian expansionismmakesTurkeya deep-rooted barrensoil forCommunist seeds. singularly The leadersofthereligiousrevivalare mainlymenoftheoldergenerafromtheYoungTurkperiod. Theyseemto have recruited tion,survivors veryfewyoungmen to theirnumber,and manysecularistintellectuals claimthatthereis no realreligiousrevivalat all, but simplya reassertion whichfora long timetheyhad to keep by certainpeopleof sentiments hiddenbut can now proclaimopenly. The movement,they say, will die with the generationwhichsponsoredit, and is only of transitory significance.

I findthispointofviewdifficult to accept. Islam has proFor myself, untilits fall foundrootsamongthe Turkishpeople. Fromits foundation or defeilce theOttomanEmpirewas a Statededicatedto theadvancement of For Ottomans were and Islam. six centuries the of the power faith almostconstantly at war withthe ChristianWest,firstin the attemptmainlysuccessful to imposeIslamicruleon a largepartofEurope,then in the long drawnout rearguardaction to halt or delay the relentless withits origins ofthe West. This centuries-long counter-attack struggle, in theveryrootsofTurkishIslam,couldnotfailto affectthewholestrucFor theOttoman,hisEmpirewas tureofTurkishsocietyand institutions. of the Empireare the territories Islam itself.In the Ottomanchronicles referred to as 'thelands ofIslam', its armiesas 'the soldiersofIslam', its head as 'the SheikhofIslam'. Its peoplethoughtofthemselves religious as Muslims 'Ottoman'was a dynasticnamelikeUmayfirst and foremost in the nineyad or Abbasid,whichonlyacquireda nationalsignificance ofEuropeanliberalism;'Turk'a termof undertheinfluence teenthcentury contemptforpeasants,whichonlybecamea badge of nationalidentity oftheEmpire aftertheimpactofEuropeannationalism.The identification containedall theheartlandsof withIslamwas easyenough;its dominions Islam-Syria, Iraq, and Egypt,theseatsofthegreatmedievalCaliphates; Arabia and Palestine,wherethe ancientProphets,and Muhammadthe

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'Seal of the Prophets', had lived and preached. Turkishthought,life,and letterswere permeatedthroughand throughby the inheritedtraditionsof the classical Muslim cultures,which, though transmutedinto something new and distinctive,remainedbasically and unshakably Islamic. After a century of Westernization,Turkey has undergone immense changes greaterthan any outside observerhad thoughtpossible. But the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimateidentityof Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged. The resurgenceof Islam aftera long interval responds to a profoundnational need. The occasional outbursts of the tarikas, far more than the limited restorationof officialIslam, show how powerful are the forces stirring beneath the surface. The path that the revival will take is still not clear. If simplereactionhas its way, much of the work of the last centurywill be undone, and Turkey will slip back into the darkness fromwhich she so painfullyemerged. But that is not the only way, nor the most probable. In Turkey,as in otherMuslimcountries,thereare those who talk hopefully of achieving 'a synthesisof the best elementsof West and East'. This is a vain hope the clash of civilizationsin historydoes not usually culminate in a marriage of selected best elements rather in a promiscuous cohabitation of good, bad, and indifferentalike. But a true revival of a religiousfaithon the level of modernthoughtand lifeis withinthe bounds of possibility. The Turkish people, by the exercise of their practical commonsense and powers of improvisation,may yet finda workable compromise between Islam and modernismthat will enable them, without conflict,to follow both their fathers' path to freedomand progressand theirgrandfathers'path to God. October195I

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Bernard Lewis - Islamic Revival in Turkey (article)  

Islamic Revival in Turkey Author(s): Bernard LewisReviewed work(s):Source: International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1...

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